Rian: GaySA Radio, where you are family. I’m Rian and I am chatting to Bianca about her journey as a transgendered individual. Bianca, how are you?
Bianca: I’m well today, I’ve actually finished all my work just as you phoned me, can’t complain.
Rian: I think my first question is, I’m doing a whole series about transgender people and…
Bianca: Good luck.
Rian: Thank you. I think the most important thing is how did your journey start?
Bianca: joh, you know, it started when I was born, obviously my birth, or my pregnancy was something that didn’t go according to plan, I was supposed to get a lot of testosterone in the first three months of my pregnancy and that didn’t happen, but the second three months I did get the testosterone so that caused my brain and my body to be out of alignment, so ja, that’s basically where the journey started.
Rian: When did you kind of realise that you are different, you know, not the same as everybody around you?
Bianca: Ja, it was about at age two and a half, when I was confronted with the birth of my sister and my parents told me that I’m getting a brother, so I was very keen to compare notes when it came to genital formation and all those kinds of things obviously because I had a predisposition, because I’m trans, but ja, I though I’m gonna go see what it looks like when a baby’s born and his genitals are there, he’s a boy, you know, I’m gonna see what’s different between me and him, and obviously the difference was quite substantial and I was shocked. My parents obviously told me, no you’re getting a sister now, but this only happened after I saw the genitals, and I couldn’t help but wonder to myself, was there some way that I could reverse this, was there some way that I could be the girl that I thought that I was or at least be the boy that everybody wants me to be, but ja, this never changed since two and a half and it just got gradually worse in my head, you know I grew up in a very conservative, Christian upbringing in Pretoria, so my parents weren’t supportive of gay or anything like that at all, you know, gay, lesbian people were people that were frowned upon back in those years and yes, I am quite moving on in age, I’m about thirty-eight now, so back then it was the dark ages for LGBT all together. So ja, I think you should ask me the next question before I answer everything in one go.
Rian: What did you go through during that period when you realised, okay, I am trans, I am different, was it emotionally challenging?
Bianca: You know I can’t give you a full answer, I actually don’t have all the answers to that question. I know that there was a distinct period in the first grade where I had a mental breakdown in grade one as I had to go to primary school, and I couldn’t cope with the knowledge that everybody, all the other girls are gonna be wearing dresses and I’m gonna be stuck with the boys and having to go to the boys’ toilets. So at that stage I basically lost about six months, three to six months in my memory, that is a total blank in my mind, I just can’t remember what I did to basically come out the other side and say to myself, well I have to man up now and I have to be a man and pretend to be this person that I’m not for the rest of my life. But ja, since then it’s been a very sad story of self-harm and neglect, personally and socially as well as physically. You know, I was cutting with razor blades, I was hurting myself with all sorts of blunt objects and my general way of thinking was always one of shame and regret that I just couldn’t help dressing up behind my parents’ back and just getting a little bit of relief from wearing panties was a big deal for me, I just couldn’t understand why I had to deal with that, you know? Nobody else seemed to have those problems at all, so I thought I was alone and I isolated myself, or that bit of myself and it caused a huge amount of strain and stress in my social interactions because I had to keep on watching my mouth, you know, I couldn’t say certain things, I couldn’t express myself in certain ways and I had to do it differently in other ways and ja, it was just a very sad story and I’m glad to say it’s over.
Rian: I think the other thing for me that transpired through my journey, doing these stories so far, is that until quite recently, if you were transgendered you were slammed under the gay label, which is absolutely not the case, I mean there’s such a difference. When did you kind of realise that, wait a minute, I’m trans and this is why?
