Landa Mabenge is born in April 1981. He comes into this world trapped in a girl’s
At just two days old, Yolanda’s biological mother rejects her ‘daughter’ and hands the infant to her sister, who immediately becomes ‘Ma’.
From an early
Despite her feelings of disjuncture, she spends the next decade happily growing up in Umtata with Ma and her grandparents, oblivious of her true parentage.
At age 11 Yolanda’s world is shattered when an angry woman and her zombie-like husband unexpectedly arrive in Umtata to force Yolanda to accompany them to Port Elizabeth. She temporarily escapes relocating but soon discovers that her beloved ‘Ma’ is not her biological mother and that the PE couple
The following year she is taken by Ma to permanently live with the new family in Port Elizabeth. Life in PE with her new ‘parents’ soon morphs into a Dickensian nightmare. Uprooted from a stable and loving home in Umtata, where she was accepted for who she was, she is now subjected to horrific physical, emotional and psychological abuse.
When she gets her period a few months later, terrified that she might be dying or that her body is preparing itself to grow a penis, she hides the evidence from her new mother for days. On discovering her daughter’s secret, the Mother’s disgust drives Yolanda further into a world of isolation and shame.
In her final year of school, with sterling grades, she is accepted at UCT to study law. Out of PE and now in Cape Town, Yolanda ditches her girl clothes and name and begins a new life as Landa, a butch lesbian. But the harassment from her mother continues by way of phone calls accusing her of being a whore, of sleeping around and of having AIDS. Landa begins isolating herself and drinking heavily. She starts attending sessions through UCT counselling services, with therapist Birgit Schreiber, a woman who will play a pivotal role in her transformation. By the end of the
The next few years see Landa undertake a mammoth mission to transition. In 2009 he
The next stage of Landa’s journey involves applying to his medical aid to fund his prohibitively exorbitant ‘gender affirming’ surgeries. This proves to be a three-year-long battle. In 2014 after a lengthy process of countless motivations, applications and meetings, Landa finally finds a medical scheme that agrees to pay for his surgeries: a double mastectomy and a laparoscopic hysterectomy. Landa makes history by becoming the first transgender man in South Africa to successfully force a medical aid to pay for his surgeries.
He is unable to do penile surgery at the time, due to exorbitant cost constraints. Landa is currently saving towards the operation, which he hopes to undergo in 2019. Today Landa lives a transformed and happy life as a transgender activist and consultant. One of his favourite quotes comes from the book Charlotte’s Web, ‘We’re born, we live a little while, we die.’
Becoming Him, under the mentorship of best-selling author and publisher, Melinda Ferguson, is his debut memoir.
MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND HIS ACTIVISM
Having realised the agony that comes with being transgender and the limitations to
It is this work that saw him selected as part of 1000 young African leaders chosen from 64 000 applicants for the 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African leaders.
Written by Landa Mabenge
ISBN 978-1-928420-22-4 | GENRE Memoir | PRICE R220 | RELEASE August 2018