Becoming episode 3 smacks harder than anything we’ve seen so far – and we’ve seen a lot of emotions already!
It starts with Gugulethu Khumalo, who’s based in KZN, being told “we have accepted you wholeheartedly, you have us as your family, and it doesn’t matter what outsiders say because they won’t do anything for you”.
This follows on from episode 2 when he told his aunt Sphiwe that he doesn’t like his breasts, having been born a woman.
“They don’t take care of you, you don’t live with them, you live here with us,” says Sphiwe.
This is the start of an emotional rollercoaster episode that will see Gugu deal with acceptance from those in the community, because despite what Sphiwe says, that is still something that weighs heavily on his shoulders.
He’s getting good advice, including “tell yourself that people will always talk no matter what”, but that is something the four main subjects still deal with daily – being scrutinised, being subjected to dehumanising remarks, being treated as inferior because they’re different. But they’re not – they’re actually like every other human being: just trying to survive.
The fire inside
People in the LGBQTI+ community are still often subjected to ridicule and prejudice because they perhaps don’t conform to what society sees as “acceptable”. But, ironically, being unique is the most common thing in the world, because every man, woman and child is unique.
“I think that’s what makes Gugu angry,” explains Sphiwe in a to-camera segment. “People don’t know what to call him. They don’t know if they should call him mister or miss. Growing up, he had anger issues and this (people’s confusion) has made him even more angry.”
It’s pretty obvious that his family have accepted him, which is often a difficult choice even for family of an LGBTQI+ person, but for Gugu it’s the outside world whose acceptance he so desperately craves. This brings up an important topic in the trans community – the physical transition from one gender to the other. And it’s not something that should ever be taken lightly.
Gender reassignment is a serious process
For Gugu, it’s easier. Hormone pills assist with increasing male hormone testosterone that will lead to Gugu growing facial hair, but his breasts will require surgery.
“This decision that you’re taking should not be taken lightly,” says Sphiwe, but Gugu has thoroughly investigated the process. He explains: “I have consulted my psychologist and attended all my sessions. I was informed of those side effects (of hormone pills) and that it depends on how fit one is to handle them.”
Mental health is still something of a taboo topic, which is sad, given how important it is. For a person in the LGBQTI+ community, the stressors of everyday life are multiplied because of the intense scrutiny they’re under from the outside world. And it’s something that Gugu has dealt with and is dealing with currently.
“Talking about things like gender reassignment is difficult because like with side effects, it’s something that hasn’t happened yet. So, it’s difficult because your side effects may not resemble someone else’s.”
Transitioning isn’t easy, nor is it cheap. And not everyone is as fortunate as Gugu, whose aunt tells him straight, “Get a quotation from the doctor. Tell me how much. I will do everything for you. I will support you.”
That support system means more to people in the LGBQTI+ community because of the scrutiny they’re under. Many people don’t have someone in their corner backing them, giving them the support they need to be themselves. Gugu knows how fortunate he is, telling his aunt, “I am grateful to have a family like you. Others like me (in the LGBQTI+ community) face a lot of challenges and discrimination. I am thankful to god for blessing me with such a family, both the maternal side and paternal side. It doesn’t happen to everyone.”
This support also means that Gugu can be himself – and joking around is something important, to laugh and find joy in having fun, as his aunt reminds him: “All we want is for you to get married and bring us a makoti (bride),” which makes him burst out laughing.
The smile on his face says enough. Now if only everyone in the world had a family as supportive as Gugu, we’d be living in a far friendlier place.
Becoming S1 is available to binge-watch on Showmax.