"I want to live like the woman that I am" – a 20-year-old’s trans journey

Nhlanhla Ehhn Ngeleka believes she was born transgender but it was at the age of 17 that she decided to come out to her family and their reaction wasn’t quite what she had anticipated.  (PHOTO: Supplied)
Nhlanhla Ehhn Ngeleka believes she was born transgender but it was at the age of 17 that she decided to come out to her family and their reaction wasn’t quite what she had anticipated. (PHOTO: Supplied)

“It wasn't easy growing up transgender. I remember when I would visit places where they only knew me as a little boy and people would hint that I was possibly possessed by demons, going through a stage or having mental difficulties with my identity.  

I was born male but people around believed I was gay, bisexual or even ‘going through a phase’ I was yet to get over as a kid. Overtime I started to ignore people’s snide comments about my sexuality simply because I didn’t understand it myself – I didn’t feel bisexual nor homosexual.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve had to face, had to be the homophobic attacks I would encounter at taxi ranks, school or in the church community.

READ MORE: "I was outed as transgender and it was one of the most painful experiences of my life"

It was only through the media that I realised why I didn’t identify as gay, bisexual or anything else. I was transgender.

At that time, I felt a flame in me that just needed to defy all odds. I advocated rights for the LGBTIQ+, and I was very free with my flamboyant style as well as my choice of association.

Over the years my family had already started to create speculations around my sexuality with some even identifying me as gay, I was 17 when I decided that I was finally ready to explain the truth to my guardian parents about who I really was.

The idea of transgender or even the term itself was not really the message, but the best explanation was I gave to them was, “I feel like a girl on the inside, and I’d like to live like one.”

I think I'm fortunate enough to have been under the care of my aunt, who openly accepted me for I am and decided that it was better for me to live as a happy girl rather than as a depressed boy.  

Being a trans woman hasn’t been easy. We have men who only view us as sexual fantasies or just as a sex doll to satisfy their sexual desires – more often than not we are treated as if we don’t deserve genuine love and respect.

READ MORE: This woman could be the first openly trans governor in the U.S.

We are in most cases kept a secret and recognised only as second best rather than for our full selves, this leaves trans people bruised and feeling demotivated as well as dehumanised.

My hope for the future is to break boundaries and be the first openly trans actress and activist in the SA media industry, to not only inspire others who have/are encountered a crisis with their identities but to also make the world at large realise that the only thing that separates trans people from heterosexual people is their orientation.”

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