Power Girl : TSHEPO KGOSITAU

BY RORISANG MOGOJWE

Sex and gender are two different individual concepts, however they intertwine in so far as what society defines as behaviour that is appropriate for a certain gender.

The distinction between sex and gender differentiates sex - the anatomy of an individual's reproductive system, from gender, which can refer to either social roles based on the sex of the person or personal identification of one's own gender based on an internal awareness.

In some circumstances, an individual's assigned sex and gender do not align, and the person may be transgender or gender-nonconforming. In some cases, an individual may have biological sex characteristics that complicate sex assignment, and the person may be intersex.

In understanding the two, you get an insight on the definition of a transgender person. Tshepo Ricki Kgositau is the poster-child for human rights advocacy with a focus on issues pertaining to the transgender populations, transgender persons and gender non-confirming individuals in the Southern African region and continent. She has committed her life to advancing transgender human rights.

Just one glance at the beautiful Kgositau, a transgender woman, one can immediately tell that she is comfortable in her own skin, oozing self-confidence and a zest for life. She has managed to go where not many have gone and undergone sexual reassignment in a bid to match her biological being with her personal identity.

Kgositau got tongues wagging last week when she made headlines regarding her move to sue government for refusing to change her identity marker on her ID. Born in a male body, she has transitioned to a female after years of feeling confined in a wrong body. She now focuses on issues pertaining to the transgender populations, transgender persons and gender non-confirming individuals in the Southern African region and continent.

Through her advocacy, she has continued to shed light and create awareness on issues surrounding transgender persons.

“Transgender persons grow up feeling coerced to identify with pronouns they are not comfortable with, forced to play in sports teams of sexes they are not comfortable with, dressed in clothing of a gender they don’t identify with, etc. When growing up, a transgender person often finds themselves at loggerheads with parents, peers, teachers and society who expect them to behave in a certain way. It is therefore important for awareness to be created about trans people in order to place a sense of urgency in creating an environment that enables children to be able speak on their own behalf. Creating such an environment would establish a change in the narrative for children to be raised as they are and not as they are told – thus reducing cases were one only develops confidence to embrace themselves at an adult stage.”

Her advocacy stems from years of community development and social justice. In secondary school she was part of the Girl-Boy-Education-Movement (GBEM), supported by UNICEF, which was aimed at protecting vulnerable, disadvantaged, marginalized children to remain in school and ensuring access to education. During her university days, as a member of the student association she led the overhaul of the anti-bullying clauses in the campus-security protocol to protect students who were being bullied and harassed because of their sexual orientation.

Kgositau is a graduate of International Relations and Criminology with years of experience in the NGO sector. Her passion for human rights has seen her working as an advocacy officer with a transgender NGO in Botswana called the Rainbow Identity Association, and then held the position of regional programs coordinator (2014-2016). Her role focused specifically on Southern Africa, along with another transgender-focused NGO called Gender DynamiX, based in Cape Town. She has coordinated regional research on transgender populations in Africa and transgender human rights by monitoring and reporting to regional and international human-rights mechanisms.

She began her new role as the executive director of Gender DynamiX, and sits on the steering committee of the SATF as secretary, where she is responsible for all communication. She is passionate about developing upcoming transgender rights activists through various capacity-enhancement initiatives, which she aims to champion upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship.