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Celebrating all women at POP INN

Celebrating all women at POP INN

“Self-acceptance is the key to protecting one’s peace in a world which still raises its eyebrows at ‘what’ we are and excludes us because of who we are.” A powerful takeaway message for transgender women who attended Aurum POP INN’s Women’s Day event recently at the Winnie Mandela clinic in Tembisa, east of Johannesburg. 

“The purpose of the conversation is to try and understand the position of transwomen in democratic South Africa. We hope to raise awareness so that transwomen are accepted as ‘real’ women,” said Aurum POP INN consultant, Vee Ka Nkosi.

POP INN is an Aurum project with clinics around the country offering free sexual health services to Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) and Transgender Women (TGW). The clinics provide a safe space for key populations to receive counselling, screening for HIV, STIs and TB, collect PrEP or ART. They also offer psychosocial support services in a safe and comfortable environment where members of this community can connect with peers.

The event was attended by POP INN clients who shared harrowing personal experiences of discrimination and how they are perceived and treated in their communities.

Nkosi led the discussion on topics such as understanding the difference between being gay and transgender. He called for society to respect people’s preferences regardless of where they fall on the gender and sexuality spectrum. “I identify as a gay man and should be treated according to my preference,” he said.

“I’m not trapped, I’m privileged to live in both male and female worlds,” said one participant.

While transgender women enjoy the same Constitutional rights as all South Africans on paper, many still feel discriminated against. “We as transwomen would much rather go to organisations like The Aurum Institute for healthcare, they take us seriously,” said another participant.

This marginalisation extends to the workplace and even their own families. “We have to ‘come out’ everyday as we encounter new people and are constantly having to explain ourselves. It is a real struggle but we take the journey so we can raise awareness,” said another.

Nkosi closed the discussion by urging transgender women to live their truth. “It is important to accept yourself and then others will accept you. Transwomen are women, and should be treated as such.”