MY STORY | 'I’m thrilled to be a complete woman after my sex reassignment surgery,' says Miss SA competitor

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Lehlogonolo Machaba (25) says the surgery has helped her a lot in terms of her mental health because its something she always wanted for herself. (PHOTO: supplied)
Lehlogonolo Machaba (25) says the surgery has helped her a lot in terms of her mental health because its something she always wanted for herself. (PHOTO: supplied)

Lehlogonolo Machaba is the first openly transgender woman to enter Miss South Africa  twice. She made it to the top 30 of last year's pageant and she took part again this year. 

Growing up in Klipgat in North West province, the model was bullied constantly by her schoolmates for presenting as a girl.

Now Lehlogonolo (25), who recently underwent sex reassignment surgery, celebrates the beginning of something she’s always wanted  to become the person she's only been on the inside.

She tells YOU her story.

"Being part of [Miss SA] wasn’t necessarily something that I dreamt of, but when I saw the opportunity I took it to see where it would take me.

But if I'm being honest, Miss South Africa 2021 was devastating, mainly because I wasn’t mentally prepared for it. The media attention I got was quite a lot and I wasn’t coping. 

It was my friend Sam Junior Mbatha who advised me to use the Miss SA platform to advocate against hate crimes. Sam was killed in June last year because he was gay.

Miss SA 2021 wasn’t for me but in the 2022 competition I learned a lot of skills that I’m using now. I’ve learned the importance of authenticity  of being true to yourself.

I never had to come out to my family. I was 16 when I knew I wanted to transition completely. All along I was confused about my sexuality and I was often misgendered.

I’m blessed to have received unconditional love and support from my mother, Caroline Machaba (46), father, Might Masango (47), and my little brother, Keorapetse Machaba (14).

They love me as I am. My existence has taught them that trans individuals do exist.

I first saw the possibility of sex reassignment through Jenna Talackova, Miss Universe Canada, who was disqualified for being transgender in the competition. I saw my face in her story.

I did some research and came across Transgender and Intersex Africa, an organisation that helped me realise that there's a diversity of gender. That kind of information is rare in South Africa, but luckily I got a quite a bit of information about my being trans.

I had my first sex reassignment surgery on 1 July this year at Steve Biko Academic Hospital.

They reconstructed my male genitalia to resemble and, as much as possible, to perform like female genitalia. Patients typically receive feminising hormone therapy prior to this operation, but it’s not necessary.

The hormone therapy suppresses male hormones. Taking oestrogen and progesterone promotes the growth of breasts, softer skin, rounder hips and other features. It helps transwomen who are transitioning to appear more feminine.

All my costs were paid by for by the Transgender and Intersex Africa organisation. I didn’t pay for anything apart from the hormone medication that I take daily.

I was a bit scared, to be honest, because in my head I had to adjust to having something different. Even though it's something that I’ve always wanted to have, I was worried about its functioning.

I’ve faced some complications during my healing process. It was extremely painful, to the extent that I had to be readmitted to hospital. There were fears that I had an infection, but luckily I didn't.

Miss South Africa, transgender woman
Lehlogonolo recalls not being able to use toilets at school because she was always misgendered. (PHOTO: supplied)

I'd advise people who want to undergo reassignment surgery to be sure about it. Honestly, it's not the easiest thing to do because the healing process isn't just about the wound. It challenges your mental health as well. I was healing from who I was before to who I’m now becoming.

After surgery bed rest is important for a minimum of two weeks. After the two weeks there will be some healing, but it’s important to take care of yourself and control how you do things.

I need to carefully control how fast I walk and how I sit and sleep.

This was the beginning of new life for me because the person I’ve always identified as within myself is becoming tangible.

READ MORE| I was born a girl and now I'm a proudly transgender South African man

Miss SA
She advocates for authenticity and urges everyone to stay true to themselves and block negativity. (PHOTO: supplied)

Right now I’m a freelance model using my Instagram to generate an income, so you could say I’m slowly becoming a digital content creator.

Besides Instagram, I’ve also worked with brands like Nike and others. I'm a Tshwane University of Technology fashion design graduate and an activist for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Even though I didn't make it to the top 10 of Miss SA this year, the treatment I received from my fellow competitors was amazing. Nobody questioned my transness; they all treated me like a cisgender woman and there was never a moment where I felt like I was being discriminated against.

I learned a lot from them, and I’ll always appreciate them. I applaud Miss South Africa for celebrating gender diversity.

I just wish transwomen in South Africa could be themselves and embrace their authenticity, so they can be aligned to their true purpose.”

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