Rian: GaySA Radio, where you are family. I’m Rian and I am talking to Cher Pieterson about her journey through her transgender experience. Cher, how did your journey start?

Cher: Well hi, and hi GaySA Radio family. To kick-start I think, my journey started when I was still a little kid, I think for me, watching Disney movies made me realise I just wanted to be a Disney princess. A little bit unrealistic but it’s kind of how I came to understand just that there was something not right in terms of my gender that I was living as and yeah, I figured it started there when I was a kid and always felt a little bit awkward and people always kind of saying “boys don’t act like that, why are you acting like that?” and slowly but surely as I grew up I started to realise that every time I was wishing to be seen as a girl or just experience things as a girl, that was kind of later in life when I realised I was transgender.

Rian: What did you go through during this period when you realised you were transgendered?

Cher: For me, when I was starting to kind of come to terms with it there was a long period of time where I kind of thought ag, this is… I mean it’s not something people do and when people are transgendered there’s a very specific, almost aesthetic and look that I wasn’t comfortable with, so there was a lot of confusion, but there was also for me a lot of, what we call dysphoria, in terms of being very uncomfortable in my own body and you know, not liking how it was and how I felt in my own body and that made me very uncomfortable and I think it made me a very awkward kind of kid growing up as well, and a very awkward adult. Only now I think in life I have become comfortable and more confident in who I am, so there was a lot of confusion, there was a lot of self-hate even, so that’s especially what I went through. Then there was also from other people, a lot of nay-saying and almost bullying to some extent, especially at school. Yeah, but I think we’ve moved past that now.

Rian: how long did it take you about to kind of realise, like look, listen, I am very different and I can put a label on it and this is because… I think the other thing that we’ve seen is that many people on this journey, first thing, “Okay, I must be gay.”

Cher: Yeah.

Rian: But then you realise, wait a minute, there is a vast difference between being gay and being transgendered.

Cher: Ja. So I think for me, like when I was younger I also thought that was the case but I didn’t really feel specifically attracted to men, that’s never really how it’s been for me, so from the start already and even in the entire journey I’ve always known you know, I can’t be gay because I’m not just into men if I’m now thinking of my assigned gender, that was kind of a thing for me, knowing I was interested in all kinds of people, so I think on my journey I’ve explored different identities and different ways of living and different types of people, I slowly realised I must be transgendered, that’s just how it is, especially having Youtube as a resource, for me was kind of a good way to see other people’s experiences and other people’s journeys. That really helped me to come to terms with who I am.

Rian: What were the most difficult things you’ve had to deal with on your journey so far?

Cher: Definitely for me it was interacting with people, the most difficult thing for me is people not understanding or not even being willing to understand, you know, a lot of ignorance has made my journey very hard, especially people that I’ve had to interact with when it comes to being at varsity or people I’ve had to interact with in the workplace or even people in my own family, I think a lot of the time ignorance has played a big role in my struggle because it leads to a lot of self-doubt and you don’t feel very comfortable in a space. I think one of the most difficult things was, I had friends when I was starting out with varsity who used to love going to trans parties, so parties and festivals where they like to listen to trans music and that was supposed to be a very open and free space, and what happened to me was I was at one of these trans parties and lots of people started telling one another “That’s a dude,” you know, “That’s a poser at this festival, and it’s disgusting” and at some point it was almost like everyone was directing this at me and I felt a lot of hate from people at the festival and eventually I ended up stuck in a car in a state of panic and distress and all I wanted to do was leave. Since that happened, and it was quite recent, it must have been like two, three years ago, it left me very paranoid and afraid to even open up to people in any sort of social space, and it really made me consider who I was friends with and who I interacted with daily and what kind of spaces I allowed myself to be me in when it comes to being really authentic and free because it’s really dangerous in a space like South Africa where people don’t understand, people are ignorant and they have their own ideas of how people should be and who they should be, and that was the first time I actually realised how dangerous being trans is in a space like South Africa.

