Dr Anastacia Tomson

Activist

Dr Anastacia Tomson is a doctor, author and activist raising awareness of transgender issues. Having qualified as a medical doctor at the University of Pretoria, Tomson was awarded the Mandela- Washington Fellowship in 2016 and is currently a registrar with the National Health Laboratory Services in Johannesburg.

As a transgender woman, Tomson has identified gaps in the understanding of transgender and LGBTI needs on the part of service providers and policy makers, and now works to bridge the gaps between constituents and policy makers through her writing and guest appearances on radio and TV. Her book Always Anastacia shed light on her own journey, and has been celebrated at three literary festivals in the past few months, including the Woordfees Book Festival in Stellenbosch and the Knysna Literary Festival.

She was also instrumental in the formation of the Professional Alliance Combating Transphobia (PACT) and regularly speaks at schools, conferences and university courses. Tomson believes that one of the biggest challenges facing transgender South Africans is a lack of understanding and compassion, which can lead to their dehumanisation and marginalisation. “There is huge public ignorance around diversity of identities,” she says. While statistics for South Africa are not readily available, she notes that internationally, up to one in 10 people will identify as LGBT in some way, up to one in 100 could identify as transgender, and the number of people with some intersex condition could amount to around one in 50.

“In addition to their being marginalised, around 40% of trans people will attempt suicide at least once in their lives,” she says. Unfortunately, it would be challenging to carry out focused research in South Africa, she says, partly because “standing up to be counted” is a risk in itself for many people, and because funding for such research could prove difficult to secure.

However, there are clearly large numbers of transgender and LGBTI South Africans who require gender affirming services and greater public sensitivity. Currently, there are only three public sector medical facilities offering gender affirming services. Tomson hopes her work will contribute to all healthcare professionals being sensitised on best practice around diversity and inclusion. Tomson has made inroads into raising awareness through her public appearances, her book and blog, and also by producing manuals for clinical staff.

She aims to pursue writing and training health care professionals more in future. On her ultimate career goals, Tomson says: “I want to be able to say I created tangible change in the world — even if you changed only one life and made it a bit easier for someone, you’ve done enough of a service.”

— Tracy Burrows

Twitter: @anaphylaxus