Bianca: You know, that came quite late in my life… first of all let’s address the gay thing, yes, as a trans person identifying as a sexual preference as opposed to the sexual gender or gender preference, you know, there’s a difference. I identify as trans as a personality, which means that I identify as a woman as opposed to a man, so that’s where the trans terminology comes from. When it comes to preference, I mean, I see myself as a lesbian and I’m actually quite irritated because it feels like my coming out as a lesbian is really not an issue when we specifically talk about the cis-normal view of things because I’m a trans woman and I’m with a woman, you know? So for anybody that wants to look at me and say “Oh ja, he’s not really a woman, look at him, he’s with a girl,” you know, that’s a problem, but the realisation basically came just about ten years ago just before I got married, while I was getting married and becoming a father. I realised that I’d now achieved every single thing that cis-normal society expects of me and that there was nothing else, so I ended up pursuing a black belt and a training career with martial arts and I almost ended up in the ring doing some amateur fighting as well, and you know, I just couldn’t get to a point where I felt comfortable with myself at all and I was entering my thirties, and I knew that mid-life was around the corner if I didn’t take care of this thing, and I ended up doing a test on the internet to see if I had gender identity issues and even though I wasn’t a hundred percent honest with the test it already said back then, ten years ago that I had gender issues and I’m gonna have trouble when I’m a bit older, and this obviously then happened, but I did end up discovering people like me online, on the internet, so the timeline is about ten years and the reason really for it is I found some people that are very similar to me on the internet and that saved me, basically.
Rian: What were the most difficult things you had to go through on your journey so far?
Bianca: Ag, it must be losing my family, it must be saying goodbye to my old life, but even though I can’t really say I said goodbye to my old live, I did kind of say goodbye to my family, you know? I don’t have a relationship with my parents anymore, I don’t have a relationship with my sister anymore, and her husband and their children and my children, and my ex-wife. So ja, that must have been the hardest thing, to know that there are actually people who just can’t love me for who I am and they’re actually the cause that I’m sitting in the situation I am today where I’m basically unemployable and unacceptable to mostly broad side of society, even in South Africa, in the time and space that we are in. It’s the lack of support.
Rian: This must have hurt very deeply?
Bianca: It still hurts, it hurts every day. If it’s the one reason I’m gonna consider suicide still, that’s the reason. It’s the loss of family and support.
Rian: Would you say that’s your darkest hour, Bianca?
Bianca: Ja, I would say so, ja.
Rian: You mentioned considering suicide, I mean, how often do you have those thoughts?
Bianca: Ag, it’s a constant problem. I’m fortunate that I have a very caring girlfriend with me and she’s also been having some serious challenges in her life, and we help each other and support each other, so as long as we’re together I think I’ll be okay.
Rian: How long have you been in this relationship for?
Bianca: It’s now almost six months, ja. Next week is six months.
Rian: Wow, congratulations.
Bianca: Thank you so much. It’s my first lesbian relationship and I’m extremely happy and content.
Rian: In the gay community, you know, that’s quite interesting, how are you accepted as a transgendered lesbian?
Bianca: Well first of all being accepted as transgender is kind of like an issue still, I mean if we think about going to a normal gay bar, you know, I’m always kind of targeted and personally I’m not used to having that kind of attention as a woman and to see men interact with me but now these men, they’re all gay and you know there’s a difference between a gay man and a straight man, as you know and you can see some of them are confused and some of them are like joh, I’ve kind of gone to the other side, you know. There’s this constant thing but I think the more we engage and the more we talk to each other, the better it gets, so the acceptance is now from both sides and people’s willingness to engage, really, is the determining factor, I’d say. So ja, I don’t find myself targeted or victimised within the community but I find the community in itself very challenged, I would say, at the moment and I’m hoping that there are people like me that can notice that and that we can actually make a difference because if I’m looking at it from my perspective, the community really is all we have, it’s our only support structure and it’s the only people that we can actually work together with, you know, where cis people just aren’t interested in dealing with people like us at all.
Rian: Talking about support, has there been anybody who has supported you on this journey?
Bianca: Yes, I’ve got a few people that are supportive, you know, I’m one of those lucky trans people, I’m easy to engage with and I do engage very easily with people, so I go out of my way to try and build up a network of people that not only remains positive in the face of sheer… what is the word that I’m looking for? A situation that you can’t beat, unbeatable odds, as well as people that can actually make a difference and want to make a difference. I think that’s the biggest thing, is finding people that want to make a difference in people like our lives. But yes, I’ve got a few close friends, I’ve got my trans family that’s close at hand and we’re trying to work through the drug issues and everything else, the social issues, but ja, it’s a supportive unit that I do have and I’m trying to expose the other trans people that I do come in contact with to that network for support because I know how difficult it is. I was there for a very long time without help or any support so I kind of find my support in doing this support work, if you can understand what I’m saying.
Rian: I’m absolutely with you. There’s something else if you don’t mind me asking, you mentioned drug use, can you just kind of give me a little bit, some background about that?