Rian: You said this was like three years ago?

Cher: Ja.

Rian: So it’s still fairly recent, would you say that’s your darkest hour?

Cher: Yeah, definitely, I think that was my darkest hour. I was stuck in a car for I think almost eight hours with people screaming at me in the car, screaming at me “You should go home, you’re disgusting, you’re a disgrace to people and you’re giving loads and loads of people a bad name”, so it was really traumatising for me and if it wasn’t for one of my friends who was just like “Listen, let’s leave, let’s get out of here, let’s go to a safer place, like let’s go home,” I don’t think I would have left without a little bit of… and I mean I still have a lot of trauma from that event but I don’t think I would have left in a way I could have dealt with had I stayed longer or had I sat there longer, because at that point I was in the car for eight hours and I hadn’t gone to the bathroom at all, I hadn’t eaten, so I was just sitting in the car with nothing to do except panic.

Rian: And people outside screaming at you?

Cher: Yeah, people outside the car walking by screaming, I had the doors locked, I didn’t have a single window open…

Rian: Hello? Hello?

Cher: Hi, yes sorry. A little bit of connection failure there.

Rian: The internet gods are not playing with. Okay so let’s try and pick up from where we were, so you were sitting in that car for eight hours?

Cher: Yeah.

Rian: And your life has actually been threatened?

Cher: Yeah, my life has definitely been threatened, it was not a single point I felt safe until my friend was like “Let’s leave, let’s really get out of here.”

Rian: If you look back at that experience, did it help you grow or did it actually hurt you and do more damage than anything else?

Cher: I think in retrospect, now looking back, it really did help me grow and help me to understand just because I have a strong feeling now and I think it’s given me a sense of intuition when interacting with people as to like, who is real and authentic and sympathetic and compassionate, and who are the people that I can and cannot trust to have in my life. It was definitely an eye-opening experience as well and I think it made me way more humble and a stronger person because now I don’t take nonsense from anyone.

Rian: On your journey have there been people who supported you?

Cher: Yeah, tons. So on my journey there’s definitely been a lot of familial support from my dad especially, he was one of my biggest supporters, he always helped me along and kind of helped me start my medical transition, taking me to the doctor and I always had a strong, close circle of friends who’ve really been there through thick and thin, like asking me if there’s anything I need always and constantly helping to understand what it is I’m experiencing and how it is they can be better allies to me through my journey.

Rian: Obstacles, that’s always a big one and I mean especially I think the first thing for most people when you say you are gay, it’s sort of an “Oh my God,” shattering moment but somehow the people, if you are saying I’m transgendered it’s just so much worse, which is just so fucked up.

Cher: Yeah, it’s so much worse. I think for me I didn’t really come out to my parents in any way, shape or form, my dad did his own research and we had a sit-down and he was like “Listen, I just want you to be authentic, I want you to be you, I want us to be able to share in all of you, who you are,” because I was always very closed off to my family in a certain way because I felt like this was a shameful thing and my family really helped me to realise, fuck that. Be you and be true to you.

Rian: Obviously there must have been resistance from people as well? Stuff that hindered you in your journey so far?

Cher: Yeah, I think in terms of resistance there’s been some resistance from a lot of family members, not my home family but just other family members in terms of like, accepting me and really trying to be there and be supportive, there’s been a lot of that. Actually I think when it comes to dead-mailing, which is what happens with a lot of trans people where people who are family and are supposed to be supportive kind of don’t make considerable effort to use your chosen name or to really use the correct pronouns, which I think is a cause of distress for a lot of people, but I think for me those have been some obstacles, I think it’s definitely a huge obstacle as well, there’s been huge obstacles in terms of dating, trying to get people to understand what being transgendered is all about and how I am a woman and should be treated as such and deserve the same kind of love, you know?

Rian: I think the one thing you touched on that’s something I wanted to ask more about is the pronouns, I think there are a lot of people who are just so uncertain about what pronouns to use and what not to use, or what is correct and what is not correct and, what would be the correct pronouns to use?

