Tatenda is currently waiting for her work authorization, without which she cannot legally work in the United States. If you would like to contribute to her GoFundMe page, which she set up to support herself until her work authorization is approved, please visit the page here.
My name is Tatenda Ngwaru. I’m from Gutu in Zimbabwe.
So when we went to school when I was growing up in Zimbabwe, you wear either a boy’s uniform if you’re a boy, obviously, and a girl’s uniform if you’re a girl. Because of that uniform, people defined me to be a boy. And that hurt me and my feelings, because I knew I wasn’t a boy.
So when I was developing, being raised as a boy, when I was growing up, I was starting to have hips and little breasts, and everything else was just – my skin was getting lighter, everything that was exactly opposite to being a boy.
So when I got into high school after primary school, I felt sick. Something was wrong with my stomach. I was in a lot of pain. And then we went to the doctor and I had to have emergency surgery. That’s when the doctor was doing the surgery, he realized I had ovaries in my tummy and female organs that were supposed to be outside. And they couldn’t look more into it because we could not afford it.
So after finding out that I had ovaries and I had all these female organs inside, I started believing that I was transgender because that was the only word that could, that I learned about, that could describe me being different. After living for a few years, again thinking that I am a transgender person, I traveled to South Africa with the quest of wanting to find out more, because still I didn’t feel satisfied.
When I went to the doctor and said, “A few years back I had gotten surgery, and it was a different surgery, but during that surgery, that’s when they found out that I had ovaries.” That’s when he told me I was born intersex.
I have to say that was a relief for me, knowing that was intersex, because for so many years I couldn’t explain it. So it was a relief at first and then accepting that this is who I am. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s nobody’s choice. Just like any other person how you cannot choose your skin color or your sexuality or whatever.
After working a few years in South Africa for a transgender organization, I decided to go back home and start an organization that dealt with intersex and transgender issues.
The public had always treated me as unheard of. My situation was unheard of. The ignorant people thought it was western culture. It couldn’t happen to them.
Because, clearly, they were saying, “You are the only person who is like that, so why should we even believe you?” I could see my life was in danger. It was going there where I was going to die. My parents, more than myself, realized how unhappy I was. They realized that living that small life in our little town, just starting a conversation for other people, wasn’t enough.
My father took me and told me that I had brought courage. He said sometimes courage skips a generation. I’ll never forget that. And he said, he thanked me for bringing it back to the family and he urged me to bring it to other families that I didn’t know, to strangers.
They wanted more out of me and they said, “Why don’t you go to America where, we hear, people are celebrated?”
Barack Obama was president at the time. My father said, “He’s a good man. He will make sure you’re cared for.”
And I said to my dad, “President Obama is not going to know me, but there are millions of people in Syria – so many places that he’s worried about – that I don’t think my story would get to his desk.” But I assured him that America would do great for me because I would make sure I am celebrated.
We had a conversation after dinner one time when we were sitting in the sitting room. And they said, “We don’t have a lot.” But he had just gotten his pension, and he gave it to me and said, “Get a ticket and just make sure when you get there, you’re okay.”
The day that I left, he couldn’t say a word and I don’t know what he wanted to say. Until now, i don’t know if he had something to say. But he didn’t say anything. He just watched me. I want him to see me again, happy at least, because I think he would have a lot to say when he sees me again, when I have done something with my life.
I am here today in America, New York, where dreams are made of. Life is not easy. I still need a lot of things. I need a home. I need money. I need food. I need to get by. It’s not easy when you seek asylum in this country because they require you to stay for so long without being able to legally work. So I want this opportunity to not only save me, but also other immigrants who are going through the same thing.
Being intersex is – I’m a human being. That’s the first thing. And I’m capable of fetching and grabbing dreams. So if this fails, still I want it to still inspire people to try, because everyday I wake up in the morning. Sometimes I cannot get out of bed but I still want to try. Get up and try again, whoever is listening. Get your ass up and try.