Bottelnek, Pride and Gayle


Bottelnek, Pride and Gayle

DEBORAH STEINMAIR posed awkward questions in Pride Month to Dianne du Toit Albertze, an author who wishes for ‘a pair of boobs, even an A-cup would be kwaai’.


DO YOU identify as gay?

No, I'm pansexual.

What about gender identification. You're not cisgender. You're a woman, but you weren't born a woman. 

Everyone in Namaqualand knows me as Miss Dianne and few question it. I soon realised, with my openness as a trans person, that you have to teach others how to deal with you. However, I'm not currently on hormone meds, largely because I believe it doesn't determine my femininity. So I still have beard stubble underneath my makeup and I have fake boobies, but still, I am a woman. If people feel I'm bullshitting, that's their problem. I'm simply myself.

When did you know you were a woman?

I always thought I was a “real" girl until one day a kid told me he was tired of my games and that he wanted me to know I was a boy. In my dreams, thoughts and behaviour, I was a girl, albeit in boys' clothes. But when the bullying started to get the better of me, I came to terms with the idea of being a man. I've been indoctrinated for years into believing I'm something when other people say so. It's shit. It wasn't until studying gender construction in my honours year under the guidance of Cornelia Faasen that I started questioning my own gender and returning to who I am. And it's fucking scary once you look in the mirror after more than 10 years and see yourself for who you are, especially if that thing is something the world abhors. Then you close your eyes, lift your middle fingers and live with a vengeance.

Was it difficult to convince your parents and others?

My parents aren't convinced yet. I understand them; it must surely feel that I'm denying or chipping away at the child they raised. Some block you or unfriend you. Others learn your preferred names and new pronouns as soon as possible. However, I'm not out to convince anyone of anything. Certain colleagues and especially old-generation men are struggling, and I accept that. As long as we can respect each other for who we are, we don't have to be close.

Have you had surgery, or are you fine as you are?

Not yet, it's too darn expensive! Also, that's one huge step. I'll discuss it with a psychologist and give it a lot of consideration first. But I have to say a pair of boobs, even an A-cup, would be kwaai.

People often say it's too easy for kids to transition. What do you think about that?

Well, definitely not in the Northern Cape. Here all trans state patients have to go to Bloemfontein's endocrine clinic and jump through several more hoops, so it could take years to get started on the meds. I think it's kind of elitist to think it's easy. As far as trans kids are concerned, I think it's crucial to be an adult before you have meds and surgeries; you need a good self-knowledge first. But the word transition is also so flexible, so if we're talking in terms of name change and outward persona, then why not?

What do you think of puberty-blocking drugs?

I'm not that up to date with it, but it sounds hectic. Again, a child should be a child first, in my opinion. Then I must also add that little Dianne would have sacrificed her front teeth to be able to transition as a child — perhaps that would have reduced some of the bullying and confusion.

Most people hate their dead names, but yours is still part of your name.

I'm still the same person, just more fabulous. Can't erase my past, it's built into my character.

Do you identify as coloured?

If it were a choice I would say yes, but certain things in life we can't choose. I'm white. Sometimes I am still ashamed of this, with the shadows of colonialism, slavery and apartheid that will hang over us for a long time to come. Sometimes I'm OK with it too, because you have to make peace with who you are sooner or later.

Did you live among coloured people, and were you accepted?

I'm actually still living among coloured people. That's where I've experienced total acceptance, first in Idas Valley and now in Okiep. I have a whole group of lookout aunts and friends who back me and support me. The generosity of the coloured houses in which I have lived has taught me about fellow humanity, self-respect and sharing. Along with that, I'm still grappling with the difference between appropriation and appreciation, because one could turn into the other so easily. I want to believe with all my heart that if one engages honestly and respectfully with other people's cultures, this has value. Also that the boundaries of race need to be dismantled. I can't claim the coloured experience as my own, I am still white in certain spaces, and that's OK because togetherness has to start somewhere, mostly within us. However, I still don't feel that openness to change in white spaces; it's mostly a lot of talking and no action.

