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TAPIWA LAPIDOS SHARES HER TRANSITIONING JOURNEY

By Ayanda Dlamini | 2020-11-15

Before  we even indulge  on  Tapiwa  Lapidos’  journey  of  transitioning,   you need to understand what  is  Transitioning.

 We have  see the celebrated Olympic hero and famous reality TV show dad then known as Bruce Jenner revealing  to the world that he had struggled his entire life with gender identity. Now, Caitlyn Jenner has fully transitioned to living as female.

The first time she appeared publicly as Caitlyn Jenner was in the bombshell 2015 Vanity Fair cover photo, in which she was clad in a white body suit and featured with long, sweeping brown hair and makeup. The headline? “Call me Caitlyn.”

 For starters, transitioning is the process of changing the way you look and how people see and treat you so that you become the gender you feel on the inside. Transitioning can mean lots of different things. It can involve medical treatment and hormones. It can involve changing your name and preferred pronouns. It can involve changing your appearance and dress. It can involve coming out to your friends and family. It can be a long and ongoing process. Or it can be something that happens over a short period of time.

When a child feels that their body is different from the gender they feel inside, which is called transgender, the chance to express their true identity can have a powerful effect on their self-esteem. The process of changing from identifying as a boy to a girl, or vice versa, is called transitioning.

The process doesn’t always mean getting surgery. It can take several forms. Some are nonpermanent steps, such as choosing a new name, changing pronouns, and wearing different clothes and hairstyles. Others include medical treatments and procedures to change the body.

There’s no set formula for a transition: Some transgender children are happy to express their gender identity without any medical steps, while others want to change their anatomy to match how they feel and how they want others to view them.

Children often start the transition process on their own by changing the way they present themselves.

 They may want to dress or wear their hair like the gender they identify with, maybe just at home at first. At some point, they may want you to call them by a different name and use different pronouns. With the right support, kids can work up to living full-time in the gender they identify with. These are all completely reversible steps, and they may be all that your child needs to feel comfortable.

Puberty can be especially upsetting for many transgender children. Starting at the first signs of the changes  around 10 years old for girls, and 11 for boys -- doctors can prescribe hormone blockers, which are injections or implants that keep the body from releasing estrogen or testosterone. That means the body won’t go through the permanent changes that normally happen during puberty, such as growing facial hair, getting an Adam’s apple, voice changes, breast growth, and the start of menstrual periods. But the effects of the medication are reversible. Your child could decide later to stop taking them and go through the physical changes of their biological sex.

 With that said, today we have the fabulous and unapologetic Trans-woman Tapiwa Lapidos as she shares her transitioning journey with SCENE.

 She is a 20 year old university student, studying international relation and political science in the United States  of America.

 She enjoys going out with friends and do some fun adventurous activities l such as hiking.

 When asked  when  did she realised that  she   was  a trans woman ( or  trapped in a wrong body), she  says  she  had  always been different since  early childhood.

“I always was more feminine than the others. I accepted that  I was trans in late high school when my Gender dysphoria ( a medical condition pertaining to being transgender, where I feel very uncomfortable with the mismatch of my biological sex and gender identity) got really severe to the point of depression and suicidal  ideation.  I couldn't live a life that was not my truth. So  I had to accept who  I  authentically was and live it, unapologetically even with the feared backlash.”

 Tapiwa’s transition has been hard due to that fact that  we  are in Africa. Such terms  are still new  to us as Africans.

 There is so much they go through  as the LGBTI community ( that’s another  story for another day)

“Being in Africa which isn't the most accepting and accommodating environment to fulfill ones transition. There aren't many resources and there is still a negative stigma towards the LGBTI community which makes living all the more harder. I am thankful to have supportive friends and some family that motivated me throughout the journey to never give up on being myself with unconditional love and acceptance.

“Since I've transitioned, I am at so much more peace with my life and body. I have been able to grow mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I am a happier person with a sense of purpose. Even with this said, it is still hard being in Eswatini. 

