Trans­gen­der woman’s brave jour­ney

Ryanne used to be Ryan and she’s de­cided to speak out about her tran­si­tion and love story in the hope of in­spir­ing oth­ers


FOR as long as she can re­mem­ber, she knew the way she looked on the out­side didn’t match how she felt in­side. Even as a two-year-old boy, she’d don her mom’s high heels and tot­ter around the house, feel­ing hap­pier than she ever did in shorts and T-shirts.

Back then she was known as Ryan, and for 22 years she lived trapped in a body she felt didn’t be­long to her.

But now, sit­ting on the bal­cony of her home in Boks­burg, Gaut­eng, Ryanne Bold (25) is fi­nally con­tent and com­pletely her­self: a beau­ti­ful woman, ra­di­ant and el­e­gant in a striped jump­suit and black high heels.

Be­side her is her hus­band, Jonathan (27). Ryanne clutches his hand as she speaks to YOU about her jour­ney from man to woman, which has cost her more than R300 000 of her own money.

It cer­tainly hasn’t been a smooth ride. Her child­hood was a liv­ing night­mare of bul­ly­ing and dis­crim­i­na­tion, her hus­band’s friends tried to turn him against her when they found out about her past, and her med­i­cal aid wouldn’t cover her gen­der­re­as­sign­ment jour­ney as she had only nom­i­nal cover.

Yet there’s also been won­der­ful ac­cep­tance and heart-warm­ing sup­port as she tran­si­tioned into the per­son she’d al­ways wanted to be.

And to­day she’s telling her story in the hope of in­spir­ing and en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers who find them­selves in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion. “I’ve taken a lot of crap in my life,” she says. “It’s un­fair for peo­ple to judge you on face value. I never did any­thing to harm any­one else. It sim­ply made no sense.”

RYANNE’S school­days were noth­ing short of hellish. She didn’t play sport and be­cause there was some­thing “dif­fer­ent” about her she was teased mer­ci­lessly. “I saw school coun­sel­lors be­cause I was bul­lied so hor­ri­bly,” she re­calls. “They made the di­ag­no­sis that I was gay.”

Kids would shout “gay boy” at her and she’d suf­fer abuse ev­ery day. When she was in Grade 5 a boy in Grade 7 bashed her head against the wall.

“My life was com­plete hell,” she says. “I did one year of high school and near the end of it my mom got a call from an­other mother say­ing, ‘You need to take your child out of school’.”

Her mom, An­nerie (51), and step­dad, Colin (62), de­cided to home-school her af­ter that and Ryanne would spend hours cooped up in her room, read­ing ev­ery­thing on­line she could about be­ing trans­gen­der.

Then, when she was 22, she sat her mom down and told her of her plans to tran­si­tion. An­nerie wasn’t sur­prised. “She’d been ex­pect­ing it,” Ryanne says.

She then told her bosses at the lo­gis-

t i c s com­pany where she worked at the time about her plans to un­dergo surgery. They were noth­ing but sup­port­ive, grant­ing her per­mis­sion to be on leave for ex­tended pe­ri­ods and ar­rang­ing for her to be rein­tro­duced to clients.

“I rein­tro­duced my­self overnight. One day I went to work as a man and the next day I was a woman,” she says.

Her col­leagues were so on board they even threw Ryan a farewell party.

Be­fore the surgery Ryanne started hav­ing laser treat­ment, had hair ex­ten­sions put in and took hor­mones to de­velop her breasts. Slowly her fa­cial fea­tures, skin tex­ture and even the smell of her urine be­came fem­i­nised.

In Fe­bru­ary 2015 in Jo­han­nes­burg she un­der­went a two-hour bi­lat­eral or­chiec­tomy – the re­moval of both tes­ti­cles. In Septem­ber she flew to Cape Town to con­sult with plas­tic and re­con­struc­tive sur­geon Dr Kevin Adams, and in De­cem­ber she had the gen­der-re­as­sign­ment surgery.

She spent five days in hos­pi­tal on a catheter, with a “sock” of gauze in­serted in her newly formed vagi­nal canal to pre­vent the walls from grow­ing back to­gether. Then com­pli­ca­tions set in and she was un­able to pass urine, so she needed emer­gency surgery to have a catheter rein­serted. She was dis­charged two days be­fore Christ­mas and flew back to Jo­han­nes­burg.