Cher: I think it’s different among different people. I think the best way to actually go about finding out the correct pronouns is just to ask, as simple as that. I think asking is so important, I don’t think we should assume anything when interacting with people we don’t know, especially now, you know, there’s so many different pronouns. Everyone has chosen their own pronouns now, we have the whole identity politics issue and debate and I think in a generation like mine it’s important to ask and never just assume. So if people are uncertain about someone’s pronouns, rather just call them by the name that you know and then ask “What are your pronouns, what would you like me to refer to you as?”

Rian: Then at work, did you have any difficulty with work at all, being accepted?

Cher: Well at my job that I currently work at I kind of went in and I was very upfront with being transgender because there are quite a lot of transgender people who work in my office. So at work I haven’t faced many obstacles, they are very accepting and it’s kind of one of those spaces that I would call modern space, where everyone is accepted for who and what they are and it’s been a very, very calming place to work at and a calm experience to have working in such an environment, but I think there definitely could be some obstacles, a lot of the time if your documents don’t match your preferred name or your gender, if you’re transgender and obviously if you’re female, then sometimes you have documents that don’t match, it could be a problem but I think it really just depends on working environment. My working environment is very accepting, very open, very honest. They have an open door policy which I think is really great and as long as you’re open and honest, they are willing to be supportive and allow you to live your truth.

Rian: How difficult is it to make the document change? I’ve heard so many stories, some people say it goes quick, others say it’s like a really dragged out process.

Cher: Yeah, I know there’s two changes one has to make depending on your own personal feelings and needs, the name change being a very simple one. It does take quite a while I know because they have to send it up to Pretoria, so I think depending on the home affairs that you go to, the name change is a simple one. You go, you go to the birth certificate office, you fill in a form and you pay R140, simple as that. No I think it might be R240 I think. It’s a very simple process, it’s the same as what you would do if you got married, you need to change your surname or if your name was spelt wrong and you’d like to fix it, changing the name is quite simple, it does take a while, because I’ve heard people say it took about a month for them, for me it did take quite a while, and the second change would be changing your gender marker. Now for that it should be quite a simple process as well, depending on the home affairs you do go to, because I know some you might work with a clerk who doesn’t really agree with your change of life and may want to hinder the process but you need two letters from physicians saying that you’ve medically altered your gender by taking hormones or something of that sort. So you need to just prove that you have gone to a doctor and medically you have been able to change the hormone levels in your body to the desired gender and you’re given it, and you hand in that, and you fill in the form they require and I think that’s about R140, and then it should go through to Pretoria where they have everything processed and they issue you your ID number and your ID with your gender marker correct.

Rian: On your journey you mentioned you’re doing medical transformation, how far are you on your journey?

Cher: Yes, I’ve been taking hormones for I think six months now, that’s been one of the things I think that has been a little bit of an obstacle. Just finding the right route and finding access to resources in terms of who does one go to, where does one get assistance? I think it just took a while for me because I was looking and looking and I was not afraid, I would say, just doubtful as to whether or not the right steps were being taken. So I went to go see gender dynamics in Cape Town and they have a process where they get you into (Grooteskuur) and they subsidise your transition for you, offering obviously medical assistance with hormones and seeing doctors and seeing an endocrinologist, whereas I sort of started, you know I got access to a physician who is a GP and she simply prescribed me, she knows exactly about the transition and she knows the correct levels that she needs to issue so I’ve gone to a private physician and she assists in giving me my prescriptions, I pop over to my local pharmacy, get my hormones and take them every day. So I basically take hormone blockers and I have oestrogen catchers which I put on.

Rian: Going on to the hormone treatments I’ve heard, is a really, really unintense process, is that true?

Cher: It’s a very unintense?

Rian: Intense, I’ve heard it’s quite hectic to go on to?