Bianca: Well obviously we all know the term self-medication, and I believe that the LGBT community specifically has got great challenges when it comes to preferring self-medication and even mainline psychological drugs and pharmaceuticals that do affect your brain chemistry, so for me, the drug use itself is an escape, I’m not talking about my personal usage, I’m not a drug user myself, but I’ve got a lot of friends and it’s really affecting the community who are taking harder drugs such as Kat and methamphetamine and those kinds of things, you know? And I find that very, very… apart from the aggravation, you know, having to deal with someone who really doesn’t want to engage on a personal level but rather go there for the party, that is definitely a barrier to entry into social activities between people when drugs are involved, but ja, I’ve seen some people who basically have lost their lives or the functionality in their lives because of specifically Kat and methamphetamine, and it’s so sad to see a young trans girl who just can’t get things together because she insists on exposing herself to those kinds of things, you know, without heeding the warnings and looking at the signs and understanding that that kind of behaviour does hamper a successful societal integration, and that for me is really the saddest thing, is to see specifically trans people engage in drugs while they can actually experience the degradation that these kinds of drugs bring to a human body. I don’t know if I did answer your question?
Rian: You did, you absolutely did. I just want to, I think the main thing here is I understand for many people it becomes a way of coping, a way of escaping.
Bianca: Ja, but there’s hope. If anybody’s listening and actually wants to try something else, we do want to start offering spiritual healing exercises and those kinds of things, you know, there’s a lot to be said for discovering yourself and finding your true nature, especially as an LGBT person because I do believe that we are spiritually higher gifted human beings because we ended up having to deal with all this pain and suffering by ourselves, so I don’t think drugs should be the answer at all, I think we should definitely start pursuing some more spiritual things and discover ourselves because self-acceptance really brings a whole different view to life, what we know, a complete 180 degrees.
Rian: On your journey so far, where exactly are you on your journey? Have you gone for any treatments or surgeries yet?
Bianca: You know, so let’s address the journey thing, when people talk to trans people or about trans people there’s always the question, “When are you going to cut your genitals off?” or “When are you going to get new genitals?” or “When are you going to get breast implants?” and people kind of equate that to what you talk to as the journey…
Rian: And then they miss the point.
Bianca: But the journey really is… ja, the journey is really a journey of self-discovery and that journey doesn’t just stop. When we talk about authentic living and authentic personality, expression, that is the journey. What does it mean to be Rian? What does it mean to be the version of Rian that is the best version, not only to the people around you but to yourself, you know? And transition means that you’re basically transitioning your life into a more acceptable and a more functional version of yourself, you know, that transition doesn’t stop. That growth never stops and it can regress, yes, but I’ve found that as a trans person, once I started accepting myself and once I started to live authentically and interact with people authentically, that’s really where the transition took a different turn to a higher gear for me personally, so going back to the physical things, I’m on hormonal treatment, I receive an implant of oestrogen like every four months now and that’s been going on for about two years. Personally I don’t see myself doing a physical genital reassignment surgery, like I say, I’m lesbian so that actually quite works out in my favour for that, and I can find myself living with my genitals the way they are, you know? It’s difficult, there’s always challenges. You look in the mirror and don’t always see what you think you should see but maybe you should just try and accept the way you are and find people that will do that with you and lose focus on the people that want you to change and be different in the first place.
Rian: It’s a very brave and courageous journey that you’ve undertaken.
Bianca: Thank you.
Rian: How are you coping today, like are you managing?
Bianca: Well, I did cry this morning when I went out for a walk with my girlfriend, I’m pretty upset about my parents still, you know, I can still see my father trying to talk to me but just around the corner he’s ready to throw the Bible at me and explain to me how God loves me and all those kinds of things but that’s not what I need, so it feels to me like I’m being forced to kind of like, walk away from something that I should really have on my side, and that bothers me. Apart from that I feel like I’m unemployable, I can’t go back to a nine to five office job anymore, it just doesn’t work for me anymore, but I’m doing very well professionally in my business, I’m a software developer, specifically a mobile developer and I’m experiencing great successes with my latest project that I’m working on, which is a personal…
Bianca: Sorry, I missed you there.
