I'm not sir - trans woman to Home Affairs

2015-08-21 14:14
(File, Duncan Alfreds, News24)

(File, Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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2015-06-10 11:30

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Pretoria - As Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba addressed department employees about service delivery on Friday, a Pretoria trans woman again complained about treatment she received from an official.

Following her ordeal two days earlier during which Juanita van Zyl was unable to submit her application for a change of gender on her identity document, the 36-year-old tried calling the customer service number listed on the Home Affairs Department website.

Van Zyl was told by employees at the Centurion branch she could not submit her application because her medical reports did not have a stamp stating her doctor’s contact details and medical number.

However, the reports did have a letterhead stating all the necessary information. The Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act, 2003, requires applicants to submit two medical reports.

'Stamp not a requirement'

"[The official on the customer service line] not only repeatedly referred to me as 'sir' even after I told her my name and that I'm female, she said they require a stamp like an authorisation."

But according to Sibusiso Kheswa, director of Gender Dynamix, an organisation focusing on the transgender community, "This stamp is not a requirement". 

"There are many incidents in which trans people are mistreated. What [Van Zyl] experienced is not new," Kheswa told News24.

Meanwhile, as Van Zyl spoke to the official, Gigaba addressed other employees in Pretoria, telling them: "We must set high standards for everyone in this department. You are here to service the people of South Africa."

The minister urged the officials to remove the stereotypes about the department and when members of the public walk into the branches, "you must introduce them to the new Home Affairs".

"I am not asking you to change this department in 10 years. I want it changed now."

More than superficial

Kheswa sugested home affairs staff be sent for sensitivity training, especially in how to speak to trans people. The department should also ensure officials knew the law and implemented it correctly.

For Van Zyl, a change of gender on her ID book is not merely a whim, but would have practical implications.

She currently pays R1 400 for her medication which includes her hormone treatment. If the gender on her ID is changed from male to female, her medical aid will cover her hormone treatment.

It also goes to the matter of Van Zyl’s very self-expression.

"I was about six or seven years old when I cried and asked God to fix this mistake [being born with male parts]. I didn't know that I could be myself. It took 30 years of hell before I got to the point where I realised I could be this person. 

"For me, the ID [change] is a stamp of approval, like a victory. That I made it. I can be who I am."

The department has yet to respond to queries from News24 on Wednesday.

Have you had a bad experience at Home Affairs? Tell us about it

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Read more on:    home affairs  |  malusi gigaba  |  pretoria  |  service delivery

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