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Life Stories

Transgender people sharing their life stories with you. They are very personal, but might help you to understand transgenderism or you might find parallels to your own life.

Every life and journey is different. If you have your own life story to contribute, please contact us. You can choose any form and language you are comfortable and may stay anonymous if you wish.


My name is Witnes Booysen and I am 34 years old. I was born in Lutzville, near Vredendal, but now live and work in Cape Town as Outreach Co-ordinator at Gender DynamiX. I am a qualified community development worker and have filled a number of community work positions before coming to work for Gender DynamiX. I love spiritual dancing and am also a netball player
Life Story of Netta PDF Print E-mail

Life Story of Netta

My name is Netta and I am 37 years old.  I live in Bonteheuwel on the Cape Flats.
I became a sex-worker at the age of 24.  I was unemployed and homeless and it seemed like the only way that I could make a living.  Now I am a Peer Educator at SWEAT (Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce).  I go out and do outreach among sex workers and the community.  I teach them about safe sex and do advocacy work especially about the call for the decriminalisation of sex work.  I think the community still has lots to learn, not only about transgender, but also about sex workers.  They do not understand and they still humiliate them.  I am also involved with the Media Team.  I am a journalist on the SWEAT magazine SWEAT SCENE.

It is for us to tell people and show them how we feel.  It is our bodies and our business.  Sex workers must come out and face the people and fight for their rights.  It is difficult, though, because sex workers are targeted when they come out.  Transgender sex workers have the same challenges as other sex workers, but because people see us as less than human things are even more dangerous for us.

I was nine or ten years old when I realised I was transgender - although I did not know the word then.  I just felt that I was not a boy even when others told me I was a boy.  I was always “girlish” and to me that was normal.  I always wore girl’s clothes, except to school.  School was no fun for me.  The children humiliated me and called me names.  

If I think of my past I think of my family but I was
Life Story: Manushia PDF Print E-mail

I am Manushia from Zimbabwe and I’ve been living in South Africa for the past six years. Manushia is defined as a supermodel - I consider myself a female. 

I remember that as a child, I had mixed feelings. I played with girls most of the time and when it came to household chores, my mother didn’t have that kind of thing that “this is a boy’s job and that is a girl’s job”. We just did what needed to be done. My father was a politician and a qualified accountant. My mom was a businesswoman and travel consultant. I cannot say we were rich, but we were middle class - we could really afford good things.

Photo: Robert Hamblin
I did not have a close relationship with my father. I think he had actually seen that there’s something wrong and having many sons from a previous marriage as well, he had been hoping for a girl. However, while he had a problem with me, I became closer to my mom. I didn’t relate to her as just my mother, but also as a friend. The relationship I had with my brother was very difficult because he would always put me down. My sister and I had a very good relationship. She didn’t see me as a bad person. She always talked about the way I act, saying things like “You know you act like a girl. Why can’t you just stop acting like a girl and be a boy?” Most of the time I would try to impress her but then I found out that somehow I couldn’t fit in. So I just lived the way I wanted because I found out that when you please everybody else you destroy yourself and you are not happy. I decided to make myself happy and to please myself before I pleased others.

Life Story: Munir van Reenen PDF Print E-mail

My name is Munir and I am a 33-year-old trans man. I knew I was different before the age of ten because I did not “act like a girl”. I did everything the boys did, like running around without a t-shirt, playing with boys and boy’s toys. I was definitely different.
My father died when I was a baby and my mom never reprimanded me or ever told me I was a girl and should act like a girl. She bought me what I wanted in terms of clothes and toys. The boys also just accepted me as part of the friendship circle.

As I grew older and into my teens, I started backing away from boys and started joining the girls’ group because that was what was expected of me. Boys started showing an interested in me, but I was only interested in girls.

A Day in the Life of Mama Trans PDF Print E-mail

There is a constant buzz of activity in the Gender DynamiX offices: walk-ins, phones ringing off the hook, e-mails, presentations, networking, conferences and time with researchers as well. The more Gender DynamiX is becoming known in the Human Rights sector, the busier we become, and the more walk-ins, phone calls, e-mails, presentations, networking,  conferences and researchers we manage.  So how do we do what we do all day? This month, we will look at a typical day in the life of our Executive Director, Liesl Theron.

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