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See me for who I am: POP INN intern

See me for who I am: POP INN intern

 “As a transgender woman, I often feel conflicted about which restroom to use. Going into the men's restroom, I have encountered discrimination as some men are homophobic and even make discriminatory remarks to my face. On the other hand, if I use the female restrooms, some women feel uncomfortable and have gone as far as complaining to management.”

This is one of the everyday challenges which makes Fezile ‘Fefe’ Mkhabela feel invisible, in a world which sees gender as binary.

With limited spaces where she felt truly accepted, the 28-year-old found solace at the Tembisa POP INN clinic, a project of The Aurum Institute catering to key populations.

She initially went to the clinic- which provides sexual health services for men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women (TGW) for medical care, but later joined as an intern. “I wanted to be part of this, part of a place where I was empowered by having a space where I feel comfortable to just be me. I was counselled and found my confidence after grappling with my identity and the challenges which come with being transgender,” she said.

Since the start of the internship in January last year, Mkhabela said she has learned a lot, not only about sexual health but practical workplace skills like leadership, computer and customer service.

Through her experience at POP INN, Mkhabela has found her passion, which is promoting good health and changing people’s lives by helping key populations with information and care to prevent, screen and treat HIV, STIs and other ailments.

“POP INN helped me deal with my own everyday issues and how the world sees me. They helped me and I am proud for the opportunity to now help others feel visible,” she said.

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