South Africa

SA transgender woman raising funds for surgery through GoFundMe

SA transgender woman raising funds for surgery through GoFundMe

Mahlatse Nkuna, a transgender woman, is raising funds through a GoFundMe page to have her sex reassignment surgery.

The 28-year-old from Soweto has so far raised just over $2,000 (about R34,600) for the surgery that costs about $30,000 (R519,900), which is the goal of her fundraiser.

Speaking to TimesLIVE, Nkuna said she plans to get the surgery done in Thailand or New York. It is a three or four stage process.

“The South African health-care system is not equipped to do this kind of surgery. Even if they were, insurance companies explicitly exclude it,” she said.

Nkuna, who was born male, said she has been transitioning for three years. In her early 20s, she started hormone replacement therapy, also known as transfeminine hormone therapy, to change her masculine appearance.

“I was 25 when I started with my transition and my family has been very supportive. I also have a therapist and am going to counselling as well,” she said.

Apart from not having health insurance to cover the surgery, Nkuna said some of the challenges that she's faced during her transition thus far included changing her legal gender marker.

She said the process was difficult and it took more than a year.

“I started with my name. Mahlatse is my unisex birth name, but I had a masculine middle name which I removed. That process took three months, and a few months later, I applied to have my legal gender marker rectified and it took over a year for home affairs to finally issue an ID card with the 'F' sex indicator,” she said.

SA is one of the few countries in the world that allows for a transgender person to apply to “record a change of sex or gender identity”.

In SA, to apply to make this change one must be 18 years or older. If younger, a parent or guardian can apply on their behalf.

They must be South African and have undergone “clinical treatment”, which may include or be constituted by counselling and need not involve “invasive medical treatment”.

“When transgender people are unable to change names and gender markers, we become vulnerable to discrimination,” said Nkuna.

“In most spaces I’m assumed to be cisgender female, and I navigate the world as a woman — no questions asked. I value this, not because I’m ashamed of being transgender, but because I can walk down the street safely and use the women’s bathroom without any trouble.

“With my legal documents corrected, I can get a job without having to explain myself and risk discrimination.”

Nkuna said, though SA was acceptable of trans visible people, transphobic was still a big issue.

“Home affairs officials are not sensitised to the existence of transgender people. If you don’t pass the superficial tests of womanhood, you encounter resistance.

“The fact that I 'look female' sometimes makes people more willing to help, and some would assume that the 'M' sex indicator was just an error on home affairs’ part,” she said.