Drum – 22 August 2019

(Jacob Rumans) #1


not everyone would understand how I
look, and that there would be people
who would try to dim my light because
of my sexuality, and I shouldn’t allow it.”
When she was nine her parents split
up “and my bubble of protection burst”.


HE moved with her mom
to a flat in Berea, Johan-
nesburg, and her mother
began dating the man
who would become her
Azara quickly learnt just how
cruel people could be. “He would
tell my mother, ‘Your son will be
f***ed by other men’, and he didn’t
care if I heard him or not. He’d be-
little me at every opportunity and
refertomeas Queen Elizabeth.”
Life was awful at home, and at
school things were no better. She
was bullied and ostracised by fellow
learners and teachers because she
was different, Azara recalls.
“Parents would tell their children
not to play with me at school or
after school because they said
I would teach the kids how
to be gay. Teachers would
also mock me about how I
walked, dressed and spoke.”
Being an outcast affected
her self-esteem badly and she
became withdrawn, only
speaking when spoken to in
class, and taking part in fewer
and fewer school activities.
She hated her penis and would
take baths in the dark to avoid
seeing it. “I’d also tuck it away. That
was a painful exercise.”
At around age 14 she became obsessed
with getting rid of the body part. “I re-
searched like a mad person about
amputating it. A friend even told me
about people who would let a crab bite
them so they could change their sex.”
Frustrated and desperate, Azara took
a razor blade to herself and tried to am-
putate it. “I was bleeding so badly that
I had to be rushed to hospital to receive
medical attention,” she says.
She later found out about a medical
procedure to remove testicles at Life
Carstenhof Hospital, and with the help
of an older friend who posed as her
mother because she wasn’t yet 18, she
underwent the two-hour surgery.
She was in excruciating pain once the
morphine wore off after the surgery, “but

wanted organs had been removed.”
Azara celebrated her 18th birthday by
going to home affairs to legally change
her name and gender, as she was going
to university the following year. “My
plan was to have a new name and not
to be enrolled as a man,” she says.
“For the gender change they needed

an affidavitfromthepolice and a letter
from my doctor, as well as an independ-
ent doctor who had examined me and
approved my request for the change.
For the name change I only had to fill in
a form indicating my reasons and my
new name.”


TILL, she wanted her out-
ward appearance to reflect
how she felt on the inside. “I
always knew I was a woman
born in a man’s body.”
In 2010 Azara underwent a
complete sex change at a clinic in Thai-
land. She paid for it using the R250 
she’d been given by a financial organisa-
tion towards her tuition, but her parents
later gave her the same amount of
money to pay for her studies.
The operation was a success “and after
months of recovery and rehabilitation
treatment I was in love with my new
looks. I no longer had to live through the
pain of tucking my manhood between
my thighs and covering it with under-
wear to ensure it didn’t slip out.
“I had become the woman I always
wanted to be.”
Azara, who is single at the moment,
would like to settle down and start a
family when she finds her soulmate. “Be-
cause biology doesn’t allow for me to
have my own children, I’m toying with
the idea of adopting two children in the
near future.”
Being a transgender woman can be
dangerous, says Azara, who was raped in
2015 after her drink was spiked in a club.
“I woke up with a bad headache in a
bed I didn’t know. Everything that hap-
pened the previous night was a blur.
People take advantage of transgender
women – they want to experiment with
us and see if we are sexually different
from other women.”
As a board member of Access Chapter
2, a non-profit organisation which advo-
cates for the rights of LGBTI+ (Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex)
people, Azara says she always tells trans-
gender women “not to disclose their
sexuality to anyone, as they don’t owe
anyone an explanation.
“The reality is that we are living in a
dangerous society and people will take
advantage of you and want to experi-
ment with you,” she warns.
“I encourage women not to seek vali-
dation or approval from anyone – you’re
perfect as you are.”

Azara Raphael (LEFT) was born in
Soweto and raised as Vusumuzi Maseko
(ABOVE). But she says she always knew
she was not a boy inside.

As a teenager Azara hated her body and
wanted to get rid of her penis.

Thanks to a sex change in 2010 she’s the
woman she always wanted to be.

http://www.drum.co.za 22 AUGUST 2019 | (^17)

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