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Samukeliso Sithole

Samukeliso Sithole
Samukeliso Sithole was a rising female star in the world of Zimbabwe athletics. The 17-year-old track-and-field athlete had won awards at various regional athletic events, including five gold medals at the Southern Region Youth Championship in 2004. But in 2005 her career came to an abrupt halt when it was revealed that she was actually a he.

Sithole's secret was exposed in January 2005 by a female friend, Melita Mudondiro, who felt her dignity had been violated after she had undressed in front of him, believing he was a woman. Sithole's uncle, Dryton Mkandla, later informed Mudondiro of Sithole's true gender, and she decided to file criminal charges against him.

A doctor's report confirmed that Sithole was male.

Sithole's Defense

At the subsequent trial, Sithole offered an unusual defense to explain the deception. He explained he had been born with both male and female organs. His parents had then consulted a traditional Chipinge healer who had used a mixture of herbs to make his male organs disappear, turning him into a female.

However, Sithole's parents had apparently failed to pay the healer the full bill for these services. As a result, the healer took revenge by causing Sithole's male genitals to grow back. Sithole assured the court that, if he would be able to pay the healer the remainder of the balance, his male organs would again disappear and he would revert to being a female.

The Cover Up

Further investigation revealed that Samukeliso Sithole was not the athlete's real name. He had been born as either Fadzai Fuzani or Mduduzi Ngwenya (reports vary). But one of his teachers at the Ndllamatuli Secondary School in Silobela helped him to obtain the birth certificate of Samukeliso Sithole, who was a female student at the same school. With this birth certificate, he was able to obtain a national registration card, which allowed him to compete in athletic events as a woman.

The court sentenced Sithole (aka Fuzani or Ngwenya) to three-and-a-half years in prison for impersonating a woman and offending the dignity of the female athlete who undressed in front of him.

Links and References
Both this article and a great deal of news coverage in Zimbabwe seem perplexed by both the concept of intersex and transgendered individuals (the author of this article goes so far as to repeatedly and pointedly refer to Sithole as 'he' and give the article the tag 'imposters'). Sithole does, and as far as I can tell from the news reports, has always identified as a woman. If the author of this piece does not like transgender individuals that is their individual political bias, but it certainly shouldn't shape their writing so much.

I understand that some people intentionally pose as members of the opposite sex in order to achieve some goal. Unlike Sithole, these individuals do not, in fact, identify as the gender they would like other people to identify them as. (That is what makes them, and presumably not Sithole, 'imposters'.) I normally enjoy the articles on this site a great deal, and I sincerely hope that the problems in this article were caused by their ignorance and not by their malice.
Posted by N. Laine  in  Seattle  on  Mon Apr 02, 2012  at  05:25 PM
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