Still a long road for transgender women

Transgender activist and publicist to SA celebrities Yaya Mavundla.
Transgender activist and publicist to SA celebrities Yaya Mavundla.

Transgender activist and publicist to a number of celebrities, Yaya Mavundla says being a transgender woman this year is starting to be more acceptable but they still have a long way to go.

Mavundla is showbiz's go-to publicist for stars such as renowned photographer Zanele Muholi and Metro FM personality Lerato Kganyago.

The 31-year-old discovered very early on in her transgender journey that in order to pay the bills you have to create your own opportunities.

Having worked with transgender organisations such as Gender DynamiX in Cape Town and Transgender and Intersex Africa (TIA) in Pretoria, Mavundla said for many it's difficult to find work.

"It's a two-way thing. On the one hand, it's better and on the other it's not. I'd say it's better for a handful like me and a few that I know that work with organisations.

"I often ask myself where do transgender people in this country work, because I'd like to go there and see them, especially in corporate.

"I'm yet to meet a transgender person that's a journalist. There are those I know that have studied journalism, but couldn't find work."

Mavundla strongly holds that the government needs to do more for the transgender community. "The few organisations that we have do amazing work, but they don't have funding to provide transgender people with what's needed. They are struggling."

The Kranskop-born woman's transgender journey started in 2014 after she was photographed by Muholi. For most of her life she had identified as a gay man.

She was working with LGBTIQA+ organisation Durban Lesbian and Gay Community Health Centre.

She said her family who dreamt of her becoming a dentist never tried to change who she is from a very young age.

"It's something that we never sat down and discussed it. But I always ask how would they treat me if I wasn't a media personality. I feel like they accept me because they think that Yaya is an alter ego. But do they accept the real me?

"Sometimes I wish I could have a conversation with them. It worries me because we get into relationships, some abusive. If something were to happen to me they would never know."

Yaya said dating as a transgender woman is tricky.

"It's a mess. A guy is going to approach you thinking that you are a straight woman and they find out that you are not, then it's huge drama. It's awkward and they swear at you.

"...but I have met some people that genuinely love me."

Last year she was recognised for her work as a trans activist after winning the Socialite of the Year gong at the Feather Awards.

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