Let's talk about your book, which was on two shortlists. How long did it take to write and where did it come from?

I wrote it in two years, from 2020 to 2022. Someone told me that drama and poetry don't make money, so I tried prose. It started as a short story about two girlfriends who are sexually assaulted by policemen during the first Covid lockdown. Then I thought I can't just leave the girls like that, it's done too many times in literature, they also deserve to be heroes. The need for representation of trans people in Afrikaans literature further motivated me to write the story.

One's first book is often autobiographical, stuff that needs to to be said before you can produce other stories. Are you present in Bottelnek breek bek?

Yes, I'm somewhere in the shards of broken glass in the novel. I think any writer would be lying if she said her self was not reflected in her work as well. And yes, it's also a job and it's fiction, it's more than writing for the sake of healing; for that I have a diary. But I tried to keep it as raw as possible and thus cut very close to the bone. Sometimes it's tough for me to read parts of the book again because it was written during dark times in my life. I fought tooth and nail to keep my head above water in Idas Valley with my first job and an addiction that stuck like shit to my shoe. Writing the novel gave meaning and purpose to my life, enabled me to be more than the world makes me out to be.

You work with kids and I hear you're working wonders. You don't look like most women. How were you accepted in a small town like Springbok?

Children don't mince words, so some ask me about my gender identity, but they also accept me as I am. Okiep High School has accepted me from day one, staff and learners together. For that I am very grateful, as this is not always the case. Maybe it also helps that I've made clear from the beginning who I was and that there's no way around it. If a child sometimes gets confused between Sir and Miss, I don't blow a gasket either. As long as they understand what I'm teaching, I'm happy.

Who were your role models as writers?

My mother would regularly read me Ingrid Jonker as a child and later we would read Annelie Botes together. I also had a very unconventional maths tutor. Miss Ina Weilbach often set me Afrikaans fiction for homework instead of sums. Then, with each extra class, I had to come and talk about the books I read. First Pat Stamatélos and Leon van Nierop, later Marlene van Niekerk and Francois Smith. She sparked my love of reading. Later I met my literary heroes like K Sello Duiker, Jeanne Goosen, Ronelda Kamfer and more recently Welma Odendaal.

Let's talk about violence against women, a strong theme of your book (which I could read with only one eye, because it's hardcore).

I don't like turning a blind eye, and maybe bottlenek is rather hard on her readers, because I'm showing things as they are. Perhaps there is a part of me that hopes that writing about the injustice can bring about change. Because I am reminded every day of the ridiculous dream of a government and police service that protect us as women and non-binary persons. It makes me feel terribly powerless and that's why I defend myself with a pen.

Tell me about the name Gayle that you love to use.

It's a code language of the coloured and black queer community that largely originated in Cape Town, District Six, in the 50s with the fingerprints of Kewpie and Piper Laurie on it. At that time, it was largely used as secret language so that your queer status should not be uncovered, but also created to make our LGBTQIA+ community's voice ring out clearer.

Women's names, especially from celebs internationally and locally, are used as adjectives and verbs. For example: “I'm pretty much so Mugabe from last night's wandi that I just want to sleeping beauty instead of dora." It translates as: “I'm just so tired from last night's work that now I just want to sleep instead of drink."

What do you think of Gretha Wiid's statements?

Her What boys/girls need to know booklets have long been used as toilet paper. The old girl just has to keep her to her lane. Like anyone who uses faith to justify hatred and alienation.

Do you think the constitution or the government protect people who aren't binary?

No, and neither do they protect women across all spectrums. A transgender sister of mine was gang-raped in Steinkopf just before Christmas last year by a gang of teenagers called The Panga Boys. Her case was thrown out. Another friend who is cis was raped in Okiep in her home next to her son a few months ago and her case was also thrown out. The government doesn't think fokol of a woman. Zuma did not and clearly Ramaphosa does not. Putting anti-domestic violence slogans on Spar shopping bags is not going to solve the problem.

♦ VWB ♦

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