Rian: I also missed you there, so start with your project you’re working on, it’s…
Bianca: Ja, so it’s basically a combination of my professional careers, as a software developer, which you know, I’ve been doing software development for forever and a day, I started when I was nineteen years old, so thirty odd years from there I’ve written a piece of software that enables me to develop mobile software very quickly and very efficiently, and I’m basically going out into the market day to day doing demos and working on odd projects and ja, so professionally and financially things are starting to get better and that’s something that I’m very keen on doing, and then psychologically and spiritually I’m also experiencing some huge growth and I find that I’m very much more open to those kinds of things today, and even though it’s sore and I deal with the pain and the tears and being upset with it, you know, I can work through it and I can get up at the end and say I feel better and I can actually get happy and I can actually feel love, so overall I think I’m much better than I was, at least six months ago anyway.
Rian: What do you plan for the future?
Bianca: Ja, so I really want to keep on running my business, get more people on board and train more people, I’m an extremely gifted teacher, so teaching my trade and educating people, especially the younger generation who want to get into development ad preferably get them into positions where they can then be employable because the IT industry, specifically development I think, is a big mess and I’m excited to think that I can be at the forefront of maybe even fixing that and making a huge difference in historical terms, so I’m very excited for the future. I’ve managed to do something great and I’m very excited to see how everybody reacts to it in the end.
Rian: If I had to ask you what is… in one sentence what would you say is great about being transgendered?
Bianca: The fact that I can appreciate authenticity much more and much more deeply than anybody I’ve come across thus far. It’s given me a unique insight into how my brain copes with trauma and how my brain copes with extreme situations. So I’ve learnt to trust myself above everything, my intuition, obviously because I lean more to womanhood thinking, my intuition has now gained a lot of ground in my way of thinking, even though I’ve always been intuitive, now it’s coming to the forefront and yes, I can now interact with the women… female friends…
Rian: And you’re back.
Bianca: Sorry, did we disconnect again?
Rian: We did, it’s fine.
Bianca: So ja, basically I’m saying that being authentic and being able to interact with the world the way it was supposed to be from the beginning and that’s not really because I’m trans, but in spite of the fact that I’m trans and that I’ve actually come to the fact that I could accept myself for who I am rather than having to change myself all the time and I think as a trans person you have to be very careful, especially in the beginning of the transition, that you don’t kind of swap one for the other, that type of thing. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel uncomfortable and you feel that you can’t relate to your world the way you should be, change it for the better, but don’t change it because other people say “This is how it should be,” for me the trap was, you’re transgender, you’re a woman and now you need to get a boyfriend, and I tried that, I tried to relate to men but I can’t do that in the bedroom, it just doesn’t work for me so I had to again be honest with myself and say well, I do still like women and that’s the kind of thing that’s making my life easier, is that authenticity.
Rian: That’s just such a stereotypical thing that happens with people, that they think that when you are transgendered and you are going through that, that you now have to have an attraction to the opposite sex.
Bianca: Yes, yes. And that gives me hope because it goes to show that I go against the grain and that’s okay, it’s fine. It doesn’t matter.
Rian:: What are the best things that have happened to you so far?
Bianca: The best things are the fact that I can wear a dress every day, that’s great. The fact that I can make real friends and I can actually look at the friends that I had in the past and say well, you know what, maybe you weren’t that great for me and maybe I should move on, or jis, you know, you’re still a great friend and I can still look up to you and ask you for advice, type of thing, so my relationships have increased in value tenfold. Like I say, my work interactions have increased tenfold because now I don’t have to kind of like portray myself as someone else anymore, I do it as myself and that’s a lot easier than it was before. So the stress and strains of faking has now dissipated and no longer exist in my brain, and ja, I’ve ended up discovering I like cats, so that’s another plus point in my life, I’ve got a cat in my life now that I can actually give some love to, and relate to.
Rian: I’ve got eight.
Bianca: Ja, and that’s something that I never had before because the people that I mixed with never were into cats, so I never kind of got to the point where I am today where I can actually give love to a cat, ja, that’s an improvement.
Rian: What is better than you could wish for?
Bianca: The relationship I have with my girlfriend, that’s better than I could ever have wished for.
Rian: What has being trans taught you?
Bianca: Ja, I keep hammering on the authenticity thing but it’s really brought me to a place in my mind where I no longer feel like a victim. I no longer feel that I have to stand back for anybody or make excuses for myself or for anybody else for that matter. So it’s given me more time and more space in my mind and the way I think.
