I am Seoketsi Tshepo Mooketsi, student, Fallist (Fees Must Fall), intersectional trans black feminist and founder of Coalition of RuralTransLove.
(All images by Lihlumelo)
I reside in a rural township in South Africa (Schweizer Reneke) surrounded by agricultural farms and lack of political will from the local government in addressing issues such as, homophobia, transphobia and gender stereotypes, hence the rate of hate crimes and “corrective rape” continues to escalate daily.
I was raised by single parents – my grandmother and mother – with inconsistent support. It has been difficult to raise finances for me to continue and finish with my BA undergrad studies (Politics and Sociology), which is very expensive at universities in this country (hence the importance of a decolonised, free, equal education - Fees Must Fall).
My emotional and psychological health has deteriorated due to my ongoing financial stress, and the added stress of being a black trans womxn vulnerable to attack, on a campus where this happens frequently, at a University where the politics are not conducive to racial, gender or transgender integration.
I have been searching for assistance from deans of students, went from offices to offices requesting that I be allowed to register at the University of Free State to enable me to finish my studies in record time. When no assistance was forthcoming, I had to resort to finding online providers for scholarship, aids or any kind of financial support, which I have gratefully received from various institutions.
In 2016 I managed to obtain a bursary from the HCI Foundation and a scholarship from Shambhala organisation, who assist queer and trans folks to pursue their studies. This assistance coverd my studies for the last two years. I am eternally grateful to these organisations for their assistance.
However, these bursaries/scholarships are partial, and only cover 75% of students’ tuition fees, which means I have to cover the remaining 25%. These funding awards do not give allowances for living expenses, books, residence, meals and transport. I am struggling to raise finances for my studies for the year 2017, and have until this Friday, 18th February, to raise R7,000 to cover my registration fees, without which I will not be able to continue my education and complete the 3rd year of my degree.
For now, I am appealing for help to raise this amount of R7,000 for the deadline of Friday, 18 February, as I have spent the last few months going door to door, office to office, appealing to the University to allow me to register and pay the amount off, all to no avail.
Once I have reached this target of R7,000, I will need help with the following finances, laid out below:
- Registration for residence: R6,729 (plus fees from 2016 of R3,000, without which I will not be allowed to re-register)
- Living expenses: R200 per week x 4 weeks = R800 x 12 months = R9,600
- Books for 1st and 2nd semester: R1,800 + R1,500 = R3,300
- Meals: R180 per week x 4 weeks = R720 x 12 months = R8,640
- Residence fees: R2,000 x 12 months = R24,000
- Healthcare: R300 per month x 12 months = R3,600
- Transport: R800 x 4 trips home = R3,200
- Total: R59,069.00 / $5500.00 (incl. PayPal fees and taxes).
My activism as a refusal to become, and allow others to become, yet another statistic in South Africa
With the assistance of my supportive family and friends I have managed to be the “exception” and not the rule and became the first black rural trans womxn in my community to manage entry at the University of the Free State in 2015, after not being able to study due to financial constraints between 2010 and 2014, which led to me establishing the first ever unapologetic Rural Trans Coalition (RuralTransLove) organisation that affirms and empowers trans womxn in rural areas in the North West province.
I as a young, open and unapologetic Trans Womxn who happens to be a resident of rural areas for most of my life, am was disproportionately represented amongst the poor and unemployed. I did not let this deter me from figuring out the way forward, which led me to apply to the University of the Free State. I grew up seeing how white, cisheteropatriarchy was, and still is everywhere, thriving and a norm in my town. I decided to go against the “odds” and be someone greater than what I was informed most of my life I would be.
In the 2 years of my studies I have struggled with a number of other institutional barriers to my freedom as a black African rural trans womxn on a daily basis. The same can be said for queer and gender non-conforming people, all of whom encounter similar but unique stigma and struggles. Most of the time, this has led to all sorts of homophobia, stigma, racial discrimination and transphobia, especially as a visible, outspoken and political person who refuses to back down and battles against the system.
In working to achieve this goal, I feel compelled to take action and engage critically with various relevant stakeholders to stay at the University and not to be another “unimportant stat” of black trans womxn who continue to be oppressed through words and actions. I feel I need to stay at this University, one of the universities in greatest need of transformation, so that I can help bring about transformation.
Because of my personal and political situatedness, I feel we as a country should realise the importance of a decolonised, intersectional education that addresses mental health, self love and self healing. Most of my life there’s been numerous reported and unreported violent, targeted attacks against queer and transgender womxn. Socio-economic ills remain persistent problems and queer and trans womxn continue to experience multiple forms of discrimination, which increase the risk of dropping out of universities, their difficulties with their mental health and no access to higher learning education, which leads to extreme poverty.
I refuse to be part of this statistic. And I refuse to have my black rural queer and trans sisters be a part of this statistic.