The horrors of being an Intersex person in Zimbabwe

My mother gave birth to tripplets , all I know is  my two brothers were fortunate enough to be taken home and i  stayed behind because i was abandoned in the same rural hospital.

I am Thandiwe Ngwenya, I am an intersex person and this is my story.

When I was young I never knew I was different from other children, I played and did everything they did. I always felt loved and special.  My life took a dramatic turn when i started primary school. I was forbidden from playing outside with the other kids, my mother always used to say the kids would harm me. I began to wonder why and how, but as a child, I actually thought I must have been special to my mother.  Years later reflecting, I find myself questioning the sincerity of my orphanage mothers actions.

As an athletic child in primary school I took part in many sporting activities,  sadly this also became  my site of pain. I can recall one terrifying incident during the athletics  inter-schools competitions when I was disqualified for competing with the girls. I couldn’t understand what that meant, I was confused and traumatised because I thought I was a girl. It was that incident which made me realise that there was something being hidden from me.  I wanted to find out what it  really was that made me a “special case.” I was young but I became more inquisitive and curious.  

 I  began to sneak out to play with other children, it was then I began to notice some differences. I  remember on one occasion I showed one of the girls my naked body.  She was shocked and immediately reported what she had seen to my mother. I was beaten up and forbidden to play outside. I had to make sure I went home immediately after school. At home, i  have always locked in the room away from my siblings.

The incident that made other students bully me was the day i collapsed at school. The school authorities must have discovered and disclosed about my being Intersex. I was teased and called names, the children would ask to see my body,  some would pull my clothes.  It was not fun, I was really hurt and wanted to leave this world and to be alone away from everything.  I  began to ask my mother  to take me to my father. That is when the truth about my life was revealed.

My biological mother had dumped me after noticing that I had a  genitalia condition.  I  became aware of the fact that I was staying at ana orphanage and the woman taking care of me was the head of the home.  No one knew my father or my mother’s whereabouts.

I hated myself, I was angry with my parents and my real mother for abandoning me instead of just killing me.

By the time i started   high school, i was  sad and stressed. My orphanage siblings would tease and bully me and tell other kids about my condition. I began to isolate myself from everyone at home and school, i became a loner. It was tough but i managed to finish high school and enrolled at a  college where i  studied  Electricity Electronics Engineering.  Right after my studies i left the country after securing a job  at a factory  in Mozambique. Whilst there i felt independent and  still i was lonely and sad so   I began to abuse alcohol and drugs , i didn’t care if i died because i assumed i was going to die because of my condition.

When my employer   transferred me  back to Zimbabwe  to work  for a sister company in Harare, people called me a tomboy. This angered  my  Manager who attempted to  rape me on several occasions. He would say i needed to be taught how to behave like women do. I was  stressed ,  I needed the job, but eventually i   decided to leave.

I went back to my home town Bulawayo, here  i was homeless for a month and i  lived on the streets, going from nightclub to nightclub just to while up time.   It was then, I  met my first lover we stayed together for four years , by that time i was  doing contractual work for my former employer.  However, because of  Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP), i was retrenched. I was back to square one, no income, no love, no support.  I had to sell the few belongings i had and went back to live on the streets.It was the hardest time of my life.  I remember one day sitting by the railway line waiting for a train to come so I could take my own life, the last thing I can recall is being surrounded by train drivers ordering me to go home. I was very angry, I cried I was already anticipating to be in heaven.

So I  went back to my home under the bridge and I tried to hang myself, only to be rescued by some church people who were coming from a prayer meeting, for days they prayed for me.

In 2004 i made a decision to change my life.  I became involved in music and with my engineering background, i got a job as a live sound engineer. Although I still lived on the streets, I was happy to have a job. During one of our shows, i  had my first encounter talking to a  Trans woman.  I was happy so excited to meet someone who could understand my issue, I opened up to her,  however the same week I lost my job. I felt helpless and thoughts of suicide were coming again.

It was then that I  went and joined a support group at the   Sexual Rights Centre SRC. This is where I met different people LGBTIQ  and made many friends. I began to feel less and less overwhelmed with my own problems. Although suicidal thoughts cropped in here and there, I began to realise I was not alone,  that many people had struggles and coming together in this place made us feel better.

Following increased reports on the increase of abandoned  children, I began to think of my own plight and that of the intersex children regarded as taboo and those who have had Doctors and parents decide their sex based on their own preferences. In 2010 I took the initiative to form an organisation Intersex Association of Zimbabwe IAZ in order to mobilise and work collaboratively intersex persons, parents, caregivers and those attending to the psychosocial needs of children.   


Malume in an LGBT rights activist and the founder of IAZ the only organisation led by and exclusively tackling issues of Intersex persons. Their work needs your support, to contributions or to support them, you can contact Thandiwe on  :

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