A BULAWAYO modelling agency director Ricky Nathanson (48), who was placed off remand last week in a criminal nuisance case after allegedly entering a female toilet, yesterday said the court case had ruined her life.
Nathanson said although she is biologically male, female hormones were dominant in her body and therefore preferred to be referred to as a female.
She said she found the media’s repeated identification of her as a “gay activist” and a “shemale” offensive, adding that such references showed that people were ignorant of transgender and that it was a condition which she had no control over.
“Basically my arrest and allegations against me were unfounded as even on the day in question I did not enter the said toilet,” Nathanson said in an interview with Southern Eye yesterday.
“The fact that biologically I am male does not mean that I feel like a male.
“My female hormones override the male ones and even the doctors confirmed that I am transgender.
“This means that if I go into male toilets I won’t be free. I have been entering female toilets for a long time and have never experienced any challenges, but only to be arrested by a young man who I noticed that on the day he was so drunk and I think he was influenced by alcohol to do that,” she said.
Zanu PF Youth League member Farai Mteliso (27) effected a citizen’s arrest on Nathanson for allegedly entering a female toilet at a city hotel on January 16. Nathanson said she had known Mteliso for a long time having first met him while he was mobilising funds for the Zimbabwe National Students’ Union (Zinasu).
“This Mteliso guy has known me for a long time as he sometimes approached me and told me that he was a member of Zinasu and asked me to fundraise for them,” she said.
“On the day (he effected a citizen’s arrest) I did not get into the toilet as he claims. I usually met him and he would say hello to me.
“I really don’t know what happened for him to frame those allegations that have now ruined my reputation and career.”
She said it was surprising that only Mteliso had accused her of entering a female toilet while no woman had ever come forward to make the same claims as he had been entering female toilets for a long time.
“Today my image and reputation are destroyed because of entering a toilet.
“I think the police also need to be taught on how they should handle transgender issues because they seem to be ignorant of it.
“Instead of using what I told them I am, they decided to use what Mteliso said I am.
“I said I am a she and they instead used male identification.
“It is not about what people say you are, but about what you tell them you are.
“After my arrest I was detained for two nights at the station and those who visited me were being harassed.
“I was put in a single cell after a doctor phoned the officer-in-charge and advised the police on my special gender case.”
Nathanson said the allegations have hurt her and it would be difficult to recover as her students started withdrawing from her modelling agency when her arrest made headlines.
“This case has damaged my career, my life and reputation. I can no longer move freely in town,” she said.
“I have not been working since the court case started and my students pulled out of the agency, but on a positive note, I think this case has highlighted an issue that exists in society which people are either ignorant of or refuse to accept.
“This is a lesson for everyone to accept that there is a minority group called transgender and it has a right to feel the way it does. It is my human right to identify myself the way I feel and want. I am allowed to choose because as I speak I am female.
“Gender identity is not a self-orientation issue, but calling me a gay activist and a shemale is offensive.
“Here I want to talk about my right to live the way I want. Though this case has ruined me, it has brought the attention of the world which is now eager to know what is going on about me.”
Nathanson said she had no sexual partner and was not a gay activist or a shemale, but a human and sexual rights activist who sits on the board of the Sexual Rights Centre (SRC) representing the rights of the minority transgender community, which society had side-lined for a long time.
“It’s sad that after contributing to the success of many people through my modelling agency, just a toilet case can destroy my reputation like this.”
Nathanson also said she has been noticing a vehicle following her whenever she gets into town and that was making her feel uncomfortable.
“This goes to show how someone’s freedoms are limited and threatened. We cannot continue like this in society. We need to respect each other’ rights,” Nathanson said.
SRC spokesperson Mojalifa Mokoele said the centre was saddened when the media referred to Nathanson as a “gay activist” or “shemale” as transgender had nothing to do with how and who someone sleeps with.