In a history-making move, the Miss SA pageant has - for the first time - allowed transgender women to compete for the coveted crown. This has presented Pretoria-born small business owner, Lehlogonolo Machaba (24), the opportunity to potentially use the platform to amplify the plight of the LGBTIQ+ community in South Africa.
The 24-year-old fashion design graduate and model has sent in her entry and tells TRUELOVE that this opportunity presented itself at the right time for her.
“I strongly believe that it’s about time that someone raises the issues and creates awareness about matters that affect the LGBTIQ+ community. The killing of queer and trans identifying people in some parts of our country is devastating. Every day you hear of a queer person being killed in South Africa,” she began to explain.
“So, through the Miss SA platform I’ll be able to advocate for the LGBTIQ+ community. Maybe that way we can educate people and create awareness which will hopefully reduce the number of killings significantly since people will understand us better. Although a lot has to be done because the hate is deep rooted, I’m hoping to teach people that we are also human beings before our sexual orientation or what we identify as,” she continues.
Machaba says that winning the pageant will not only open up doors for her, but will also encourage people like her to be themselves and to go after their wildest dreams. She adds that the silence and stigma surrounding sexuality will also be shaken as people would be forced to have conversations about it.
She tells us more about her transitioning journey and her plans for the future.
Realising who she truly is
Although Machaba is now an LGBTIQ+ activist who is firm and confident in who she is, she says that getting to this point was not easy.
“Growing up I was a very loud and energetic child. I carried myself like a girl and even behaved like one; this was confusing for my parents. I would sit when I had to pee so I’ve always known that I was not meant to be a boy. However, I wasn’t sure what was happening with me and only discovered that I am transgender when I was in grade 11 after I'd come across the term,” she says.
“Before that, I had always identified as gay because I didn’t know any better. I thought I was gay because I knew that I was more feminine than I was masculine, but as soon as I read about a transgender woman called Christine Jorgenseng, I saw myself in her story."
Her transitioning journey
After learning more about the transgender community and conducting her own research, Machaba decided that she was going to embark on the journey of transitioning right after she completed her matric year.
“In 2015, during my gap year, I had accumulated full information about being a transgender woman and the whole process of transitioning. I then started that journey at the age of 18 and started seeing a psychologist while starting the hormonal placement therapy (HPT). This is also when I came out to my parents about being a transgender woman and started educating them about what it meant,” she says.
“Transitioning is a mental thing before it manifests physically so I had to go through so much during the process before identifying as a woman. The gender dysphoria was very intense and my mental health was affected. However, now I am very happy with who I am.”
“In the future I want to be a well-established fashion designer and have my own clothing line. I’d like to empower young women, as well people in the LGBTIQ+ community. I want to become a philanthropist and inspire people to dream big."