Chedino & Family is a photographic documentary series about gender reassignment in South Africa.
Chedino & Family tells the very personal story of Chedino, who was born a man but has been living the life of a woman for the past 16 years in the suburbs of Cape Town, South Africa. LGBTI rights in Africa often clash with traditional African culture in which same-sex relationships are deemed ‘un-African’ and where homophobia is rampant. This is especially the case in the suburbs of the big cities like Cape Town or Johannesburg, where intolerance often leads to violence against women like Chedino and her friends.
Chedino & Family is the 5th instalment of Julia Gunther’s ongoing project: Proud Women of Africa.
CHEDINO IN HER OWN WORDS
Cape Town, South Africa, 2014
My name is Chedino and I was born on the 2nd July 1983 in Mowbray, Cape Town, South Africa. Life as a transwoman in South Africa has it’s ups and downs. I believe that you as an individual create your own happiness but just like we will never get rid of racism, us transwoman will never ever be free of discrimination. Growing up was 10 times worse for me than for the so called ‘normal boys’ because I had to play the roll of two people every single day. I’ve always known I was different because I never showed any interests in anything a boy was suppose to do - according to society. Unfortunately for me I could only actively become the real me after I graduated. I wanted an education so I studied entrepreneurship and small business management but even in college I had to play the role of a boy. After my studies I had to look deep within myself and decide where I truly fit in. That was the difficult part because society didn’t see me as a straight woman although I looked and acted that way. I knew for a fact that I was not gay. If you don’t have the money to pay for the sex reassignment surgery you’re put on a waiting list. I’ve been on that list for 15 years now. If everything works out I should get the first operation (out of three) by summer 2016. The waiting list is now even longer. Nowadays you have to wait 20-25 years for your sex reassignment surgery if you can’t pay for it.
The definition of patience to me means having to put your life on hold and fight for what you want non stop even if it seems you are getting nowhere. That’s why I definitely think transgender people are the most patient people in the world.
Family means the world to me. Almost all of my family supported me from the beginning. Even the few that had their issues with me being the person I am changed over the years. I see my friends as family, too. They are a wonderful variety of people who all have different beliefs, values and mindsets but I can always count on their support and they can count on me. On 23rd may 2015 I’m having my 1st year anniversary with my boyfriend Keagan. We met through a mutual friend of ours. God, I was immediately in love. The fact that I haven’t had my sex change yet doesn’t affect our relationship at all because he fell in love with me as a person and not with my gender. Right now we are trying to find the right place for us to move in together. This is our first priority and as soon as we get a place we will start planning our wedding.
‘Divas in Cabaret’ is my baby. Beauty pageants like Miss Temptation and club performances like Divas in Cabaret make a difference in our community. These activities give us a chance to show people that there is more to us than just make-up and beautiful clothing. It’s a platform where we get to be ourselves with no faking or pretending. We get to teach the audience that style, posture and grace are our unspoken elements. For most of us it’s the way we walk, the way we talk and the manner we present ourselves. I sing a variety of songs but mostly Whitney Houston, Gladys Knight, Diana Ross, Jennifer Hudson, Gloria Gaynor and Donna Summers because these are all strong women that went through hell and back but yet somehow always managed to hold their heads up high. All these women had a dream and went full steam ahead to make that dream a reality.
‘Moffie’ is a very insulting word. It’s a word people use to degrade you as a person when you are gay, bi or trans. Just among ourselves we call each other that because this is how we deal with the word. By making a joke out of it amongst ourselves we manage to take away its power. We would never use it in front of people we don’t trust or accept as being part of us
My hopes and dreams for the future are: To live a life without discrimination. To be treated as a human being. To be successful and independent. To get married to Keagan and live a long and happy life together. To be happy. I’m already extremely happy but there is always room for more.
— Julia Gunther