Julia Swanepoel

My Life’s Journey

Life is about the destination, but also about the journey to that destination. One has to adapt along the way, sometimes get hurt; but one of the most important things one has to learn is to survive in society with its own views and man-made rules. That is easier said than done. Here is my story…

I apparently lie somewhere on the autistic-asperger spectrum, whatever that means. All I know is that I am different. I was at a special school. I was, however, always “different” and that had nothing to do with my schoolwork, or my stutter when I talk. As I got older, my stutter became less but not the “other” thing…
The “other” thing…

As a child I often wore my sister’s panties and netball clothes and it always felt right and good – it made me the person I really wanted to be – a little girl and not a little boy! As I got older, I still scratched in my sister’s and mother’s wardrobes and regularly fitted on their clothes and wore them. Sometimes they would shout at me, but I could not stop myself. I wanted to wear their clothes permanently. Now that I am an adult, it is still the same – I want to be a woman, not a man. In fact, I feel like a woman, but was born in a man’s body.

As I became older over the years, I became a secret “cross-dresser” and had to experience how difficult is was – and is – for me to be a man during the day and at night (in my house, behind closed doors, windows and curtains) be a delicate woman in womens clothes and underwear. But I had to do it to survive. I lived in a very conservative and narrow-minded town (North West) and the people there do not tolerate anything that is not according to their norms and standards. I was and am different to what most people’s norms would be.

During the last few years I increasingly felt and knew that I would struggle to survive; to be “this” way during the day and “that” way at night. But I managed in my way to live with it. Do the man-thing in sociey during the day (hold up a false version of myself to the world) and at night be the real woman that I feel I am, alone and lonely behind closed doors and curtains. It became all the more difficult as I became older. I felt more and more rebellious and despondent and struggled to handle it. A few years ago I told my two best friends in town about my situation and took both of them into my confidence. They were a married couple and had been my friends for years. They laughed at me and started spreading stories. It hurts…

I finally decided (2009) to consider moving to Cape Town to my family, especially when I heard that Groote Schuur could possibly help me to become a woman and also heard of the wonderful comfort and support that Gender DynamiX and Triangle can offer to people like me.

Liesl showed me that there are a lot more people like me. Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone anymore. I decided to join Gender DynamiX and Triangle and become part of them, which could also lead to relief for people like me.

When I read the book, TRANS: Transgender Life Stories From South Africa, and watched the DVD, Transformations, I could, for the first time, look back in happiness at my sad life and know that I am not the only one who suffered the hurt; there are a number of people who went through the same pain and know how difficult it is.
I am thankful that I could enter the Groote Schuur programme and that they could start to help me realise my dream of becoming a woman and to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel – which I have been looking forward to for so many years.

I also know that, after all the perserverance of many years, I can now live out my womanhood fully and I can, during the day and at night and no longer in secret, be a soft and delicate woman. My family supports my wishes, but for some of them it was difficult to accept.

I will no longer be “Johan” or “Jonnie”, but Julia, the actual person that should have been on my birth certificate when I was born on 14 June 1965 in Klerksdorp.

© Julia Swanepoel and GDX, 2010