‘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.