Today the Daily Voice lifts the lid on the incredible story of one woman’s lifelong quest to become a man.
* Shafieka (not her real name) bravely broke her silence about her ordeal in a heart-wrenching interview in a bid to educate others about her condition.
She was born into a traditional Muslim family on the Cape Flats 34 years ago.
But since she was a little girl, Shafieka always felt different – as if she was a man trapped inside a woman’s body.
The tomboy grew up suffering in silence, terrified that someone would discover her secret.
That was until three years ago when Shafieka – who is mother to a nine-year-old boy – embarked on the long, difficult journey to change her gender.
And now – within 24 hours – her dream of finally becoming a man will become a reality when her vagina is literally going to be reconstructed into a penis.
“I’ve always been a tomboy… I was raised as a girl,” Shafieka explains.
“My family didn’t know the secret that I had.”
Growing up, Shafieka used to wear baggy clothing to disguise her growing breasts.
“I used to wear two sizes bigger than my size to hide the breasts because that was the hardest part to hide.”
Then, at the age of 14, Shafieka’s life took a dramatic turn when she left home to live with other relatives.
She had been secretly suffering after being sexually abused by friends and family since she was just four years old.
“I was sexually abused from the age of four up until I was 12 by friends and family,” the mom says.
“I moved out of my biological parents’ home to relatives who were very strict religiously.”
But the horror did not end there for her.
Two years later Shafieka was brutally raped again.
“At 16 I was raped by a taxi driver,” she says.
Despite her pain, Shafieka continued to keep her secret and even dated boys.
“I was bringing boys home, no one knew about my secret. I always had the interest in girls,” she says.
Then, at the age of 22, Shafieka got married and lived with her husband for more than a year.
But there were constant arguments and tensions began to mount in bed.
“It was difficult and we had a lot of arguments,” Shafieka says.
“It was difficult to perform sexually.
“I was married by Muslim rights.”
Shafieka finally decided it was time to quit her loveless marriage.
But she was then hit by yet another bombshell when she discovered she was pregnant.
“I was on the verge of divorcing my husband and I never thought I could fall pregnant because of my abusive past,” she says.
In 2002, Shafieka gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
“I suffered post-natal depression, being a mother didn’t feel right,” she says.
“I couldn’t be alone with the baby and I needed help with him.”
By the time her son was three years old, Shafieka began her secret life as a lesbian.
And in 2009, she sat her now six-year-old son down in their Wendy house and told him she was going to make a huge change.
A short time later, Shafieka made her first visit to her gynaecologist.
She was later referred to physiologists and psychiatrists at Groote Schuur Hospital.
“I had to go for a three-month consultation and therapy sessions to see if this was all in my head,” she adds.
“I was fortunate because many have to wait years to reach this point.”
Shafieka has been on hormone treatment ever since.
This includes therapy sessions with psychologists and psychiatrists to prepare her for the drastic and emotional transformation.
In September 2009, Shafieka had her 38 D breasts removed.
Today she has no breasts or nipples.
When the Daily Voice team met Shafieka – who confidently sports a moustache and speaks in a deep voice – it was hard to believe there is a vagina hiding behind the manly physique.
During her treatment, Shafieka was given two injections of a substance known as depo testosterone every second week.
This suppresses the chromosomes and increases the testosterone.
A few months later, she began to grow hair on her upper lip and her voice changed dramatically.
“I always had a deeper voice and I always wondered why,” she says.
“I have to get my hormone injections from my general practitioner.
“I started growing hair on my face and my skin became tougher.”
Then the emotional operation of removing her womb.
“I cried after the procedure – it was very emotional for me,” Shafieka recalls.
* This story was first published in the Daily Voice.