Time Line of Events

History affecting the Trans and Intersex community of Africa

1992 - 2016

This time line of events emerged through the Grassroot experiences of the contributing activists and organisations in Africa.  It depicts Trans and Intersex History in Africa through collective memories and experiences of the contributing activists.  The time line is continually growing as new entries are added but all contributions fall within the date period 1992 – 2016, a time before the inception of the Trans and Intersex movement as it is known today.

How to Navigate the Time Line

Categories are displayed alphabetically at the top of the timeline and can be used to filter the results to focus on the research theme chosen.

  • COMMUNITY – An individual community member’s contribution, experience or accomplishment
  • DIASPORA – Experience or accomplishment from a Trans or Intersex community member originally from Africa
  • INTERSEX – The entry only relates to the Intersex community
  • LGBTIQ – An event that also had an effect on the Trans and Intersex Community
  • ORGANISATION – Contributions from African organisations
  • TIME LINE STORIES – All the entries from all the categories
  • TRANS – The entry only relates to the Trans community

1 October 1992 – Commencement of the Births and Deaths Registration Act, South Africa (Act 51 of 1992)

The act prohibited transsexual people from having their sex status amended in the births and deaths register unless they could provide proof that they were in their transition process prior to 1992.  As such, no new transitions could legally be started any longer.

Transsexuals’ sex transitions were encouraged under apartheid and became illegal during the political transition to democracy. This topic, and the reasons behind it, is extensively examined in the publication ‘Sex in Transition, Remaking gender and race in South Africa’ – Amanda Lock Swarr. In the book, Swarr wrote:  “Also significant was the 1992 repeal of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Act, which increased difficulties for transsexuals attempting to change sex on their birth certificates. This decision may have been based in a backlash against equal rights campaigns that accompanied the political transition to democracy in South Africa.”  



1994 – The Travestis of Ivory Coast

The travestis* of Ivory Coast was a prominent group, recognized and documented from the early 1990s and most probably were active even before the 90s.   Their leader was Barbara and they formed the Ivory Coast Transvestites Association (IVTA). We are not completely clear on the founding date, but according to different sources, the association has existed definitely since the early 1990s.

It is for example recorded that in 1994 after journalists were quite sarcastic and used derogatory tones in their reporting in printed media, a militant group of transvesti activists stormed the building where the newspaper’s offices were located, broke some windows, and assaulted some of the journalists. According to this document this 1994 incident and similar occurances during the same time, lead to the forming of L’association des travestis de Côte d’Ivoire (Travesti Association of Cote d’Ivoire)/ IVTA. 

*Travestis is the French word for transvestites 


1997 – From Juliet To Julius Publication, Uganda

From Juliet to Julius

 Julius Kaggwa, an intersex person from Uganda, publishes his biography ‘From Juliet to Julius, in search of my true gender identity’.  It is the first incidence of public declaration of intesex status in Uganda.  It is the first intersex publication in Africa.


1998 – Woubi Chéri, Ivory Coast

1998 – Woubi Chéri, Ivory Coast

The documentary Woubi Chéri was released in 1998.  The topic of the film is the lives of woubis (1), yossis (2),  Travestis and other members of the branché (3) community.  The award-winning documentary was globally featured in various film festivals and documentary platforms. 

Shortly after Woubi Chéri’s release, Barbara emigrated to France. Slowly the energetic drive for the L’association des travestis de Côte d’Ivoire (Travesti Association of Cote d’Ivoire)/ IVTA dwindled down and no more signs of the militant activism were seen. It is speculated that the later generations of “men who have sex with men” (MSM) activism in the context of attracting funding for HIV/AIDS erased all the efforts made by the woubis, a result of the nonprofit industrial complex

1)- Woubis are effeminate boys who play the role of women in the relationship

2)- Yossis are the men, the husbands. They can be bisexual and/or married with a family while in a relationship with a woubi.

3)- Branché: a coded, local term used by sexual and gender minorities to describe themselves and one another.

It should also be noted that woubis (and cross dressers or transvestites /travestis) are not automatically assumed to be transgender or specifically claiming the Western terminology. Woubis existed long before any information was available on the internet and social media. Through research and the documentary Woubi Chéri it became quite evident and very clear that the branché community and woubi ascribe to a much larger range of genders and sexualities than the Western binary system. They are gender outlaws, so to speak


August 1999 – Announcement of the formation of Intersex South Africa (ISSA)

