Despite a constitution considered one of the most liberal in the world in terms of LGBTI rights (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender intersex), South Africa poses severe challenges for those whose gender identity does not comply to ‘the norm’. Especially townships and rural communities are strongly shaped by traditional beliefs that consider nonconforming gender and gender expression ‘un-African’. Hate crimes and institutionalized homophobia are common consequences and often force individuals to perform their gender according to society’s standards.
This project gives an intimate glimpse into the lives of four African transgender women in their endeavours to realise themselves as who they are. Rather than letting stigma and fear dictate their identities, they integrate themselves into a society in that heteronormative gender roles shape people’s lives. By means of their stories, this project explores the tension between gender as a fixed social construct and as a feeling starting from within. The individuals’ opposition to the traditional gender binary conveys the fluidity and ambiguity of gender, inspiring a shift towards an open-minded view on what African gender identity can be as opposed to what society demands it to be.