Cher: It really depends on your medical history. If you’ve got a history of diabetes or heart disease or those kinds of things, if you’ve got any medical issues I think it might be intense but it’s fairly simple. If you go to a GP who has worked with transgender patients, and that’s why research is so important. Finding a doctor who will work with you, it could be quite simple if you’re willing to go the private route, but if you need medical assistance or you can’t afford to pay for it then it can be quite a lengthy process to get hormones but the taking of hormones, not so bad. I mean you take one tablet every single day which are hormone blockers and I put on a patch twice a week, bob’s your uncle.

Rian: Wow that seems easy. Emotionally and psychologically going through the hormones as well, if we can stick with that a bit longer, emotionally and psychologically, was that difficult?

Cher: You know what, I wouldn’t say it was difficult, I think it was very affirming. When you start hormones there’s almost a sense of… let me just start by saying when I started hormones there’s definitely kind of a… you feel as if your emotional range stretches and you feel more, you become a lot more sensitive to other people’s feelings, your own feelings. It’s kind of like puberty, basically going through puberty identical to the gender you are now. It’s identical to that so I’ve experienced some mood swings in terms of just, experiences that make me feel now super emotional where in the past I wasn’t really as emotional and I cry all the time now which is quite different, and then yeah, I think there’s definitely a change for the better, you feel a sense of affirmation, there’s just a sense of rightness, that you just feel right within yourself, which I think is really such a beautiful thing that hormone replacement does offer a lot of trans people.

Rian: Looking at yourself right now where you are on this journey, are you okay, are you coping?

Cher: Yeah I’m definitely coping. I’ve got a great support system, found a gentleman who happens to love me the way I am and yeah, so I feel very confident and I’m positive the future’s going to be great and obviously there are plans in the pipeline for transition, getting the downstairs surgery and that’s about it. I’ve gotten sufficient breast growth and I think it’s actually been quite a beautiful journey for me, it’s something I think, it’s stories people deserve to hear and ja, I’m quite happy.

Rian: What is so great about being trans for you?

Cher: I actually wouldn’t say there’s anything great about being trans, I wouldn’t wish the emotional turmoil of not understanding who you are on anyone, but I do think there’s a sense of satisfaction that comes from finally feeling truly authentic and truly real as who you are. I think that could possibly, that feeling of happiness you get once you are on your journey and you feel truly you, I think that’s a very beautiful and great thing that does come from the journey.

Rian: What are the best things that have happened to you so far?

Cher: It was quite a bit. I felt in the university space when I was still studying, some of the best things were just being honoured and recognised as kind of a leader in the community here where I studied in Stellenbosch which I think is lovely and the best things that have happened really have been meeting other trans people and sharing my story with them and having them share their stories with me because there’s so many different stories. People have their own journey and it’s so different for everyone that it’s really kind of humbling and beautiful to hear and to almost experience through them their own experiences, so I think that’s been really something fantastic.

Rian: If I ask you what is better than you could wish for?

Cher: What is better than I could wish for?

Rian: Yes.

Cher: About being trans?

Rian: Yes, if you look back at where you started out to where you are now, what is better than you could have wished for back then?

Cher: I think the level of happiness I feel now, I don’t think there was this constant flow of happiness that I have now that I never felt before, I think that’s definitely much better, also the fact that now I can truly say that I have people in my life who I know are going to be in my life for the rest of my life and I could never say that with conviction a couple of years ago, so that to me is something that’s better than then.

Rian: what has being trans taught you?

Cher: A lot of humility and it’s taught me that we really have to look very deeply at one another to actually fully understand who and what those people are. I think if I wasn’t trans and I hadn’t gone on my own journey and experienced the things that I’ve experienced, I don’t think I would have seen people for who they are as kind of a culmination of everything they’ve experienced in their life and I think that is one of the greatest lessons, to be so, almost reverent of people and to see who they’ve become from those experiences, I think that’s just been a gift, really.

Rian: If we look at your growth on this journey, how have you grown personally?

