Lehlogonolo Machaba won’t be silenced

The first openly transgender woman to make the Miss SA Top 30 pours out her heart on trans-visibility, equality, and choosing love over hate

Lehlogonolo Machaba.
Lehlogonolo Machaba.
Image: Steve Tanchel

Dear South Africa,

What a beautiful yet traumatised nation you are. I’ve always dreamt of living my authentic life unapologetically, despite the challenges that come with that. Through you I’ve learned that happiness and trauma go hand in hand. I’ve always tried to show people that everyone has a different perception of gender and sexual issues. But I recognise that this pursuit can never be fully realised in South Africa in its current iteration.

We still have a long journey ahead in our search for a truly egalitarian society. I’ll always have faith that good will overcome evil. I’m generally appreciative for having been taught to be tough, but I’m also terrified for the upcoming generation. If it's not too much, try to be caring, in particular at the department of home affairs. All of us need love.

I love the way we have variety in each part of our reality, but why is it so hard to view transgender and homosexuality as another component of that variety? You are a wonderful country with stunning scenery. You won’t ever try to change the way you look. Then let me partake in my reality and temperament. Try not to question my presence, since I’m essential in nature, after all.

Your music is uproarious in the street, but why is my community silenced the second we attempt to talk, South Africa? I love you with every one of your defects, yet it is hard for me to feel good on your roads. You’ve rejected me and restricted my freedom so that I can’t support a fundamental living. You've hushed my reality and tried to imagine me away.

Show kids in school the variety of life — the genuine variety. At least try to disgrace my sort less. After all, we are all people. We should begin discussing our trauma openly, and find ways of destroying it. Allow schools to begin teaching sex education.


Favourite holiday: Undoubtedly Christmas, due to getting brand new clothes from my folks and eating without limits.

Favourite Christmas meal: Seven colours.

Highlight of the year: Being part of Miss SA, because the platform intensified my voice about the issues we regularly face as the LGBTQIA+ community.

Song guaranteed to get the party started: Any song by Burna Boy

Wish for the new year: To be happy and enjoy life

For this disgrace to be completely eradicated, leave my reality alone. Similarly, I ask that words like “transnormativity” and “homonormativity” exist in your vocabulary. Also, I would like to have a daily existence where I don’t have to instruct you about my reality, and where whatever boundaries I break will not to be features in your media. I need an ordinary life where I can share in your excellent presence.

Allow your administration to present the Hate Crimes Bill for the LGBTQIA+ community on the grounds that we also want to have ordinary lives where we don’t need to be anxious about the possibility that our names will become web-based media phenomena. I have lost a dear companion because of the wrongdoing that exist in your nation, yet I’ve never heard your rulers tending to it.

This is an equal nation, or so you say, but that doesn’t correspond to my reality. I needed to go through a long process in order for my actual impression to coordinate with how I feel inside. I need to go through another lengthy cycle in order to change my gender marker, and I don’t have a clue why it must take so long.

But with all the difficulties I have confronted, I’m thankful for having been brought into the world and being raised by Mzansi, because I now have an idea of what life is. You’ve given me grace and a stage to intensify my voice. You've given me a voice that will always break the boundaries, and for that, South Africa, I thank you. I'm honoured to be here and to be the one who will doubtlessly address my kind. I love you with everything that is in me.

Kind regards,

Lehlogonolo Machaba