A girl trapped in a boy's body

Where it all started

I was born a healthy young boy in Bloemfontein, South Africa on 1 July 1979. My first ever memories of being different was at age 3. I was not interested in my toys and always ended up in my mothers closet, wearing her shoes and clothes even if it was miles to big. My parents never worried. They thought it was just a phase I was going through.
Like any normal child, I loved to play. I did start to play with my boy toys, but when ever there was a doll or teddy bear, I would rather play with that. I had a rather large collection of teddy bears. Always went to bed with all of them. I felt safe and loved between them.
I grew up in a very strict family. My dad was in the military but later moved to the prison service. I was drilled from a young age to be a man. I hated that. My parents are old school Afrikaner people. They grew up in the days of apartheid. They were also very religious. This was where I got my faith from. You did what you where told and never questioned anything. I managed to talk to God as a young child and share my hopes and dreams and troubles with Him.
I remember at age 6 kneeling next to my bed with tears rolling down my face pleading for God to change me into a little girl. I knew I was different, but I was alone in a world where this type of thing was from the devil. This was the age where I started to hate myself and everything about myself. It is difficult to be so young and be filled with so much hate for yourself. This hate turned into thoughts of suicide. I remember as a child sometimes praying and wishing I was dead or never born. I was at my happiest when I could play with other girls, but often got into trouble because I was a boy and not supposed to play with the girls like a girl. I was a confused and troubled young child, and no one seemed to notice or care how I felt.

My first suicide attempt
I was about 8 years old when I wanted to cut my wrists. I remember the cold blade on my wrist and the tears and how my room door was broken down. Because my dad was high ranking officer, everything was kept secret. I started to get therapy, but never felt comfortable to speak to anyone about my feelings. I never had the courage to speak up and say I wasn’t a boy.

I had major issues at primary school. I was teased a lot, even though I did everything a boy had to do. Even sports. But the other kids always noticed that I was different and that was the cause of the teasing. I got so angry. I threw tantrums in class throwing desks and chairs around. My self hate was expressed through violent and erratic behaviour.
I started collecting some of my mother’s clothes. I had various hiding places where I kept everything. Every opportunity I had, I would try to be a girl. I loved role playing games and I was always the heroine. I just loved to kick some male butt whenever I was playing. It was good to have the strength of a man, but to blend in as a woman. I enjoyed those times when it was just me and my wild imagination without the outside world’s interference.

I hated my body

When I was in high school, puberty came, and with it, all new hates and fears. I remember the disgust when I got my first erection. I hated it. On many occasions I had a knife or large scissors wanting to cut it of. I was afraid of pain. I sometimes used rubber bands and tied it tightly around everything hoping, wishing it would fall of. Eventually, when the pain got so bad, or I couldn't walk, I would take it off.  Sometimes I even pushed everything as hard as possible up my body, just wishing it out of sight. I started to get used to the pain I felt down there, but that didn’t stop me. No physical pain could compare to the emotional pain I felt.
But my high school years weren't all bad. I was exactly my mother's size.

I was 16 when I planned my next suicide attempt. It failed miserably. After that experience, I searched a lot for God. Eventually, I took the decision to give my life to Him and stop my secret life.

The first few months were okay. I managed. Then I started to become very negative and aggressive.

I thought I was being punished

When I was 18, my dad passed away and I thought his death was my punishment for being different. I ended up having many sessions with a psychologist and on medication. Nothing worked.

One day, I just got into my car, bought woman’s clothes and shoes and I dressed up again. I remember ending up at my dad’s grave crying for the first time since his death. I remember saying: “Hello Daddy. I'm your daughter Yolanda. I wish you had the chance to know me. I love you. I miss you. I'm sorry that I'm such a disappointment.”
I became braver at university and was Yolanda often on campus. Having freedom and being me, this was a happy time in my life. After my studies, I started to work and felt extremely guilty again. Once again, I decided to stop my secret life.

I decided to become a pastor. I thought it would give me the answers I needed to fix myself. I also started to do strength training thinking the bigger the muscle, the easier the woman in me would die and disappear.
There was this longing, but I did my best to ignore it. I got to a point where I was once again seeing therapist and being put on medication. I ignored who I was completely. I never finished bible school. The judgement of people got too much for me. I still felt guilty for wanting to be a woman.
At this stage, I was a big man. I was more than 100 kg. I could squat 4 times my body weight. Bench pressed 200 kg easily. Bicep curls with more than 25 kg per arm. I was even invited to strongman competitions at the gym. I was never happy. I think most men would have one huge ego if they looked the way I looked. One day, when I walked out of the shower, I saw my body, and with shock and shuddering I screamed at the person in the mirror: “What have I done?” I never touched a weight after that ever again.

I turned to God
When the depression got worse, and no pill or therapy seemed to be working, I opened up to people in the church about my problem.

At first, I was accepted, but then they pushed me more and more to go for what is called a “bevryding”. It is like an exorcism.

They believed I was possessed by demons. This was a hard pill to swallow. Daniel, the man, was aggressive and depressed and wanted to die. Yolanda, the woman, was full of joy and love and wanted to live.

After three months of nagging, I relented. I let them try and free me of my demons. It was a day I never want to experience again. And I never want to see those people again either. I lived as Daniel for about 4 months. I probably had suicide note number three written by then, but a friend came to my rescue.
She helped me to become Yolanda again. That day, it felt as if all the chains where cut off. I could be me again. I was happy again. I went for my first ever photo shoot as Yolanda. I wanted photos to remember the women in me, once again trying to kill her off and forget her.

I remember the two ladies actually met Daniel before the shoot. After the shoot, they took me aside and asked me to promise that I will continue to be Yolanda. I think they saw the difference in the two people. I was 29 years old. It was the first time in 29 years that someone, a woman, said I was beautiful. They said both Daniel and Yolanda were beautiful, but there was something special about Yolanda.
After that day, I tried to be Yolanda as often as possible. I had my friends that knew and accepted me, but I turned my back on Daniel's friends.

More and more of my friends motivated me to start my transition. I remember how they often said I was far more feminine than some of them. Some even said they felt guilty because I looked after my appearance a lot more than they did. My friends could see the real me. Even dressed as a man I was Yolanda for them. They knew my heart and soul.

Read part 2 here.

*Transgender is a term often used to describe a person that expresses their gender identity different from that which they are born, therefore someone born male present themselves as female and someone born female present themselves as male.

If you are transgender or intersex, and are looking for support, contact OUT or Gender Dynamix.

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