A journey of discovery

2019-12-18 06:01
Nokwanda Simelane is transitioning from female to male through hormonal therapy.PHOTO: facebook

Nokwanda Simelane is transitioning from female to male through hormonal therapy.PHOTO: facebook

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“I WAS born in the wrong body.”

As a child, Nokwanda Zothani Simelane says he always identified as a boy.

He dressed like one and would always want boy toys.

Born female in a religious family, the 21-year-old from Pelham told Weekend Witness that his family always thought that he was just a “tomboy” and that he would soon grow out of his boyish ways, but he never did.

Deep down, Simelane says he has always known that he was different.

Although he could not put a label to his sexuality while growing up, now he is certain — he was born transgender.

For years he could do nothing but ignore it.

Transgender, often shortened as “trans”, refers to people who have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their sex assigned at birth.

In an interview with Weekend Witness, Simelane said prior to figuring out that he was transgender, he always identified as a lesbian woman. “The term woman sounded foreign to me and I always pushed it aside. I thought that every lesbian identifying woman goes through the same,” he recalled.

It was only in 2017 when he was 17 that Simelane decided to come out to his family as transgender after doing research. And while he feared being rejected or possibly being kicked out of home, his family was welcoming and supportive.

“Diverse sexuality in African families is often seen as foreign or ungodly.

“My mother was the first person I came out to. She was willing to help me see psychologists in order for me to start my journey.”

Growing up, Simelane said although he identified more as a boy than a girl, in primary school he would try to portray femininity to avoid being seen as an “outcast”.

“I tried by all means to not be figured out. I didn’t understand what was happening with me and why I had feelings none of my peers had,” he said.

In high school, he was the lesbian friend and only had to explain his boyish appearance outside of school due to his choice of clothing.

“When strangers saw me as a boy, it felt very euphoric … they would see me for who I really am,” he said.

While many transgender people only opt to transition socially, Simelane is taking testosterone in an effort to become the person he always felt he was.

“I’ve been injecting depo testosterone every two weeks. It helps with the physical changes, like the male structure, a deeper voice, increased body hair and incoming facial hair,” he explained.

It won’t end there, Simelane intends to undergo surgery to have his breasts and female reproductive organs, like the ovaries and womb, removed.

“The next step is breast removal surgery. I’m hoping to get that one as soon as possible since binding my breasts becomes a hassle.”

But until his female reproductive organs are removed, Simelane will have to continue injecting himself with testosterone. “I don’t produce testosterone naturally, and stopping would bring back my monthlies,” he explained, adding that he wanted to wait until he was older to do the hysterectomy surgery.

“That surgery for me is not too urgent. Once financially secure I’ll start saving for hysterectomy and I also intend to freeze my eggs.”

While the journey has been fulfilling, Simelane points out that it has also been a roller-coaster ride. “The transition takes a toll on one’s mental health. The hormones are imbalanced and as a transgender person I go through dysphoria and that can cause hectic depression.

“Sometimes dysphoria makes me want to shut myself out and just not face the world because it feels like everyone knows about me. Misgendering also triggers dysphoria and can make my mood plummet instantly.”

However, he admits that seeing the results has been more gratifying.

“I look in the mirror and I don’t see a woman at all.”

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