Local artist speaks out about life after her sex change

2017-09-04 16:33

Cape Town - Tiara Harwood (27) was born Xavier Koopman, but early on in life realised something was wrong. That she wasn’t living her true self.

In early 2016 the Cape Town cabaret artist decided to take the big step of undergoing a sex change. Today she speaks frankly about this major life decision. 

How old were you when you first knew you were trapped in the wrong body?

When I look back it seems I always knew. For very long I lived for other people. I thought if I didn’t show them the truth, they’d be more accepting of me, but if I spoke the truth, they’d love me less. As a child I worked very hard not to give off my “scent of a woman”.

When did you decide to change your sex?

I’ve always thought about doing it but I was afraid it would hurt the people around me. When I met my husband I was very open about my plans. I wanted to make sure the people around me understood. After I got married in 2015 my real life started. At Home Affairs they’re still working on getting my new gender correct on my ID. But I know the gender’s changed: now only the name has to change.

How did your parents and friends react?

At first my friends joked about it; I don’t think they thought I’d really do it. My husband, mother and sister was at the clinic on the day of the operation. That meant such a lot to me, because I’m sure it was hard for my mom. This wasn’t in her plans when she was pregnant with me. The three of them were the only people I saw during my recovery.

In the past year even my father has made me feel that he’s proud of me and the life I’ve made for myself, and that means a lot. Even if he’s not saying so.

Do people sometimes look at you strangely? What are some of the weird things they’ve said, and how do you feel about these comments?

People have looked at me strangely all my life. Sometimes it’s very uncomfortable and sometimes I don’t take any notice of it. I realise it’s within my power to control how it affects me. Sometime I can’t help feeling bad. “Moffie” will always evoke a certain feeling in me.

What advice would you give your younger self today?

Start accepting yourself. Believe in yourself, because everything starts inside you. Dream big and go for it. 

What did you learn about yourself during this whole process?

That I’m really quite strong.

Are you happy now? How do you feel about the new you?

I am. It seems I was looking for acceptance for so long. Now I accept myself, and that’s all that matters.

What advice do have for other readers who want to go the same route, but may not have the courage?

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you and you are important. I know things aren’t always that easy, so if you’re struggling with family members, find someone who can help you. The Pride Shelter and Triangle Project is always there to help. Start planning and let it happen.

Are you offended if people refer to you as “he”?

Sometimes. I try not to feel hurt, especially when it’s family or old friends. I don’t want to do away with the memories we share. It also no longer affects me that much when people do that.

What should people not ask or tell you?

I’m very open with people who want to learn. But the intention of the question also matters.

Where and when did you meet your husband?

I met my husband in a pub four years ago. It was a good evening. We didn’t stop talking. I was aware that he knew me, that he could see me.

Where and when did you get married?

On 24 October 2015 in Hout Bay at Monchique. It’s a very lovely place. It was one of the best days of my life.

How does he feel about your metamorphosis?

He’s very supportive. I couldn’t ask for a better husband. He understands me.

How do you feel about the change?

I’m very proud of it. Proud that I’ve done something I really wanted to do.

Are you planning to have kids? And if so, what process would you follow to make this dream come true?

He has children from a previous relationship. They’re his life and also a big part of ours. The thought of more children is a dream. Adoption or surrogacy are our only options.

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