After years of living in fear of showing her ID or driving licence to anyone, a transgender Durban woman can now proudly display her documents without being embarrassed or harassed.
The Department of Home Affairs last week officially agreed to change the gender and forenames of Mr Justin Paul Howard to Miss Justine-Paula Howard, heralding a new era in the life of the Woodhaven resident.
“Finding work, using a gym or travelling are all a problem when you pass as one gender and the passport/ID is in another gender.
“Banking is a problem when you present an ID book with a photo of a man with a beard and you are standing there with breasts and a skirt,” said Howard.
Her physical journey to womanhood started two years ago when she began hormone treatment and since then she has developed breasts, her facial hair has diminished and her weight has gone down by almost 30kg because the increase in oestrogen has led to a decrease in muscle mass. The task of changing her gender officially was much more difficult, but after the intervention of a lobby group for transgender and intersex persons, Gender Dynamix, and The Mercury, Howard said she was ecstatic.
“I’m somewhat grateful because they said it would take 18 to 24 months, but why must everyone throw their toys out of the cot for Home Affairs to do their job?”
Home Affairs said that since she had not undergone any gender reassignment surgery, her journey to womanhood was incomplete and her details could not be changed. However, the Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act 2003 states that changes to documentation can be made if the “sexual characteristics” of an individual have been changed through surgery or by “medical treatment resulting in gender reassignment”.
Robert Hamblin of Gender Dynamix said since the act came into existence, Home Affairs had refused to apply the law.
“If we don’t threaten them with legal action they do not pass these applications. The impact of it is enormous. Government hospitals in South Africa (two of them) only help four people a year with surgeries. They have waiting lists for 10 years,” he said
Koeks Broodryk, the manager in charge of amendments at Home Affairs, said the department and its doctors would meet Gender Dynamix next month to ensure that they all interpreted the act in the same way.
Howard, who is a freelance video editor at the SABC, said she hoped that it was not too late to apply for her accreditation for the UN’s COP17 conference in Durban next month, since she could change her names and picture in her ID.
Last year The Mercury assisted Jennifer Kisten, a Durban woman who was born intersex, to have her gender changed from male to female in her ID. - The Mercury, page 4.