Phumelele’s Trans Journey

By: Precious M. Lesupi

Phumelele Priscilla Nkomozake, Rhodes University Drama and Psychology graduate has learned through various hard and bright times to love her body and embrace her trans journey.

In our country, especially for transwomen, violence prevails in the most common places, such as the bank, the store or merely just by leaving one’s house. For Phumelele, it has become something she believes is unrealistic to act on instantly, for instance, going to the police because of the possible victimising responses most women get. “I’ve learnt that there’s nothing I can do about it”, she said.

In the 5th year of her journey, Phumelele mentions that her family has not quite grappled with her gender. Although, transphobia still comes out during arguments with them, she has mentioned that she also tries to understand them and their path and journey in trying to understand her. “What I have done for myself is doing the work on unlearning what the idea of family means. Who I am shouldn’t rely on my relations and family is not limited to biology”, she said.

People need to stop tying womanhood and femaleness and being a girl to biology. Genitalia should not define a person’s gender. We need to do away with the traditional and conventional way of learning about gender. Not every woman has a vagina, some have penises, some have both and not every woman wants to have children or can have children. We need to unlearn fixating sex to gender.

Growing up, Phumelele had only been exposed to cis people and so she had to do a lot of intellectual work in understanding queerness in Africa which helped her with her confidence. The university space, which allowed her the freedom to be herself also allowed her the chance to associate herself with people who are pro-queerness and gender positive, which helped a lot with her self-esteem.

Some of the few things that could help every other girl in embracing their trans identity according to her include finding financial security and listening to your gut about who to involve in your lifestyle. “I don’t think coming out is a thing, invite your families into your lives and your lifestyle slowly. Listen to your gut, if you know they won’t accept you, don’t do it,” she continued.

Phumelele also stressed on the importance of aligning oneself with people who embrace who you are as it can make life much easier and also reading up on queer content that aligns with who you are. “I read a lot about sex and gender in Africa,” she said.

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