I am Samuel Makhubela from Johannesburg. I was about 16 or 17 years of age, in Secondary School when I came to know what I was, where I stand. I began to understand the changes that I was seeing. Being passionate about soccer and also because of the way I was dressing questions were asked, “Where exactly do you belong, are you a girl or a boy”. But I used to say I’m a girl because at that time I wasn’t sure of what I am.
As I was going through developmental stages my manhood began to show more prominently. When I wore my girl’s uniform (gimp-dress) you could see a bulge in front and I would become so embarrassed. I then figured that I had to wear boy’s clothes. I began wearing Dickies, Yanks and so forth – masculine clothes. I changed my hairstyle and started having men’s hair cuts. People started saying “Ok you were bluffing from the beginning. You knew that you were a boy but you were wearing girl’s clothes.”
My mother was not comfortable with the way I was. She was intimidated. I used to tell her I am sick. When I took a bath she would ask me what’s happening. I didn’t want to wash in front of her because she was aware that there was a mistake. She would say, “My child we’ll have to go to the doctor”, saying it with distress. She was very shy about talking about it because my penis was not pointed straight it was parallel. When I had to urinate I would urinate like a female – seated. My mother saw that there was a problem. It deeply troubled me.
As I was developing, this troubled me more and more. I started doing research about possible surgery. By that time I knew exactly what I was: when I was in boy’s clothes I looked stunning, they would just suit me. My breasts didn’t even develop – they are tiny, they were there but they never developed fully like they would in females, I have flat breast – its just nipples I have what is called in Zulu izibele (men’s breasts).
Even when I used to play female soccer, people would be saying: “get that boy off the field” and I wouldn’t be embarrassed. Even here in the township they would be commenting on “this homosexual”! I wouldn’t even be worried.
The female organs were functional to a point, but the male organ was the one getting the erection. I urinated through the female organ, the male one was the one with feelings. I have never been with a man. It has never even occurred to me to try it out. Guys do hit on me but I tell them to leave me alone.
When I was 17 or 18 years old I decided to go to the doctor because I knew that my male sexuality is stronger than the female. I consulted the doctor who knew Nandos (gang of gays and lesbians). He asked what I was, a gay or a lesbian. I told him that I know the community of gays and lesbians, but as for me coming to see him I came because I have a problem.
The doctor told me that I’ll need the treatment from Botshilong in Vosloorus. The doctors there kept in touch with my doctor, deciding what was to be done. I kept going for check-ups.
At this time there was no support from my family because they were not sure about what I was doing. They thought I was taking chances. The last it was discussed had been when I was young. Now they were afraid to talk to me openly about my sexuality.
The doctors communicated with each other and confirmed a date for my operations. The decision was to remove the female organ and fix the penis. I was in hospital for a while afterwards, perhaps six to ten months.
I have never fully recovered up until this day. I’ve been undergoing operations ever since. My penis is working perfectly. I have a normal erection, like a man as well as an orgasm like a man. The only problem is when I urinate because where they inserted the catheter there’s a problem and my urine is still coming out from underneath instead of through the penis.
When I discovered that I am HIV positive I applied for and received a social grant after I was diagnosed but not for long. I am able to work, but I have difficulty finding full time employment so now I do piece work.
Getting my ID document took a long time. The Department of Home Affairs kept giving me the run-around. I’ve had to start from scratch to get it because they said the old one was not valid. The one I had contradicted the person that I had become. It was different to the person on the photo. On the photo of the old ID I had long hair, pushed back hair-do and so on. I needed my new ID to identify me as a male with the name and with my new name.
When I started focusing on my male sexuality, people talked among themselves but never asked me anything. I have a lot of girl friends and some of them would tell people what I am. Some of the girlfriends I would take to show them the kind of people I associate with, as a result they wouldn’t be surprised by what I am. I’m a loner. Not that I don’t want to associate with people, but it’s just that gays from around here are jealous of me. There were bickering comments like, “Samuel thinks he’s better and since his wife passed away he thinks he can get any girl”. So it’s been like that for me in this township and that’s why I’m a loner. I do have girl friends. I explain to my girl friends the kind of person I am. I tell them not to confuse me with lesbians because I know what I am. I’m not saying that I discriminate. I just know who I am. They used to think that I was one of them, that I was a girl just like them. There are some who do understand when I tell them.
I had a life partner, but she has passed on. That was the person I was so sure of, she knew what was what about me. I could see that I was with the right person. We were together for four years until the time she passed on.
When I meet a girl I want to have a relationship with I don’t explain anything. I let her find out for herself what’s happening with me. Normally she would find out when we are in bed. Sometimes explaining becomes useless. What if I divulge such information and then find out that she’s not into me? So rather continue with what you’ll be doing and see where things end. Sometimes I explain and find that the person completely doesn’t understand. Those are the ones who usually tell their friends and the story is eventually passed on and spread to all the people of this township. Making a mockery of the kind of person I am. There are such people that are not open-minded about life. So I choose not to explain to my girlfriends the kind of peson I am.
Here at home they all regard me as a male, even my uncle treats me like a guy, the people staying here, they all regard me as a male and it ends there. That’s what I want. When I go job-hunting I look for specifically male jobs. I still want to get a driving license.
I discovered that I was HIV positive when I went to the hospital to be tested after I became ill with kidney problems and was put on treatment straight away. I also had counseling. At the clinic they always encourage me to condomise. My body is recovering and my original weight has kicked in. I don’t take chances now. I told my mother but she wouldn’t believe it until she saw the pills. She then belived that I was sick and said to me: “My child please take good care of yourself, I know how much you love women.”
There is no-one to take care of me when I am sick. I have to take care of myself. I have no choice. If I’m fortunate someone will call me and I will tell them that I am sick and then they come over to check how I am. I recall the period in my life when I just started the ARV treatment, the pills I was taking at night had terrible side-effects when I got up in the morning. I would be having my breakfast and feel nauseous, dizzy and fall down and just sleep. My system has gotten used to them now. That’s one treatment I won’t stop taking. It’s a lifetime commitment.
I hardly drink. Redds is enough for me and when I’ve consumed alcohol I don’t take pills that day. But basically I just drink 2 bottles of Redds and come straight home. I don’t get drunk to any degree. Partying is not my thing. What’s more, people like us get murdered, we are not safe. It’s not only gays and lesbians who experience those hate crimes. Girls I know get raped and murdered, so who knows, I could be next. My visitors know that we stay in doors or when we do go out it should be to a safe place nearby and then we chill.
I do not regard myself as intersexed. I regard myself as a man totally, that’s it! I will not even tell my wife one day. She will see for herself when things are happening between us. I am not able to impregnate a woman even though I have a normal orgasm. So if a girl friend comes to me and says that she’s pregnant I can tell her it’s not mine. I choose to resort to adoption. I’ve made peace with the fact that I can’t have kids. I’ve made peace with adoption a long time ago. I would like to have my own children but I don’t want to dream about something that will never happen. I won’t have a child of my own because babies don’t fall from trees, a child is conceived. Besides, being HIV positive means I always use a condom.
Someone with a child won’t be ok for me. What will happen when this child grows up and realizes I’m not her father? It is better if I’m with someone with no child so that we may build something together without any baggage.
© Samuel Makhubela and GDX