Rian: Why do you think, and this is I think it’s not just something for transgendered people, I think it’s a normal LGBTQ+ thing that happens, why do we feel like victims, why do we feel like we have to stand back if we are different?
Bianca: You know, I think it’s definitely something that you have to look at from a historical point of view, first of all, before anything else. We need to understand that as a community, as a group of people, as a minority and as a group of people who have been mainlined ad in that mainline has been abused, and has been neglected and targeted, and invalidated throughout our lives, that definitely enhances the way of thinking in terms of being a victim, but now we stand at a crossroads, you know? People have stood up enough as an LGBT community and said “You know what, we’re not going to take this anymore” and we’re going to stand back and make plans and work together, and then come forward as a group rather than as an individual getting flak from a Christian or anything like that. I think it’s definitely a historical thing that we still tend to think as an individual LGBT person we’re going to be victimised, and we are still victimised but that mentality has to change when we come together as a group. We can say it’s alright, I do have legal representation, I do have legal ways and means and I do have a group of friends that, when I’m in trouble I can stand up and say you know what, I’m going to phone my friend and they’re going to come through and they’re going to help me out in this position, and I think that as an LGBT community we have to all stand together and make ourselves available, the ones that can, and the ones that cannot, the ones that need the help also need to stand up and say okay, I’m going to ask for help, and that’s really what I would like to see as a change to the victim mentality, is rather okay, let’s rely on our structures and the people who are willing to stand up because there are people. I’m one of them, I’m willing to stand up for LGBT rights and I’m willing to do some work to make it work better and for us to be more cohesive in terms of a community, ja.
Rian: My next question here is, and I’m going to kind of focus a tiny little bit on what you said here, I’m going to ask you how have you grown on your journey, but I want to more know, you’ve mentioned spirituality, and of course there’s a huge difference between religion and spirituality, I mean, they are far from each other.
Rian: Tell me about how you’ve grown?
Bianca: Well yes, so first of all the authenticity thing played a role. I had to be bluntly honest with myself from a certain point in time and I had to re-evaluate, I mean if you want to talk about it in theoretical terms, Descartes said you have to throw the apple cart over and pick up the apples one by one before you put them back and say okay, they’re valid thoughts, you know? And I had to do that with my personality, so that caused a situation in my mind where I realised that I cannot actually lie to myself anymore, and more so because of other people, I cannot lie to myself about who I am because of other people, so then the questions came, like who am I, what am I, Why am I here? Then you start looking back at your life and you start seeing, these are the things that really hurt me and these are the things that really made me upset and angry and sad and everything, and these are things I don’t want to focus on anymore, so instead of now looking at it from a point of lack, it now becomes a dreaming process. So what is it that you want to be, you know? What is your desires and the things that you want to grow and the things that you want to be successful at, and only once I started thinking like that I could start seeing the parallels in my life as opposed to the things that I don’t want and the things that I don’t want to experience, and things that I did want to experience, and focusing on those things from a perspective of discovering and re-discovering and making those things more myself instead of just things that I wanted to do, and that brought about a state in my mind where it no longer became a prison, it became a doorway to experience and a doorway to expression, and only once that happened could I understand that the deeper and darker parts are also parts of me and I don’t have to point them away and be ashamed of them, but rather embrace them and say okay, so how do I integrate these things, these darker personality traits of my personality, how do I integrate them, how do I re-integrate that? How do I make love to them rather than hate them and feel ashamed of them? And once you get to that point really…
Rian: And that must be a challenge?
Bianca: It is a big challenge and it takes a long time to get to this point. I won’t expect anybody to understand what I am talking about when talking about these things but there’s definitely hope and there are teachers out there that have really gone out of their way to put these kinds of messages out there for us to listen to for free of charge, but the work still remains with you. You still have to do the work as a person to yourself over a long period of time, and not everybody can, not everybody wants to, but I definitely highly recommend it.
Rian: If you can give advice to anybody who’s in a similar situation to you, what would you say?