Cher: Personally I think I’ve become a lot less self-centred and self-absorbed. I’ve become a more human human, if that’s anything to say. Really I think I’ve become a better person from having struggled in my life and I don’t think I could have turned out better than I have, given the experiences that I’ve had.

Rian: If you could give advice to someone that is on a similar journey, what would you say?

Cher: I would definitely say research, research, research is your friend and find people. Find a support group, find people who can help you and find people that you feel comfortable with. I think that’s one of the most important things, you can’t do this alone. There are people who have done it alone, but I think even they will tell you, you need people to support and help and there are going to be times where you’re going to feel terrible and you’re going to need some reassurance and validation and those people are going to be there to help you, and also, tread with caution. Consider everything carefully, consider what it is you want, consider how it is you’re going to get there, consider everything, that’s what I would advise.

Rian: Anything else you’d like to add that I missed?

Cher: No, I really don’t think I have anything else to add, I think we’ve covered everything really.

Rian: Okay, I’m just going to do the closing quickly, just stay on the line for me for two seconds.

Cher: Okay.

Rian: GaySA Radio, where you are family. I’m Rian and that was Cher Pieterson talking to us about her trans journey.

Rian: GaySA radio, where you are family. I’m Rian and I am talking to Kattia Williams about her trans journey. Kattia, how did your journey start?

Kattia: My journey started at the age of sixteen Rian, when I had to come out to my family as a trans woman. Coming from a Muslim background it was very difficult because my parents didn’t want anything to do with me. But I’m going to cut that a bit short and tell you exactly how I started my transition. Years later at the age of seventeen or eighteen my parents finally accepted me and I reached out to an LGBTI organisation where I have received counselling and they also educated me about transgenders and what I’m about to do to myself and stuff, and they started me off with my hormones.

Rian: How did you realise that you were different and what did you go through during that period when you kind of realised, look I’m not exactly the same as other people?

Kattia: I’ve always been feminine, I always knew that I was different Rian. I was uncomfortable associating myself with males, I always felt comfortable playing with dolls and having little tea parties with females and stuff, so ja.

Rian: I think one of the other things that happens is, during this time when you sort of realised that you are different, many people kind of mistake the fact that they are trans to that they are in fact gay, and there is a vast difference between the two. Did you go through anything like this?

Kattia: I always go through this Rian. People always tend to classify me as a gay person and I would always tell them there’s a huge difference between transgender and being gay, and my explanation of being trans is being trapped in the wrong body. In my case I’m a female in a male’s body, so I’m obviously attracted to males and gay guys are men that are into men, okay?

Rian: I think the interesting thing that happens here is there is also like this stereotypical thing people think that when you are a woman trapped in a man’s body and you go through the whole thing that you have to now be attracted to men and that doesn’t always work, does it? You can be still attracted to women as well?

Kattia: Yes, I actually know quite a few transgender women that are into women and I totally respect that and I commend them for doing that, you know, because we can’t choose who we fall in love with.

Rian: What were some of the most difficult things that you had to go through on your journey so far?

Kattia: Some of the most difficult things I had to face was being discriminated, judged, especially in the workplace, people always mis-gendering me, classifying me as a male, calling me an evil spirit, you know and stuff like that, but I always put it behind me because I’ve taken it into consideration that not everybody is educated about transgender, so I make it my duty to educate them even though they don’t want to listen and they…

Rian: Hi Kattia? Hello?

Kattia: Hi, I’m here Rian.

Rian: I lost you there, can you just kind of, I lost you where you said you listen?

Kattia: Excuse me Rian?

Rian: I said I lost you when you said you are educating people.

Kattia: Oh ja, people would basically call me names and stuff but I said, I took into consideration that I would be, I would rather educate people because we actually can’t also blame them for that. So basically what I do is educate people about trans people and stuff.

Rian: I think what is especially difficult with transgendered people is that, you know, where do you fall in? You don’t fit into the normal cisgendered community but you also don’t fit into the gay community and it becomes a very muddled up thing doesn’t it?

