BOY: A transmasculine narrative in SA

My name is Wes Leal and I am a 19-year-old boy who was gendered female at birth.

Although I was too young to properly grasp the concept of ‘gender’ when I began realising that something was wrong, I definitely knew that I wasn’t a girl. For years I kept it to myself, hoping that it would go away but it never did.

In 2015 I came out to my girlfriend Boni and ever since then we’ve been in it together.

I didn’t come out to anyone else until this year, marking the beginning of my transition.

I have been contemplating going on Testosterone for about three years but as quickly as those thoughts would come, they were pushed away. It wasn’t until Kalo‘K-$’ Canterbury had an Instagram Live talking about his own transition that something inside of me clicked. That was a very important moment for me. All the trans boys that I knew about were distant social media presences, and I had rarely ever heard someone talk about what I was feeling.Watching that Live made me wonder why I was still trying to deny something so evident.

So on that exact night I made the decision to assert my identity more and make steps towards beginning my own social and medical transition.

Kalo’s openness about his own transition inspired me to be open about my journey because I thought it would be really cool if I could make something to help other dudes as much as he helped me.

So Boni and I decided to begin documenting my life through film photography. She managed to capture so many different stages and feelings leading up to one of the most important appointments of my life, all while presenting me as I would like to be seen by the world. Working with someone who understands my complex relationship with my body has helped me say a final goodbye to this body that I find myself in at this time.

My social transition started with coming out to my younger sister. I had previously blocked her from my Instagram stories as did Boni, and essentially, I had begun leading a double life. Eventually the misgendering became too much and I told her, and to my surprise she took it very well which gave me the confidence to come out on Instagram and be more assertive about my pronouns.

Soon after this, with the help of Kalo, I changed my name to Wes (which I’m still getting used to) and expected that everyone around me would see me for the boy that I am. But for some reason people who didn’t even know me before I came out were having a hard time seeing and understanding that I am a boy.

The frustration I felt in times like those drew my eye to images of blue and pink buildings, firstly, because the colours pink and blue are highly gendered, and secondly, because I began thinking about the barriers that walls create – what they keep in, and what they keep out. I immediately connected with this pink building in Rondebosch and began to think that the world sees me similarly in a lot of ways. The people who misgender me only see me as a pink barrier that can’t let masculinity in. No matter how much I present like a cis-man all they see is a pink wall.

Despite all the pain and discomfort, I’m looking forward to this new journey. On Friday, March 16, 2018 I have my first appointment with a psychiatrist who works with transgender patients and I will explore my options regarding my medical transition. I’m nervous, yet relieved, and I’m grateful for the people who have come into my life along the way and given me the support and love I need to see this through.

I want to say a special thank you to the dude K-$ whose presence has had the most impact during this stage of my life. Thank you for speaking on your truth so I could do the same.


See you on the other side,



Illustrations by Wes Leal

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