Photo by Julia Gunther: Three days before her gender-affirming surgery, Chedino shows off a dress bought for her by her boyfriend Keagan in Hanover Park, Cape Town, South Africa.
South Africa has a complex and diverse history regarding the treatment of transgenders and the wider LGBTQIA community. The ‘Rainbow Nation’s’ post-apartheid Constitution was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and South Africa was the fifth country in the world, and the first in Africa to legalize same-sex marriage. Yet, trans South Africans, especially those in the black communities, continue to face challenges like homophobic violence (including corrective rape), and high rates of HIV/AIDS infection.
This series follows Chedino, a trans woman living in Heideveld, a suburb of Cape Town, over a period of six years. Unable to afford her gender affirming surgery, Chedino’s only option was to sign up to the waiting list at the Transgender Clinic at Grote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town.
The Transgender Clinic is one of the only units in South Africa that specializes in performing gender affirming surgery. The hospital provides surgical time for four surgeries per year. As patients are charged according to income, and paying for the procedure privately can cost between €30,000 and €40,000, most trans women and men have no choice but wait and hope that they will receive one of the few free surgeries.
In the end, Chedino spent 12 years on the Transgender Clinic waiting list. Her life on hold, she lived as a woman, until her operation was finally approved in 2017. All things considered, Chedino was lucky. Most trans men and women have to wait more than 25 years. Then, in 2018, Chedino’s final wish came true: to marry her fiancée Keagan.