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Eastern Cape teenager living as a trans woman to undergo traditional initiation into ‘masculinity’


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Cwenga Titi hopes to complete a traditional Xhosa rite of passage this year.

  • Assigned male at birth, Cwenga Titi has lived as a girl since she was four years old.
  • Now, at 18, he is preparing to undergo a Xhosa circumcision ritual. the traditional rite of passage to “manhood”.
  • She is the first trans woman to go to the mountain to undergo the ritual.

Assigned male at birth but living as a girl since the age of four, Cwenga Titi, from the Eastern Cape, may become the first trans woman to go to the mountains for circumcision.

The 18-year-old grade 11 student from Thembalethu Secondary School in Qonce will undergo the traditional rite of passage into manhood later this month.

He will spend at least four weeks in the forest of his birthplace, Makhanda, where the ritual administrators will teach him how to become a Xhosa man of integrity.

Titi lives in Qonce with her aunt and cousin and enjoys singing and trying different types of makeup.

His umgidi homecoming ceremony, in which his friends will join his family in festivities to celebrate this milestone, will take place at his ancestral home on December 17 at the Tantyi location of Makhanda.

A colorful invitation banner featuring a photo of her in a skintight black dress has gone viral on social media.

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Titi said she was looking forward to the ceremony because it would be the first umgidi for a trans woman.

When asked if the decision to go to the mountains was not difficult, he said: “No, it was not because I know that I have to do this process so that my colleagues respect me, since I am going to make this trip to become a ‘ men’.”

Titi noticed that she was different from the other children at the age of 4 when she traded in toy cars for Barbie dolls.

“I preferred playing dress-up with my cousins ​​and crying over Barbie dolls,” she recalled.

His parents and family accepted from an early age that he was not heterosexual, he said.

Titi understands that her decision could provoke a heated debate.

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“There may be people who are for or against [going to the mountain] but i’m trying to normalize that [members of the] The LGBTQI+ community accepts uniqueness through their culture or religious beliefs,” Titi said.

The founder and president of the Rainbow Crest Matatiele LGBTQI+ organization, Nomonde Mafunda, said Titi’s case was the first of its kind in the Eastern Cape.

mafunda said:

I don’t understand how one can transition to being a woman and still want to undergo a ritual to become a man. I don’t see how this will help her. It’s complicated.

Mafunda said he did not see Titi’s action as a victory for the LGBTQI+ community.

“I don’t see how this is a victory because she already took steps to live as a trans woman, not a gay man. She is now reversing all the steps that she took to become a girl by undergoing this rite to become a man… I am confused,” Mafunda said.

He added that the organization was concerned that members of the LGBTQI+ community would go to the mountain because they were often abused by bigoted heterosexual peers and some traditional nurses.

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Luthando Guga, a student at Walter Sisulu University and LGBTQI+ ambassador, underwent the rite of passage in 2018 as a gay man.

He said Titi’s move was an important step in dispelling the narrative that gay men were weak and not equal to straight men.

“I’m talking about an experience of going down that road. She will get a lot of respect from the community and will be treated with dignity. Those who went to the mountain with her will vouch for her. They will be treated like war veterans who have survived hard.” conditions on the mountain,” said Guga.

He described his initiation as a “wonderful and beautiful experience”.


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