Yes, people have generally been very accepting and comment on how watching my transition has been an inspiration to them, to be who they are.

Nonetheless I still face issues of discrimination (mocking or negative stares/ comments) from the public if they know I am Trans or assuming. I sometimes face discrimination in government offices especially issues around my ID, as when it comes out in the system, they realise  I am a trans woman.

These are battles many trans people face in Africa currently as we aren't progressing enough to allow the trans community to live their truth legally, as beautiful and transitioned as they may appear.

“My family has been somewhat of a support throughout this process. I am grateful for all the support I have gotten nonetheless. It was hard accepting me at first. But with time, they all came to realise  that this is my truth and see the woman I am today and will be in future.

“Transphobia within Eswatini is there unfortunately because people aren’t exposed/educated to the normalcy of being Trans or LGBTI. People think it’s just fashion or a trend. This is not true at all. There is also a lot of pressure from religious groups promoting hatred towards the LGBTI community. Which is ironic as religion should be peaceful and loving as God himself loves everyone.  They also forget that many of the LGBTI in Eswatini were Christian before they accepted themselves and lived openly and continue to be strong Christians even after.

Future plans as a Trans woman

“I want to impact and change the world, particularly Africa.

I definitely want to work within politics in internationally governance.  I'd like to, hopefully one day, come back and help bring growth into Eswatini’s education system (with scholarships and better facilities) and  create more employment (for the youth at large) through international investments and relations.  This in turn would hopefully create a different , more positive tone towards individuals within the LGBTI community , as they would see we are normal people who  what the best for everyone ( equal rights and an abundance in opportunities) just as much.

Advice to anyone else you is struggling to be themselves

“I'd say love yourself first and foremost, because no one can love you more than you love yourself.

Accept your truth and be authentically you. If your circumstances make being yourself hard,  I totally understand as  I too faced that pressure.  Just know that one day you will be free and be able to live an authentic life without fear or judgment. 

There will always be people that love and support your journey. You will find them, never lose hope. And prayer helps me. God will answer your prayers because he knows your struggles and who you are no matter what people bigoted interpretations are . Have a good heart and blessings will come to you.”

 To all the Parents of LGBTI community out there,  you need  to understand that  you can have an important impact on their child’s current and future mental and physical well-being.

Parents should talk openly with their teen about any problems or concerns and watch for behaviors that might show their child is being bullied or is experiencing violence. If bullying, violence, or depression is suspected, parents should take immediate action working with school staff and other adults in the community.

In addition, parents who talk with and listen to their teens in a way that invites open discussion about sexual orientation can help their teens feel loved and supported.

Parents should also talk with their teens about how to avoid risky behavior and unsafe or high-risk situations.

Parents also should develop common goals with their teens, such as being healthy and doing well in school. Many organizations and online information resources exist to help parents learn more about how they can support their gay and bisexual teen, other family members, and their teens’ friends.

Transgender and gender nonconforming people may experience harassment or discrimination from people who are scared or uncomfortable with these identities.

Transphobia is the fear, hatred, disbelief, or mistrust of people who are transgender, thought to be transgender, or whose gender expression doesn’t conform to traditional gender roles. Transphobia can prevent transgender and gender nonconforming people from living full lives free from harm.

Transphobia can take many different forms, including negative attitudes and beliefs aversion to and prejudice against transgender people irrational fear and misunderstanding disbelief or discounting preferred pronouns or gender identity derogatory language and name-calling bullying, abuse, and even violence

Transphobia can create both subtle and overt forms of discrimination. For example, people who are transgender (or even just thought to be transgender) may be denied jobs, housing, or health care, just because they’re transgender.

People may hold transphobic beliefs if they were taught them by other people, including parents and families who encourage negative ideas about trans people and who hold strict beliefs about traditional gender roles.

Some people are transphobic because they have misinformation or have no information at all about trans identities. They may not be aware of transgender people or trans issues or personally know anyone who is trans.

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