Zoey Black giving voice to marginalized trans woman in Cape Town
Since then, zoeyblack.com has become a platform for the 31-year-old freelance actress to not only share thoughts, but to engage with others experiencing the same physical and emotional transformations.
“I’m the type of person who needs to talk about and process things aloud. There was very little South African content online about trans experiences that I could relate to, which made things even harder when I came out and was trying to navigate my experience,” Black said.
During the first week of blogging, Black said her experiences seemed to resonate with plenty of individuals. Today the blog has grown from focussing purely on Black’s lived experiences to broadening the narrative of other transgender stories.
She has since featured on several documentaries such as Coloured Mentality, which discusses the legacies of apartheid’s spacial planning structures in Cape Town and the experiences of coloured people, and SKEEF, a four-part documentary series which focuses on the experiences of LGBTQI+ people - including the discrimination and oppression they face.
Black also contributed a piece for the book They Called Me Queer, a project undertaken by Kim Windvogel and Kelly-Eve Koopman which represents a collection of essays by South Africans who fit into the queer narrative.
When asked about their activism for trans individuals, Black explained they try to embody principles accordingly, with values of human dignity, equality and respect.
“I believe that in living these values, my behaviour, dignity, confidence, openness, tolerance and mindfulness impacts the people I interact with. This, I believe, models the behaviour and values for others, and, as a result, they are able to do the same.”
Black said for the most part, her parents were supportive through her transition.
“There were experiences that I had which were painful and traumatic. They are still difficult to talk about,” Black added.
It was after watching videos of a gender therapist on assisting trans and non-binary people in processing and navigating their transition that Black knew she was trans.
“I said to my partner at the time: ‘I think I’m trans’. It was such a profound moment for me because I had suddenly acquired a vocabulary to explain and express how I’d felt my entire life, a vocabulary that freed me.”
But, Black says, while our Constitution validates having a gender identity different to the sex you were assigned at birth, accessing essential services is still problematic.
Shockingly, the public health-care system only has two trans-specific facilities in South Africa - one at Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital and the other at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria.
“This means that if you live anywhere outside those cities, it can be extremely difficult to access gender- affirming health care. And even more so for those living in poor economic and social conditions,” said Black, who has been on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for three years.
“HRT has completely changed my life. I am at ease with myself and how I feel about my body. The changes are slow, but massively noticeable.”@WeekendArgus