I am woman and I am proud of that – Aluta Humbane

The revolution indeed will not be televised and at the height of global gas lighting the status quo remains unclear. Preceding ideologies that shape our socio-cultural landscape are in conflict. At the face of a homophobic society very few are bold enough to defy the conventions or challenge the status quo. As many battle, with grasping the concept of metamordernism, many look to science to mediate their existence. Uniq Magazine SA, had an exclusive opportunity to engage with someone who has literally lived different identities all her life. From being assigned – male at birth to transitioning to female. This month, we explore a revolution highly disregarded, controversial, and believed to defy the supposed accepted socio-cultural and sexual identity constructs. 

The month of June has resounding historical importance in South Africa and abroad, it is associated with honouring the role of the youth who selflessly contributed to the demise of the apartheid regime during the 16 June 1976 Soweto uprising. It is also a very significant month globally as it is celebrated as Pride Month which commemorates the Stonewall riots of 1969 where members of the LGBTIQA revolted against the injustices, harassment, and discrimination they were experiencing in New York, which ultimately paved a way for robust LGBTIQA activism globally. 

Uniq Magazine SA engaged with afro Soul singer and LGBTIQA Activist Aluta Qhawekazi Humbane on her remarkable and daring journey of metamorphosis. As she opens herself for the first time about her medical and legal transitioning from male to female. This ahead of her coming out as a trans woman – and the highly anticipated release of her latest single “Amaqhawe” (Hero’s) which debuted on her birthday 30 May 2020 that commemorates the unsung cultural, LGBTIQA and political activists – and extraordinary people making a difference in others lives, especially those of this era. The song is part of a docu-series that will document and archive black unsung heroes and their input to the advancement to humanity.

The journey for this talented singer, songwriter who has performed in historical venues such as the Stonewall Inn, New York alongside Professor Sir Zanele Muholi –  is not out of the ordinary lived experience of a person who may identify as a member of the LGBTIQA community. It is tainted with the harsh reality of discrimination and endured homophobia. This according to Ms Humbane has had a detrimental impact on her life, due to internalised trauma. The journey to self-realisation in the context of South Africa, and many parts of the world is highly regulated and is expected to fit within the supposed norm of heterosexualism. This meaning that majority of people are still confined by societal, cultural, and discriminatory religious bigotry, which suppresses and prescribes gender and sexual preferences. Ms Humbane shares her agony of not being able to be the person she had always wanted to be ‘A woman’. Socialisation becomes the prison in which an individual is sentenced to conform she shares. Like many, the terminologies that describes ones preferred gender and sexual identity ha for many years been limited, especially at the face of a government system which does not invest in creating awareness of the gender and sexual identities as a priority.

Aluta, who was born Melvin Mzamo Humbane, and assigned as a male at birth, lived her life as a gay man for 29 years. In those 29 years, she experienced a peak in her life. She is a bubbly and energetic person, however, she always battled with something that she could not share with anyone, something that only existed in her mind and desire. She wanted to be a woman though he was born with male physic and genitals, this desire was in contradiction to the way she thought and felt. Like many who may experience this dilemma – are subdued to live as identified at birth. She says she battled very much with this conflict to a point where she left her job as a professional teacher because she was not coping. 

“Each day I lived as this supposed man, removed me from myself, and created resentment and withdrawal from myself. The most painful confrontation was the fact I was fighting myself. I was living for others, like others, but removed from myself” she said. 

This war far led her to being depressed due to the rejection of what she tried to project outwardly to society, which was received with deep criticism, hate and abuse. This is a lived experience shared by many, who are not able to speak because of fear. Fear of rejection, fear of being oneself at the face of a judgmental and abusive society. 

In June 2017, after realising her life was deteriorating and she was struggling with depression, she had stopped performing, being productive and self-isolating she experienced a turn around in her life when she was admitted to hospital – and on arrival, the doctors treated her to a near cardiac arrest. It was at that point, she started embarking on a journey to acceptance and support through a psychotherapist who consulted her – and after 8 months of visits was diagnosed with ‘Gender Dyphoria” which is the distress a person feels due to a mismatch between their gender identity and their sex assigned at birth. Fortunately, the laws of the country allow for gender transition and legal change of gender marker. This started new in life, she could now realise herself as the woman she always believed she was. When a person faces such, they may identify as Trans, which means transgender.  This was the beginning of a totally new life, through HRT (Hormonal Replacement therapy) she her transition from Male to female. The inception of this journey released her of the burden of hating oneself and started a new journey of coming out. 

This journey marked the new beginning for Ms Humbane, and regardless of societal challenges, she has now built enough confidence to publicly speak about her journey with the hopes to educate create awareness and inspire others not to fear  who they are – or identify.  To challenge societal norms and expectations. The plight of trans-woman and men remains dear to her heart as she has been at the forefront of visible trans representation in South Africa. 

The fact that we are silent, is problematic because we will not be heard. The fact that we cannot accept ourselves is imprisonment inside ourselves which kills us day by day. Being trans is never by choice, Afterall who would choose deliberately to be an outcast, misunderstood, and not accepted. All we want is to be loved, appreciated, included and equal.