On Box­ing Day 2015 came an­other cri­sis: she woke up ly­ing in a pool of blood and was rushed to hos­pi­tal.

“My ure­thra had torn away from the skin. My blood pres­sure had dropped to some­thing ridicu­lous like 35 over 40 and I heard the para­medic say, ‘She’s on her way out’,” a tear­ful Ryanne re­calls.

She was rushed into the­atre and kept for four days in high care, where she needed four blood trans­fu­sions.

“Ten days af­ter that I had the catheter re­moved and that was the end of any phys­i­cal is­sues.”

WITH each pass­ing day Ryanne be­gan to feel con­fi­dent in her new body. Then in April 2016, she and Jonathan met at a party. “I just saw this beau­ti­ful girl drive in be­hind me. My breath was taken away,” says Jonathan, who works in se­cu­rity.

That night they shared their first kiss and Jonathan asked her to be his girl­friend. Two weeks into their re­la­tion­ship he found out about her past in an un­for­tu­nate way.

They’d been spend­ing the week­end in Brits, North West, with Jonathan’s cousin. The guys were play­ing club cricket and while Jonathan was on the pitch, Ryanne was in the stands when some­one spiked her drink and she be­came ill.

“I took her to the clos­est hos­pi­tal and I needed to give her med­i­cal aid card and ID,” Jonathan re­calls. “That’s when they told me the per­son on her ID wasn’t the same per­son. They said her ID was for a mis­ter.”

Ryanne im­me­di­ately wanted to call their re­la­tion­ship off. She thought Jonathan wouldn’t want any­thing more to do with her, but noth­ing could’ve been fur­ther from the truth.

“I said, ‘ You’re not go­ing any­where’,” Jonathan re­calls. “I told her, ‘I love you for who you are. What­ever hap­pens, we can work it out’.”

A week later they moved into an apart­ment in Cen­tu­rion, near Pre­to­ria.

But Jonathan’s friends weren’t as ac­cept­ing. His phone was flooded with mes­sages from peo­ple urg­ing him to ditch Ryanne be­cause she’s not “a real woman”.

When they were un­able to per­suade him, they got hold of Jonathan’s fa­ther.

“He freaked out but never con­fronted me about it,” Jonathan says. “My mom was also up­set and felt we should’ve told her but we’d wanted to keep it quiet.”

“It wasn’t about keep­ing it a se­cret,” Ryanne in­sists. “Be­cause if you got to know me for who I re­ally am, why would you need to know about my past?”

Three months into their re­la­tion­ship, Jonathan re­ceived Ryanne’s mom’s bless­ing to pro­pose to her and in Novem­ber 2016 the cou­ple were mar­ried in a small cer­e­mony in Mul­der­s­drift, west of Jo­han­nes­burg.

They’re now plan­ning to adopt a baby. “We have about six hours left of coun­selling,” Ryanne says ex­cit­edly. “Once that’s done and we’ve been ap­proved as prospec­tive par­ents, we’ll wait any­thing from one day to four years for a baby.”

Ryanne, who now works in im­ports and ex­ports for a lo­gis­tics com­pany, is op­ti­mistic that af­ter speak­ing out, peo­ple will be­come more ac­cept­ing of her, and that oth­ers go­ing through what she ex­pe­ri­enced will feel com­fort­able in their skin and free to be who they truly are.

“When I was 18 I wanted to com­mit sui­cide, so it was ei­ther this or that,” she says. “You have to do what you need to do to find your hap­pi­ness.”

LEFT: Jonathan and Ryanne Bold with their pet, An­nekat. Ryanne un­der­went gen­der-re­as­sign­ment surgery three years ago, af­ter 22 years of feel­ing she was liv­ing in the wrong body. ABOVE: Ryanne as a boy.

ABOVE LEFT: Soon af­ter her surgery Ryanne met Jonathan. ABOVE RIGHT: They were mar­ried af­ter a whirl­wind ro­mance of mere months – de­spite the back­lash from many of Jonathan’s friends be­cause of Ryanne’s past. SUP­PLIED

For now the cou­ple have their four­legged baby – a sausage dog named An­nekat – but they have plans un­der way to adopt a baby.


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