Anti-apartheid and intersex activist Sally Gross worked with a reporter from the Mail and Guardian to announce the formation of Intersex South Africa (ISSA). The article explains: “While there are some support groups in countries like the United States and Britain, there is currently no network for intersexed people in South Africa, says Gross. She hopes that publicity about intersexuality will bring the issue out into the open, help to remove the stigma attached to it, and help intersexed South Africans to make contact with one another for mutual support”. The organization was briefly known as the Intersex Society of South Africa, a name modeled on the Intersex Society of North America, as Gross had close ties with intersex activists in that group, but she soon changed it to Intersex South Africa to reflect its independence.  Gross’s initial goals for ISSA included offering advice and psychological support to its members, educational outreach in schools, and legislative advocacy. Intersex South Africa was initially affiliated with the health-oriented Triangle ProjectGross thought this partnership would help intersex people like herself seeking to discover their own medical histories and navigate treatment protocols, but it later became independent.  She continued her efforts to promote ISSA by sharing her own story in the Natal Witness and in Challenge, as well as interviewing on the popular Cape Town station Radio Bush.  Since Sally’s death in 2014, ISSA has been housed by Iranti, founded in 2012. 


9 February 2003 – Cricket World Cup, Zimbabwe unwittingly represented by a transwoman

South Africa hosted the 2003 Cricket World Cup. During the Parade of Nations, as part of the opening ceremony, the event’s organizers appointed models to walk in the parade, holding banners to represent each participating country. Senegalese-born model Barbara Diop had done modeling work in South Africa and on international runways in Italy prior to this event and she was appointed to carry the banner for the cricket team members from Zimbabwe.

A few days later rumors started circulating that Barbara was a transwoman.  She initially denied the rumors but eventually corroborated the claims.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe responded with anger and said that it was done in a deliberate act to embarrass Zimbabwe.  This sentiment by President Robert Mugabe is one of the many homophobic anecdotes he has expressed in the past about LGBTI persons, including publicly expressing that ‘homosexuals’ are worse than pigs and dogs. He threatened to withdraw the Zimbabwean team from the Cricket World Cup but did not have to follow through with his threat as Zimbabwe was eliminated from the competition early. 

September 2003 – Parliament hearings: Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Bill, South Africa

A group of organisations and interested individuals, including Sally Gross, Simone Heradien, Estian Smit, members of the Cape Town Transsexual/Transgender Support Group, South African Human Rights Commission and the Commission on Gender Equality made oral presentations in the parliamentary hearings to advocate for amendments to the Sex Description and Sex Status Act, Act 49 of 2003. Initially, the Cape Town Transsexual/Transgender Support Group only heard about the Parliament hearings on short notice, about 10 days before the hearings. Due to this short amount of time, they requested an extension of two months, to better prepare. The request was denied. The group then went ahead and prepared and delivered their oral presentation on 9 September 2003. Click here to view a summary of the whole process (overview, history, parliamentarian lobbying, explanation of Act 49 of 2003, oral presentations, Parliament decisions, inadequacies, obstacles, impact, and way forward)

December 3, 2003 – Transgender Education & Advocacy (TEA) established, Kenya

Transgender Education & Advocacy (TEA) in Kenya was established by Audrey Mbugua, working to defend the human rights of trans persons in Kenya.


15 March 2004 – Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act 49 of 2003, South Africa

The South African Sex Description Act was amended, signed by the President of South Africa and circulated in the Government Gazette, on 15 March 2004.

A quick overview of Act 49 of 2003:

The Act applies to:

  •       Persons having gender reassignment.
  •       Intersexed persons.


  •       For gender reassignment, reports by two medical practitioners.
  •       For intersexed persons, reports by a medical practitioner and a psychologist/social worker.

Who may apply?

Any person whose sexual characteristics have been altered by:

  1. i)                   surgical (treatment)
  2. ii)                   or medical treatment

iii)                 or by evolvement through natural development resulting in gender reassignment, or any person who is intersexed may apply to the Director-General of the National Department of Home Affairs for the alteration of the sex description on his or her birth register.


 “…evolvement through natural development” is not defined in the Act, so it could be interpreted as changes in biological development, or as changes in psychological/social development.

Critical comment:

 The Act assumes and demands that applicants must undergo some kind of change before they qualify for an alteration of sex description.

Click here to view a summary of the whole process (overview, history, parliamentarian lobbying, explanation of Act 49 of 2003, oral presentations, Parliament decisions, inadequacies, obstacles, impact, and way forward)


2005 – Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (PEPUDA) to include intersex, South Africa

The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (sometimes known as the Equality Act) was passed by the South African government in 2000 to prevent discrimination, hate speech, and harassment.  Following the work of activists, in 2005 PEPUDA was amended and became the first legislation in the world to include “intersex” within the legal definition of “sex” as “a congenital sexual differentiation which is atypical, to whatever degree.” This definition of intersex reflects activist work as it is almost identical to the recommendation submitted to the court by Intersex South Africa.  Sally Gross, advocated and worked passionately towards this inclusion. One of the major activist accomplishments of this legislation was to insist that intersex be self-defined, removing it from medical oversight or forced surgery that often accompanies legal definitions of “sex.”

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