Bianca: First of all, don’t give up. Understand that there are people out there like you and that they, most of them, or some of them at least, is willing to help. Understand that you’re also dealing with a sub-section of humanity, so if you’re specifically trans and you think that you’re gonna walk into the trans community and you’re going to find only love and joy and happiness, you’re gonna make a mistake, you’re gonna come up against people who want to use you and come up against people that wanna abuse you, and you’re always gonna have to defend yourself and you’re always gonna have to maintain your boundaries, so step one: go and define your boundaries, really understand what they mean ad really understand what it means to maintain those boundaries. There’s only one lesson that I can teach anybody in forever and a day, really, go and maintain your boundaries. Define them and maintain them and don’t let anybody step over them, because it’s only then that you get into trouble in your life, when people are overstepping your boundaries, or you don’t maintain them, either way.
Rian: Bianca, anything else that you can think of that I didn’t ask that you would like to add?
Bianca: Well ja, I’m always open to any trans person or LGBT person by extension who is interested in learning and who is interested in receiving some help and care and support, specifically from our NGO perspective, we are in the process of registering an NGO or something similar, and we are engaging with the major players within the LGBT community, such as the organisers of Gay Pride and yourself, GaySA Radio, and treatment areas such as electrolysis and hormonal treatments, endocrinologists, private health care, those kinds of things, so ja, I’m privy to a vast network of individuals who are interested in providing care for the LGBT community, so please engage with them and look up on Facebook if you can make contact with me there then drop me a mail, drop me a message. I’m always ready to communicate to someone who’s interested in healing, ja.
Rian: I think for me the next question here that I’m very curious about is please tell me a bit about the NGO?
Bianca: Ja, so the NGO is something that we’re still pushing for, there is a great need for investment, financially, within the community, specifically the trans community, 90% of us end up on the street at some point in our lives and yes, I’ve been experiencing just that for the last two years, you know, where I’ve been between houses on a constant basis and I basically had to move. In the last two years I had to move five times and the next move is on the cards, around the corner, maybe end of the year, so the need is there for some financial support, the need is there for specific training. We do have capabilities in terms of finance, in accessing finance, but yes, we’re always thinly spread so ja, the NGO is providing at the moment bi-monthly meetings for trans people, where we come together in a professional setting such as a doctor’s appointment rooms at night or Wits lecture hall during the afternoon or Saturday morning, something like that, or getting together on a one-on-one basis at home or at a coffee shop, just reaching out, and they speak of an application on the mobile phone to get people to connect quickly and access help in that fashion, so then there’s always work and the more money we get into the whole thing then obviously the more time we can allocate to it as well.
Rian: In what area are you based?
Bianca: Ag, we mainly operate in Joburg and Pretoria. There is connections in Durban as well as in Cape Town, but yes, those networks are obviously subsidiaries of our main offering in Joburg specifically. Then I can do remote support and those kind of things, but ja, we mainly focus within Gauteng.
Rian: Does the organisation have a name yet?
Bianca: Yes, I believe we’re calling it “True to be you” (True2BU?) I believe that’s the name.
Rian: And about Facebook? You said people can get a hold of you on Facebood, how do we get hold of you to connect?
Bianca: Ja, my Facebook account, Binca-Courtney Minnaar, you can find me on that, mainly. I am quite well-known within the community and my trans work in the trans community is quite well-known as well. So people who are looking at engaging will come across me at some point anyway, but yes, if you want to personally put my profile on there, I’m quite happy for you to do that, you can reach me there. You can also reach me on my email address, email@example.com, that would be the most direct point of access to me and then I can direct someone…
Rian: Hello? Bianca?
Bianca: We’re back.
Rian: Okay, great. I’m going to, just stay on the line for me, I’m just going to do the closing intro, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Bianca: Ja, just to make sure, people must understand that they have to engage. If they want to transition as a trans person of if they want to move forward with their coming out as a gay or lesbian person, or any such kind of form, I mean we’re going down in the LGBTQI acronym all the way down to kinks, so people who are into bondage and pain and those kinds of things, I don’t discriminate on that basis, I’m happy to engage with anybody who wants to talk about those kinds of things and I’ve got a humongous amount of experience. So please, do engage with me, I’m very well-knowledged and very well connected.
Rian: Great, Bianca thank you so much for your time.
Bianca: Thank you Rian, it was a great interview.
Rian: GaySA Radio, where you are family. I’m Rian and that was Bianca telling us all about her journey as a trans person so far.