‘I’m trapped in the wrong body’

2012-10-13 16:26

Revelation Xakoshe shares her battle to get a sex change

Revelation Xakoshe always knew she was a woman – but she was trapped in a man’s body.

As a child she had to act like a boy, but she wished she could wear pink clothes and play with Barbie dolls.

By the age of six, Revelation had realised that she was “a girl who had been born in the wrong body”.

“The problem was that I could not explain to my family because I also didn’t understand how this would happen.”

After she turned 16, doctors confirmed what Revelation had known for a decade: a psychiatric evaluation revealed that she was actually a woman.

Revelation is one of an unknown number of South Africans living with gender identity disorder – the psychological diagnosis for people whose physical gender and the gender they identify with are different.

Only two of the country’s public hospitals, Groote Schuur in Cape Town and Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria, specialise in gender identity disorder and reassignment procedures.

Both hospitals receive hundreds of queries each year from people like Revelation, who can’t afford to pay for sex-change operations in the private healthcare sector.

She visited Steve Biko hospital soon after being diagnosed in 2008, but she is yet to begin a series of hormonal treatment and transition surgeries.

Revelation said: “I have been to hospital several times, but they refuse to treat me because I have not been assessed and referred by their contracted private psychiatrist.

“They know very well I can’t afford to pay a private psychiatrist, which is why I came to a public hospital.

“I am starting to believe it’s their way of discouraging people like me from having a sex change.”

Another hopeful patient, Catrecia Chiloane (31) echoed Revelation’s sentiments.

“The hospital is deliberately delaying the process by forcing us to be assessed and referred by their psychiatrist, who charges more than R1 000 for a consultation.

Steve Biko hospital’s chief executive officer, Dr Ernest Kenoshi, denied the allegation.

Kenoshi said the hospital did not have a psychiatric unit or an in-house psychiatrist before 2010 and “had to co-opt a private psychiatrist as part of the gender transition team” to assist them.

He said: “A (state) psychiatrist has since been appointed, but the private psychiatrist is still an active member of the team and his services are available to those individuals who choose to and are able to afford private rates.”

Revelation and Catrecia admitted they were told last year that the hospital had appointed a dedicated psychiatrist, but they said he was fully booked until this year.

On average, Steve Biko hospital performs about four transition operations each year, while Groote Schuur performs six such operations.

Kenoshi said: “Only a small predetermined number of cases are considered at Steve Biko hospital per annum.

“The patient is subjected to a process of intensive clinical and psychological assessments prior to any decision being made to proceed with surgery and therapy.

“After the assessment, the patient is either accepted into the programme or declined,” Kenoshi explained.

Groote Schuur follows the same process.

Alaric Jacobs, Groote Schuur’s spokesperson, said 110 people were on the waiting list for sex-change operations there last year.

Jacobs said the longest someone had waited so far for surgery was three years.

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