Kattia: It does Rian, but what people should take into consideration, stop labelling, you know what I’m saying? Just stop labelling, we are women at the end.

Rian: And people are so quick to label aren’t they?

Kattia: They are very quick to label, but that’s society Rian, there’s nothing we can do about that, most people are uneducated anyway.

Rian: If you don’t mind me asking, you mentioned that you come from a Muslim background, I mean that must have been extremely, extremely difficult to go through?

Kattia: Yes Rian, a couple of years ago I actually used to attend mosque every single Friday and there was this one incident where the maulala actually discriminated me in front of the whole congregation, if I can use that word and I just stopped attending mosque ever since.

Rian: I was going to ask you, do you go to mosque now?

Kattia: I don’t attend at all, I prefer reading at home.

Rian: But you haven’t lost your faith?

Kattia: No, I haven’t. I still practice Islam, I am still Muslim, I have God in my heart.

Rian: Your darkest hour that if you look back on this journey, what would you say that was?

Kattia: My darkest hour was when my parents kind of disowned me when I actually needed them most. That was my darkest hour.

Rian: Obviously it’s been a very long journey for you, how long have you been on this journey?

Kattia: It’s going to be exactly seventeen years now, Rian.

Rian: Wow.

Kattia: Seventeen years and still counting.

Rian: And it’s still a struggle every day?

Kattia: It is a struggle every single day. I think that’s gonna happen for the rest of my life but I take it one day at a time.

Rian: And of course then there’s a problem with hormone replacement therapy as well that everybody’s going through?

Kattia: Yes, especially here in Durban Rian. Cape Town is one of the best places where you can receive hormone therapy because they do have protocols here by Durban and KZN we don’t have any protocols. They only offer you one set of tablets, which is the premarin and obviously the blockers which is Cyproterone, and we have done an interview about premarin and it’s actually very harmful, so the doctors here in Durban at these state hospitals can only offer us a private script where we will have to buy the treatment out of our own pocket and you will spend there around R150 to R500 and some change a month.

Rian: For how many tablets is that?

Kattia: That’s just twenty eight pills Rian, just twenty eight pills and if you had to buy the block privately you would pay R350 to R400.

Rian: And how many do you take per day, would that be one tablet a day?

Kattia: I’m taking two tablets a day. So you have to take the oestrogen pill which is either the premarin or the oestroven, and the blocker to suppress the male hormone, so that’s two pills.

Rian: Have there been any people on your journey that have supported you Kattia?

Kattia: Yes, my family’s very supportive now, I’ve got a lot of friends that are supportive. My fiancé as well, very supportive, I’ve got a whole lot of people standing behind me and it’s making my journey a bit more easier ja, and manageable.

Rian: Anything that hindered you in the process?

Kattia: I’m sorry Rian?

Rian: Anything that hindered you in the process, anything that kind of was in your way, obstacles?

Kattia: Not really Rian, I don’t think there was anything in my way. Okay, I was first afraid to transition because of what my family might think but then again I have to make myself happy so I just went ahead and did it and eventually they kind of accepted everything now.

Rian: If you don’t mind me asking how far on your journey of transitioning are you?

Kattia: I’m just taking hormones, I haven’t had any surgeries done yet, Rian.

Rian: Would you plan to do anything like that?

Kattia: Yes, I do plan on having that done but not right now because I can’t afford it at the moment and KZN hospitals doesn’t offer SRS, which is the sexual reassignment surgery.

Rian: Obviously it’s extremely expensive to go through?

Kattia: Absolutely expensive Rian, in South Africa you’re looking at around R250 000…

Rian: Wow.

Kattia: Ja, just for the penile invasion surgery, that’s the whole thing.

Rian: You know it’s quite interesting because if you look at the end of the day, I think most transgendered people are suffering from gender dysphoria…

Kattia: Yes, a lot of them.

