A young transgender woman from Eastridge is advocating for women and has started her own online show and established feeding schemes during the pandemic.
Danyal “Diamond” Zaal, 28, says she has worked hard to keep her show, Engaged with Diamond alive during the pandemic.
The one-year-old show tells of her fight with depression and anxiety and promotes talent and small businesses in Mitchell’s Plain.
“The show is a voice of the voiceless,” she says. “We are building and gaining momentum. We appreciate the support behind the show. Those who have supported me on this journey really keep me going.”
Danyal has also opened feeding schemes in her community during the pandemic. “We need to be accountable to our community. We need to help at this time. The community members take charge of these kitchens and observe Covid-19 protocols,” she says.
Danyal says her transition period has been very challenging for her.
“From being a dad, with three children in a marriage, to transitioning into a transgendered woman. It wasn’t easy.”
The transition has taken three years, and in that time she has gained respect from society, she says.
“People may have called me the derogatory term ’moffie’ or made fun of me wherever I go, but people respect me in the community regardless. From a philanthropist perspective, people respect me and it almost made my past disappear.
“Once you’ve transitioned, there’s no going back. There’s no ‘I’m going to be a boy again.’ You have to be firm on your decision, in who you are, in who you stand for and in what you believe as an individual.”
The LGBTQIA+ rights are human rights, she says, “why should I be treated any differently? I deserve the equal amount of respect you give anyone in society.”
If people call her names or say things about her she will stop her car and take the time to educate them, she says.
“When we close our doors, go into our rooms, we break down, the cracks show. It can be emotionally draining to deal with. It is a constant educating and is exhausting but we have to do it.”
Her son, 8, daughter, 6, and son, 2, are at an age that they can understand who their dad is, she says.
“I do not expect them to call me mom, or use the pronoun ”her“, ”she“, they call me by what they remember me as. And that’s okay, regardless of how I am dressed. They should never lose respect. I’m not emphasising that they should become what I am, but I am showing them that regardless of the push-back of society, people and harsh words, it shouldn’t allow anyone to stop them from becoming what they believe is the better them.”
Danyal will be featured in a book project alongside 65 South African women creating social change, edited by Professor Rozena Maart and Joan Madibeng. They started the project to acknowledge women in South Africa especially those who do not get the recognition they deserve.
Professor Rozena Maart, a political philosopher who specialises in critical race theory and psychoanalysis and works in gender studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, says Danyal is making an important contribution to the country and to the world.
“Danyal is forcing the government to recognize transgendered women especially when it comes to identity numbers and formal classification used in the apartheid years, all of which are still being used today in ID books and passports. We see Danya’s initiative as an important way forward for the future of the country.
“It takes a lot of guts and courage to do what Danyal is doing. We know that transgendered people are often put down. Degrading and disconcerting remarks are made about transgendered people all the time, and yet Danyal continues to fight for transgender rights. Danyal is so insightful to work with and is a tower of strength not only for the transgendered community but also for the LGBTQIA+ community.”
In April, Danyal was one of the presenters at the one day-presenter training for the Telematic Schools Project, joint initiative by Western Cape Education Department and Stellenbosch University to implement education through technology.
Danyal says women should learn to educate themselves and build stamina in educating themselves.
“With education, comes success, comes money and with money comes ease. Stop, mobilise and think what is the next step forward. We cannot pour from an empty cup. Guard yourselves, prepare yourselves and equip yourselves with education, it’s the most powerful weapon.”