Two transgender African men open up about their experiences in new episodes of the Radio Workshop podcast
A new LGBTQIA+ podcast series unpacks the many complexities of being a transgender man in Africa.
The series, produced by Radio Workshop, pulls back the curtain on the ongoing discrimination and alienation of the LGBTQIA+ community, told from the perspectives of two trans men, one Zimbabwean and one South African.
While the harsh realities of trans-life are ever present in these narratives, this series is ultimately about the joy of discovering supportive and empowering allies in unusual places.
The podcasts offer riveting and intimate accounts of Ras and Noks – two young transgender African men on their journeys to live as their true selves.
Both secrecy and living out loud have repercussions on their mental health – including chronic depression, which is often perceived and dismissed in black communities as a “white man’s disease”.
Experts agree that members of this vulnerable community are far more likely to struggle with anxiety and suicidal thoughts. This is often attributed to what is known as “minority stress”; the impact of prejudice, discrimination and isolation being added to existing everyday stressors.
LGBTQIA+ individuals also find securing employment challenging and are regularly subjected to violence, abuse and rejection, usually from those closest to them.
Living a hidden trans life in Zimbabwe
In A Moment of Truth, Ras explains how he has relied on secrets to keep himself safe in Zimbabwe. At his wedding, he wore a traditional white dress to protect his secret. He found hormone injections on the black market so that he could transition in secret.
“You see, even though I want to fully be myself, I can’t in Zimbabwe,” he says. “Forget the laws – people are also spiteful. They’ll shout, ‘Hey, sister!’ in front of everyone, and insist that I respond.”
Ras had to record the podcast in South Africa to ensure that he was able to share as intimately as possible, given that Zimbabwe criminalises same-sex sexual activity and marginalises the LGBTQIA+ community under the law. Ras being forced to strip naked at the Harare airport to “verify” his gender is a testament to this.
Only six government facilities provide gender-affirming care in South Africa
The second episode of the series, Here We Are, explores South African, Noks Simelane, coming out as a trans man on YouTube. In doing so, he realises that while online trolls are still rampant, allyship can also be found on the internet.
Most would argue that South Africa is the most progressive country in Africa when it comes to LGBTQIA+ rights, however, there are only six government facilities nationwide that provide gender-affirming care.
In addition, affordable testosterone utilised by state clinics, hospitals and NGOs is currently out of stock for the second year in a row, significantly setting back the transition process of trans men like Noks. Not to mention the fact that many patients are still being denied healthcare or have to face relentless ridicule by medical staff.
Given these circumstances, how do Ras and Noks continue to navigate obstacles as they try to live as their authentic transgender African selves?
Find out more about these inspiring men, and other captivating youth experiences across the continent by adding the Radio Workshop Podcast to your playlist this year. You can also find the podcast on Spotify to ensure you don’t miss out on any new episodes.
About the Radio Workshop podcast
The Radio Workshop podcast was launched in 2021 by Radio Workshop (previously the Children’s Radio Foundation).
The first episode of their I Will Not Grow Old Here series – which investigates why youth unemployment levels are so staggeringly high in South Africa by providing a glimpse into the life of a young woman from Alex – was recently selected as one of Spotify South Africa’s best episodes of 2022.