Rian: Which can be seen as a condition here and shouldn’t people then look at the government subsidising this in some way?

Kattia: That’s right Rian, our country is still a bit messy with our government here Rian. Our country still looks at SRS as cosmetic surgery whereby it should be granted to every single trans woman because it is not our fault that we’re like this, you know? And we can’t afford to have these surgeries done so it would be very nice if the government looks into this and have these surgeries given to trans people.

Rian: If you are looking at where you are today, how are you coping?

Kattia: I’m coping kind of normal now Rian, I’m not really so much into the surgery at the moment, I just want to focus on myself, my physical appearance is actually what matters right now to me, that is my dysphoria.

Rian: We spoke about discrimination in the workplace earlier and you are a nurse.

Kattia: I’m sorry Rian?

Rian: We spoke about discrimination earlier and you work as a nurse.

Kattia: Yes, yes I do work as a nurse Rian.

Rian: You would think that as a nurse people would understand better in that field?

Kattia: They’re supposed to understand and be a bit more reasonable Rian, but because of society some people within the medical field also discriminate against transgender people and gays in general.

Rian: I think the other difficult thing must be with ID books? Have you had your gender reassignment done in your ID and has that been a problem?

Kattia: (Disconnected) …Struggle to receive these letters from your doctor, it’s absolutely difficult. I actually went for my appointment yesterday and I was told by my doctor, within two months we can speak about getting my letters for my gender ma(r)ker.

Rian: With home affairs, that also takes time when you want to kind of have your gender marker changed?

Kattia: Yes, the name change is actually six weeks and then gender change takes about seven months.

Rian: Your future plans?

Kattia: My future plans? Can I keep you guys guessing on that one?

Rian: You can, I think I already know but we can keep the listeners guessing on that one because I am going to scoop that story before anybody else.

Kattia: I’ll give it to you willingly Rian.

Rian: Then I think another question that I just want to briefly touch on in this interview is, you are our current miss transgender South Africa?

Kattia: Yes I am Rian, between 2017 and 2018.

Rian: Tell me a bit about that, how did that come about, tell me a bit about the competition.

Kattia: Okay, I was crowned under Pride Pageantry International, which is an American-based company, because South Africa doesn’t a Miss Transgender South Africa. Pride Pageantry International had this online competition where we had to send in a couple of pictures of ourselves and some videos, and obviously they sent a few questions and I was selected to be the representative of South Africa, and that’s how it went about, me becoming…

Rian: Don’t you think it’s time we actually had a public pageant?

Kattia: It is about time, I’m actually planning on having one but I need a few people that can assist me with that.

Rian: I can’t wait, I think that’s going to be so exciting.

Kattia: It will be because it will give our trans people something to look forward to. I mean there’s a whole load of beauty pageants, Miss South Africa, which obviously don’t take transgender people so why not have a Miss Trans South Africa?

Rian: But why doesn’t Miss South Africa take transgender people? Don’t you think it’s time that it actually does start becoming inclusive?

Kattia: I think it is about time, they’re still living in the past, Rian. They’re really judgemental people, they fell that we’re demonic and because we are not genetic women we are unable to compete against genetic females.

Rian: So I have to ask you, what is great about being trans?

Kattia: What is great about being trans? It’s just being yourself, that’s all I can say honestly Rian. That’s all I can say.

Rian: And the best thing that’s happened to you so far?

Kattia: The best thing that’s happened to me thus far is meeting my other half, who is actually very supportive.

Rian: And may I ask, is he also from the Muslim community?

Kattia: Yes he’s also a Muslim guy Rian, he is Muslim.

Rian: I think that’s actually amazing.

Kattia: We actually got engaged last year November and we are tying the know on the 7th of September now, we just received our date yesterday at home affairs.

Rian: That’s another scoop I’m going to have that I’m not going to tell anybody about. Luckily this interview is airing after that so…

Kattia: Really? Oh it’s not live? I thought we were live.

