ID Story: Charl

This 2010 personal testimony from GDX’s Charl Marais demonstrates just how critical it is for transgender persons to be able to access ID changes through Home Affairs. Such testimony is especially pertinent given GDX’s ongoing campaign to have Act 49 of 2003 properly implemented throughout South Africa’s Home Affairs offices. Charl speaks:

My name is Charl and I am in-house bookkeeper and newsletter editor at Gender Dynamix. I recently received my brand new identity document identifying me as male. But before you congratulate me, let me tell you that it took all of 20 years and umpteen applications and a lot of humiliating meetings at the Department of Home Affairs in Cape Town.

My first application went in in 1992 when I also applied for a name change. I got the name change without any problems, but nobody seemed to know what the requirements or criteria was for changing the gender marker in my id number. Then one day I was told I needed a complete sex change in order to be identified as male. I had had only one operation which was the hysterectomy and ovarectomy.

Then the law was changed and I discovered that I did not need the full sex change. That I think was in 2003. I was up and down to Home Affairs. It seemed each different person I saw told me something different. If I went with the letter from the gynaecologist, I was told I needed a letter from my psychiatrist. Armed with those, I discovered I needed another letter from another doctor confirming what the other doctors said.

Finally in March last year I made another application, armed with letters from a psychiatrist, psychologist and two GPs. Only to be told in November that I would need to reapply as they lost my application form. I did this and finally on 7 June 2010 I received my new ID document.

Throughout the twenty years of waiting, I suffered much humiliation. Going into a bank and trying to open a bank account was the worst as I was presenting as a male but my ID identified me as a female. It got to a point where I did not even go into banks and rather did everything online. I live in a house with five other guys who did not know my history. Imagine then getting post addressed to Miss. I got around that only by lying and blaming it on stupid computers or bank credit controllers. Now finally I am past all that and I can show my bearded face anywhere and not have to worry every time I have to show my identity document.