Landa Mabenge: Becoming Him: a Trans Memoir of Triumph

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‘But humility is a work of progress and there are times when I need to work on practising tolerance. Whenever individuals question my ‘genitals’ I am reminded of how blinkered and obsessed with labels we humans are. Whatever lies between my legs, whether I sit or stand when I pee, my genitals are what they are and they serve their purpose. Whatever the shape, size or name of them, and whether I have chosen to surgically align my body to my identity or not, I remain the man I have always been.’ – Landa Mabenge

In his memoir, ‘Becoming Him’, Landa Mabenge details his journey as the first transgender man to have his surgical transition paid for by his medical aid.

From childhood, Landa knew that how he looked on the outside was not aligned with how he felt on the inside. These feelings were particularly exacerbated in puberty. He recalls the confusion and trauma that came with all these changes and the inability to vocalise how he felt.

His childhood was not an easy one either. A childhood characterised by abandonment, separation, and constant, unending abuse meant that these changes were only exacerbated.

In a deeply personal account, Landa also takes us through his time at UCT, highlighting the toll on his mental health that the journey of self-discovery took. There is a powerful commentary on themes of abuse, self-discovery and uncomfortable change, both inside and outside.

This dynamic of change is highlighted in Landa’s relationship with his loved ones, in those who choose to support and those who do not. The question of what it means to have to reckon with toxicity from those closest to us is a painful topic that Landa explores with poise.

Landa’s story represents so many of the facets of what is good about the human experience. Tenacity, resilience and the courage it takes to become.

Groundbreaking. Poignant and inspirational.

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1 thought on “Landa Mabenge: Becoming Him: a Trans Memoir of Triumph

  1. Yooooh! This interview. From the the very beginning it holds so much depth. I think I have to listen to it again after it sinks in. I’ve never listened to interview that made me feel a kind of intimacy and depth you only feel when reading the actual book. Landa’s answers are so WHOLE, you’re not left feeling like he forgot to touch on a certain aspect of the question.

    And the discussion on the importance of language really opened my eyes up so much especially when he said “we get to points where we need to convince people to allow us to be who we are”. I had to reflect on my own tendencies of hearing but not actually listening.

    The conversation on the ‘family you choose’ and the nuclear idea of family reminded me of one point that Bell Hooks mentions in ‘All About Love’ that I struggled to grasp, and maybe I misinterpreted it. She mentions at the end of one chapter that you shouldn’t withdraw from your nuclear family even when they are clearly problematic and she gives an example of her sister who stopped talking to most family members because of the way they treated her for being gay. And said that eventually when they came together, some family members started being more accepting of her. I still find it hard to understand. I guess for me I thought, but if it’s anyone outside your family who’s being problematic. We can all agree that you don’t have to tolerate such, so why should this be any different? I’m still trying to understand that part.

    This was such an intense interview, like it takes you through a journey and it’s definitely deepening my understanding of so much. And even how he says “the mother, the father” and “ma”, like you’re clued in without him having to give an explanation and it makes you feel involved as you’re listening.

    I don’t think there are words to explain what you feel when listening to this interview, it’s really special tlheng! Shuuu!!!

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