Rian: We’re pre-recording. I’ll tell you all about that after the interview quickly. What is better than you could wish for?

Kattia: Can you repeat that for me please?

Rian: What is better than you could wish for?

Kattia: What is better than I can wish for?

Rian: Ja, what is better, if you look back now on your journey?

Kattia: Let me think a bit there, Rian. What is better than I can wish for? What is better now than before?

Rian: What is better now if you look back at where you started out to this point in time, what do you think is far better than you could have imagined?

Kattia: My appearance, I would say appearance. My self-confidence, family’s a bit more understanding, ja.

Rian: What has being transgendered taught you, what is the biggest lesson your journey has taught you on this planet?

Kattia: To love yourself and not worry about what other people think. Just do you and everything else will fall into place.

Rian: And looking back, how have you grown?

Kattia: I’ve grown to be a very, very happy female. I’m loving myself more and more every single day Rian. Before I absolutely hated myself but lately I can look at myself in the mirror and I see this beautiful woman, I’m no more that trapped female, you understand what I’m saying?

Rian: I absolutely, I know exactly what you mean.

Kattia: Ja, I absolutely don’t feel trapped anymore, I’m halfway there and I’m happy.

Rian: I think you know, parts of this journey must have been very difficult and actually going on to the hormone replacements, I think there’s a period there where your body starts adjusting that is absolute agony that you must go through?

Kattia: Yes Rian, actually from patient to patient it varies. For me in this case I started seeing changes after three months. There’s a lot of pain with breast growth, you can see you facial features changing slightly, like the cheek bones would pop up, your facial hair will minimise, your body hair will thin out and eventually stop growing. You start getting more emotional, I cry a lot Rian. You have a whole lot of mood swings like a normal genetic woman.

Person in background: And men too.

(Chuckles)

Rian: I’ve lost my train of thought completely here.

Kattia: Why?

Rian: You know it’s like I’ve just always had a different concept about things and I always kind of look at, to me it doesn’t matter about the physical, it’s about what’s inside and that means whether you’re male or female, and when you said just like a normal woman, I was just like, I don’t see that, perhaps I’m weird, I’ve got a different way of looking at things.

Kattia: No, you’re not weird, you’re not weird at all.

Person in Background: Just curious.

Kattia: But you actually do feel your true emotions because now those hormones are helping you. Everything that has been kept inside is now coming out, you’re flourishing to become a beautiful woman, the real you is finally appearing.

RIan: What would you suggest, if you could give any advice to anybody who is on a similar journey, what would you tell them?

Kattia: If there’s any other people out there that has started on hormone therapy or that’s about to start on hormone therapy, don’t give up. If you feel like you’re emotional or something speak to someone and love yourself and remember that you are beautiful, no matter what anyone else says.

Rian: I think also what I would like to add here is that you have a support group on Facebook happening?

Kattia: Yes, I do have one where we interact with other trans women from all over South Africa.

Rian: Tell me a little bit about this support group.

Kattia: In our support group we have a group of transgender people that will throw out questions and anybody can answer those questions. For example if you are about to start on hormone therapy, you will mention the names of the tablets and they will tell you whether it’s the correct treatment you’re going on, who’s the doctor seeing you, so they basically enlightening and advising you on things you need to know.

Rian: What is the group called?

Kattia: It is called Transgender Support (Only) Durban.

Rian: So anybody listening to this show who is going through anything like this can join there and they can, you’ll be able to help them?

Kattia: Yes, they can send us a request, they will have to answer the questions that is given to them there and if they’re successful we will approve their request.

Rian: So just another question about that, if you are a transgender ally can you also join the group?

Kattia: Yes, allies are welcome, we love our allies.

Rian: Great. Kattia, anything else that you’d like to add that I might have missed?

Kattia: No, that’s all Rian, thank you.

Rian: GaySA Radio, where you are family. I’m Rian and that was Kattia Williams talking to us about her trans journey.