In April 1981, Landa Mabenge enters this world, trapped in a girl’s body. From an early age, Landa is aware that he does not relate to his female form, despite being socialised as a girl. In this groundbreaking and brutally honest memoir, Landa Mabenge establishes himself as a resounding and inspirational voice for anyone fighting to define themselves on their own terms. In mesmerising detail, Becoming Him
lays bare Landa’s tortured world, growing up trapped in the wrong body, while unflinchingly tracing his transition from female to male.
His childhood in Umtata is brutally shattered, when at age 11 an angry woman and her zombie-like husband unexpectedly arrive to force him to accompany them to Port Elizabeth. Life in PE with ‘The Parents’ soon morphs into a Dickensian nightmare. Landa is subjected to horrific physical, emotional and psychological abuse as he descends into a world of isolation and shame. He recalls his prison of powerlessness: “I count the years I will have to remain a slave. There are seven before my redemption: 7 x 365 = 2555 days. Today is nearly at an end. By the end of tomorrow there will be 2554. By the end of the week, 2548. And so I will myself on. Eventually the day will come when I will be free.”
At 18 Landa is finally able to escape PE to study at UCT, where he tries to embrace life as a butch lesbian, but he remains tortured by his female body. After a close-to-death break down, Landa finally finds strength to embark on an arduous four-year-long journey to physically and legally become “him”, relentlessly researching what it will entail to embark on gender alignment. In 2014, Landa makes history by becoming the first known transgender man in South Africa to successfully motivate a medical aid to pay for his surgeries through the Groote Schuur Transgender Clinic.
Both heartbreaking and uplifting, Becoming Him is a unique story of torture and triumph, bravely opening the lid on cultural shame and abuse against those who choose a path less travelled.
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Review This Product
Mon, 8 Jul 2019 | Review by: Breakaway R
A truly inspiring story.
Yolanda Mabenge knew from the age of seven that she was trapped in the wrong body and knew that every time she was forced to put on a dress, or dainty shoes that it felt wrong. She was only ever happy when dressed in trousers or shorts. She was surrounded by the love of her mother and grandparents and had lots of cousins, aunts and uncles who were also part of the small village of Ncambedlana, which is not far from Mthatha in the Transkei.
Her life took a dramatic turn when at the age of eleven. Her birth mother arrived at the house and demanded that she leave the woman she thought was her mother to live with her and her husband, stepbrother and sister at their home in Port Elizabeth. Although they provided a good education for her, conditions in the home were horrific. Yolanda was severely beaten and verbally abused by both her mother and stepfather. She was also forced to work at their domestic worker. Often, the punishment would mean no food either.
Their appalling treatment of her carried on she left school and moved to Cape Town to attend university. It was here, after a suicide attempt, that Yolanda found the courage to find out about transitioning from female to male. She also found the courage to return to the person she’d called Ma for the first eleven years of her life and her grandparents. It was only after she graduated and started working that Yolanda went ahead to legally change from female Yolanda to male Landa. Even though Landa was working and covered by one of South Africa’s biggest medical aids, getting them or any other medical aid to sanction a double mastectomy and hysterectomy proved to be another huge battle and it took years to finally have the operations performed and paid for by one.
I found myself gasping several times during this memoir. How Landa survived the frequent beatings for the smallest of transgressions shocked me but what shocked me, even more, was why no teacher or neighbour ever tried to help? However, like many people who have survived such childhoods, it seems that these extraordinary people not only survive but go onto to discovering their true greatness and purpose for being born. Nanda is one of these survivors. The first person in South Africa to have his transition paid for by medical aid, he now helps other transgenders.
Landa’s story is very inspiring. I loved how frank and open he was in telling this remarkable tale and I hope other transgenders will find inspiration and courage from reading his memoir.
Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of the book to review.
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