Buhlebendalo Mthombeni

After powering through the journey to Free State the previous day, we finally saw Kroonstad in the daylight.

The weather was actually quite pleasant, and our overall disposition as a crew was positive. However, as soon as we got into the car, I change my mind about the weather almost instantly, because of the uninvited moisture that began to seep through the pore on my underarms and back.

Uncle Evans pulled the car over in a small town with a dusty road, and we waited for the young lady we intended to meet that day.

After a few minutes, a feminine figure approaches slowly, getting bigger and bigger the closer they get. There she was, a tall and curvaceous woman wearing a strapless ruffled black dress that would catch wind in an ethereal way.  Her name is Buhle, and she is a 21 year old trans woman who lives with her aunt and cousins.

When we got to her home, there was an unpleasant surprise waiting for us. Buhle had not informed her aunt that she was being filmed, let alone being filmed at the house. Rama, Uncle Evans and I probably spent 30 minutes standing outside the house, while Twiggy spoke to Buhle’s aunt in order to put her at ease and to neutralize the anger that she felt towards her niece in that moment.

While we were waiting, Uncle pointed at a bush that was on the neighbor’s side of the fence. It was undoubtedly marijuana. I had never actually seen a cannabis bush fully frown like that before, and it looked almost majestic. Out of nowhere I began to think deeply about what I was looking at, and used my imagination to see the two compounds THC and CBD. I always associate most things with music I’ve listened to, but this time it felt as though it was appropriate to do so. In an album called ‘The Healing Component’ by Mick Jenkins, he plays with the acronym THC. THC stands for ‘Tetrahydrocannabinol’, but it also stands for ‘The Healing Component. Usually CBD is marketed a the healing component of cannabis, however the more conservative public intentionally disregards the mental healing that THC provides because they associate the ‘high’ with substance abuse. Even though Mick Jenkins alludes to THC being the healing component, if we read further in between those lines he is actually saying that love is the healing component. THC creates this ‘high’ that encourages people to love one another and be more peaceful. But of course, I’ve digressed and should get back to the actual story I’m trying to tell.

Everything was alright after that, but I definitely learnt something about dealing with younger people; sometimes they lie because they think the truth is not 100% necessary. One thing that actually caused bit of paranoia for the crew was when Twiggy told us that Buhle’s aunt said that Buhle had actually had coronavirus.

When we proceeded with the interview, it was as if Buhle’s walls had been broken down, because before she had this defensive confidence, which I assume is meant to protect her from the unpredictable behaviors of other people. I think the three way interaction between Twiggy, her aunt and herself brought her to a place where she could just be herself in her home.

She opened up about who she was before she transitioned and showed us pictures of  the lanky young man that existed before she came into her own. She still looks at him with love, not resentment or disdain, because she knows that young man better than he probably knew himself at the time. She was the one who guided him to be who he really was, and who he was wasn’t a he at all. So they merged by becoming her physically and they never looked back ever since.

Buhle has undergoing hormone replacement therapy, which allowed her to develop the thick thighs and visible breasts that heavily contributed to the confidence that she now has. The way she talks about her body made me feel blush because cis-gendered women like myself take all these things for granted. In fact, we nit pick our bodies that are actually perfectly fine.

She mentioned that getting her treatment and medication has become a lot more difficult since the Covid-19 outbreak.

Buhle had no problems going into detail about what else she intends to get done during her transition. She mentioned facial feminization even though she is quite content with her natural beauty for the time being. She also mentioned sex reassignment surgery in order to create her very own vagina. She spoke about this so openly and it made me so happy, because she would light up as she imagined the woman she will be in the future.

She also comes from a surprisingly supportive family, and she mentioned her beloved late grandmother who loved and supported her immensely. Talking about her put her in a vulnerable position.

As for the rest of her community, they had also become very supportive of her, however it did not happen without difficulties. At first, the was the usually transphobic narrative circulating, however with time they came to accept her and love her the same way they did before. Buhle even said: “Now when I walk down the street, people tell me how beautiful I look; both men and women. And with the younger men, we know how to treat each other. They don’t profile me and I don’t profile them was nyaope boys and ex-convicts.”

Then Buhle’s love life came up, and she told us the story of the greatest love she had, as well as the story of the most painful love she had. When she spoke of her pain, it reignited a burning anger I have towards men that impose their insecurities on women that are just trying to love them. In this case it hurt Buhle more because of the rejection she felt due to the her deepest insecurity, which is having previously being a man externally. I though that she would have to deal with the fragile masculinities of men for the rest of her life really wounded me. So I can inagine the large raw gash that she has to live with.

Her girly nature is one of the most charming qualities she has, and she has expanded on it by becoming a make up artist. She, herself, only was make up occasionally, because she is still enjoying her natural beauty.

After the interview, we took her to work, where she would be doing make up at a little girl’s birthday party. When we got there, guess what we saw… Many people, all not wearing masks.

As we exited the town, we tried to take some establishing shots of the police station in that area, and by chance a police car passed by and instantly made a U-turn in order to come and harass us.

After a wild but eventful day, we went back to our lodge to blow off some steam, debrief, eat and sleep.

FUNDERS