‘I’m finally happy with my body’ – Nino Ayanda Maphosa on his transitioning process, finding himself

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Nino Ayanda Maphosa says he couldn't be happier in his body as a man and wants to teach others about accepting transgender people and their rights.
Nino Ayanda Maphosa says he couldn't be happier in his body as a man and wants to teach others about accepting transgender people and their rights.
Basetsana Maluleka

He is confident, bold, and sure about what he wants.

Transgender activist, graphic designer, and photographer Ayanda ‘Nino’ Maphosa joins the cast of Moja Love reality show The Way Ngingakhona which documents the lives of three friends; a queer man, Innocent Matijane, transgender woman, Tholang Motsumi and MJ Maponya, a self-assured bisexual man, who recently exited the show. 

Nino looks forward to the grueling questions of why he transitioned from being a woman to a man. 

“I know a lot of people are still ignorant about trans people and I am here to enlighten them,” he tells Drum. 

“This ignorance is also because there are not many women who transitioned to being men, it is not common. So, being on the show means more people will be educated. So, I am bringing something different, no drama but more education. I want to show that as a transgender man I can live a quiet, peaceful life with a family and children.”

 Nino has two kids which he adopted with a friend and they co-parent. 

“My kids don’t see trans, they see a dad,” he says. “Many people don’t know that I’m trans.” 

Before transitioning, Nino had a full bust with C-cup breasts and no beard. With hormones, he was able to customise his body. “Making these changes came with a lot of rejection from people around me, but I needed to be patient with them too,” he says. 

Today Nino identifies as a man. 

“My pronouns are He/Him. I don’t want people to misgender me. I’m not confused. I don’t respond to her or she.” 

As excited as he is about teaching people about the life of a transgender man, he is also nervous. 

“I am nervous and am engulfed with a lot of emotions. I wonder how are people going to receive me and react to my story and seeing a transgender man for the first time, who has fully transitioned with the beard and surgery. Those are some of the things that run through my mind.”

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Nino started his medical transition in 2020. 

“I started taking testosterone in 2019 and did my surgery in 2020 before we went into lockdown,” he says. 

“That year Covid-19 started was bittersweet because I used my savings to do the surgery. The surgery cost R80 000 excluding aftercare and check-ups. I was sad for being broke but I was happy I finally did the procedure.” 

Nino’s surgery included removing the breasts. 

“I have not done the bottom surgery as yet but with the testosterone, my manhood is growing. The testosterone helps bottom growth, my voice to be deeper, beard growth, and becoming more masculine. At the moment I am going bald and starting to lose some hair and I have an Adam's apple, and hairy bottoms,” he says. 

“With the testosterone, I now can get [mostly] male-related illnesses such as heart attack, and cholesterol as I no longer have estrogen.” 

Nino says the procedure of removing his breasts was not painful. 

“After the surgery, it took two weeks to remove the drains from blood and liquid and it took six months to fully heal,” he says. 

“After two weeks you can move around and after a month, they recommend exercise and lifting weights and raising your arms. The scars take time to fade away and it all comes with eating well.” 

He knew the risks but was adamant about doing what makes him happy. 

“You know into mayifuna (when you want something), you only read what you want to see. I didn’t go deep into the dangers, so as not to scare myself out of it but with what I learned I needed to and there is always something new to learn, daily."

Nino says transitioning comes with side effects.

“I realised that my teeth are separating. I never experienced this; my jaw expands because my face was becoming manly. I am going to be on testosterone for the rest of my life, if I stop my voice will be softer, the fat will come back, and lips will come back.”

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This is something that Nino has wanted all of his life. 

“I knew I was different at four years old, but I couldn’t put it in words,” he says. 

“I thought if I kill myself and die, I will come back as a man and live my life. I even attempted suicide a few times by cutting myself, popping tablets, tried hanging myself and the rope wasn’t cooperating with me. All because I couldn’t understand how I was feeling,” he says. 

“I was toxic in my relationships. I was emotionally abusive and had deep depression. At home they didn’t know if I was lesbian or bisexual and coming from a Christian home, they did not understand.” 

Having transitioned, Nino says his family is more open-minded than before and he has had to teach them about transgender people. 

“My family is coming to terms with the person I am, there’s nothing they can do,” he says. 

“I isolated myself from them for a long time and recently connected with them through the reality show, but they see my images and that I am happy. They are worried that I might have regrets. But I give them my life’s script and they follow. And because I transition with everyone in my life, and I needed to be patient with them as well because all these years they were raising a daughter and suddenly they have a son, that requires patience,” he says.

Previously Nino did female boxing and will be going back to boxing as a man. 

“I know that will be a fight because I will challenge the system. But I can no longer fight women because I no longer have oestrogen, only testosterone. But that is a fight for another day, for now, I hope people learn from me being part of the show,” he says.

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Born in Johannesburg, from a Zimbabwean mom and a South African dad, Nino lived in Zimbabwe until Grade 8 when moved back to Hillbrow Johannesburg. 

“I have never identified with girls much,” he says.

“All my life, I have played soccer with my cousins, and I never felt like a woman. Between the ages of five and 10 years old, I used to wear boys’ clothes. My mom’s sister had a boy and they used to treat us like twins. They changed when I got into puberty. I grew up in Zimbabwe and went to 7th Day Adventist where girls weren’t allowed to wear trousers or earrings and I was forced to follow society’s norm. I also wasn’t allowed to play ball games and I had to cook,” he says. Unlike many LGBTQI people who are discriminated against, and some even killed, Nino has never experienced discrimination. 

“I am lucky. Being in the creative industry and always having shared my journey has been the reason. The only time I was almost attacked was when I walked into the women’s toilet, I hadn’t started seeing the changes happening to my body, but other people did. I didn’t feel safe in the men’s toilet as yet but eventually, I started using the male bathrooms,” he says.

Today, when Nino walks in the streets, people can’t tell that he was once a woman. 

“When I walk in the street no one knows that I’m trans. At the gym, I go into the men’s bathroom, we all mind our business, and I don’t have to explain the scars on my chest.,” he adds. 

Nino will appear on The Way Ngingakhona on Moja Love from Saturday, 15 October, at 9 pm. 

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