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Yaya scores victory for transgender community

Published Jun 12, 2021


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Transgender rights activist and celebrity publicist Yaya Mavundla has reached a new milestone in her journey.

She has now been legally recognised as a woman after she was granted a new ID number by the Department of Home Affairs.

Taking to Instagram, Mavundla announced the news to her followers on Wednesday saying: “I received my new ID number that identifies me as FEMALE. So much is about to happen for us Transgender people. We are one step closer, I encourage more trans people to go & apply.”

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She applied for her new ID number in November last year and was given a few hassles by Home Affairs when they first told her they wouldn't be able to assist her as she didn’t have a copy of her mother’s ID, whom she never got a chance to meet.

“They told me they wouldn’t be able to assist me without one and I said, 'no, that’s fine. If you guys are saying you cannot assist me, then I’m more than happy to take this matter to court.' I was willing to fight. I want justice, not just for myself, but for many other trans people as well,” she said.

Mavundla was then advised that she could get an affidavit stating that she does not have those documents. This then assisted her towards the next step.

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“If they had been adamant that they wouldn't assist me, I would have been more than happy to take the matter to court,” said Mavundla.

Born and bred in Kranskop, a small town in KwaZulu-Natal, Mavundla, who comes from a largely rural background, said she’s always wanted trans visibility so this breakthrough speaks to the people who come from such spaces.

She started her activism work on LGBTI communities when she joined the Durban Lesbian and Gay Community Health Centre as a youth leader from 2009 to 2011. When she began the process of getting a new ID number so she can apply for one, she realised it was not an easy journey.

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“I realised that after having started the process last year with Home Affairs, it is certainly not an easy process for the average person sitting at home. Being on television and being in the public eye helped me get the process done.

“I had access to many people at Home Affairs through the show, but can you imagine a person who does not have access, who needs to join a queue and stand there for hours and deal with the attitude given by Home Affairs officials?

“While I’m grateful and happy that this is now happening for me, I’m not fully excited because I’m now thinking, ‘what then happens to a trans person who does not have that access?’ ” she said.

She added that many factors come into play for trans people who want to be legally granted the gender recognition they wish.

“I was asked to provide a copy of my mother’s ID, so if I’ve never had the opportunity to meet my mother, where then do I get a copy of her ID? What then happens to a trans who does not have a relationship at all with their parents because of their gender? Where then, does this leave us?”

While she hasn’t applied for her ID document yet, her new ID number reflects that she is female, and she will now be able to apply for it in the capacity of being a woman.

“When you apply for one (an ID), it is treated as a replacement of the old one. It’s almost as though you have lost your ID and you are off to get a new one,” she said.

On what more needs to be done, Mavundla said we need to get the government to get more work done.

“Many South Africans pay tax so that the work can be done. We don’t pay tax to get load shedding, we don’t pay tax to struggle when we need to go to the clinic or a government hospital. If we are not getting those services, it means the government is not at work. So we need to put pressure on the government for these services to be granted to us,” she said.

According to Pierre Brouard, Acting Director at the Centre for Sexualities, Aids and Gender at the University of Pretoria, people have, for quite a while now been able to change their gender marker on their identity document and that requires you to get a new identity number because currently how our identity numbers work is that they signify whether you’re male or female.

“Obviously, for a trans person who doesn’t identify with the sex assigned at birth, it is distressing, and according to our legal system, people are now allowed to legally change their gender marker. The system also allows you to change your name as well so that it aligns with your chosen or new identity,” he said.

Yaya Mavundla

According to him, the challenge presented in a number of spheres is that there is a gap in terms of the starting application process and actually the changes being made. It can take a couple of years in some instances.

“In effect, you are living in some kind of limbo because you are presenting in the world your gender identity but your ID presents your assigned gender. And so your workplace systems operate off your legal identity. Access is also a big issue, where not everyone has access to these systems. It’s one thing to have a law in place. It’s another to have access to those legal systems to your personal advantage,” said Brouard.

On what more needs to be done, he believes issues concerning people of the LGBTI need to be handled with sensitivity.

“Trans issues are spoken about in a way that is for click bait where they are salacious, disrespectful and demeaning to people. And I think presenting trans issues in a way that is thoughtful and respectful would be part of the solution,” she said.

Now that she is recognised as a woman, Mavundla said she will be applying for her new ID on Monday.

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