For years, Aprilia Santini Manganang and the Indonesian Women’s Volleyball Association had been fighting off accusations that she was actually a man, but this year, Manganang was finally confirmed to actually be male.
A member of Indonesia’s national women’s volleyball team, Aprilia Manganang also played in several local club teams in Indonesia, as well as in Thailand. She led the Jakarta Electric PLN women’s team to become the champion of the Proliga in 2015, 2016, and 2017. In 2019, she became champion again with the Jakarta PGN Popsivo Polwan team, before transferring to the Generali Supreme Chonburi-E Tech team in the Thai Volleyball League and winning the championship that same year.
Manganang won multiple Most Valuable Player awards in her career, and helped the Indonesian national team win the bronze and silver medals at different editions of the Southeast Asian Games (SEA). But her amazing achievements were always put into question, because of haw she looked.
With big shoulders, muscular physique, flat chest and visible mustache, Aprilia Manganang was never the most feminine volleyball player. Her ability to soar into the air and smash the ball into the opponents’ half won her the nickname “monster of the vertical jump”, but also fueled more allegations about her true gender.
Before the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore, Philippine volleyball officials protested and demanded that Aprilia Santini Manganang be subjected to a gender test, but the Southeast Asian Games Federation medical committee ruled against it, and Manganang was allowed to compete in the women’s team at that edition of the games and several subsequent others.
“I have undergone gender examinations a lot of times both in my former career as a sprinter and in volleyball and I wasn’t afraid of being tested again. I am ready (for a gender test). I am also not in the wrong — whatever I have is given from above,” the volleyball player said at the time. “If I am the one who is in the wrong then I will withdraw, but this is not the case and I am not afraid.”
The controversy around Aprilia’s gender continued until September of last year, when the decided to retire from women’s volleyball at the age of 28. Her decision left a lot of people in shock, especially because she had been so successful in the sport up to that point.
“On this occasion, I will tell Indonesian volleyball lovers that I am Aprilia Manganang have decided to resign from the world of volleyball,” she wrote on her Instagram account. “I made this decision, because I want to live a better life, want to reach the truth in my heart peacefully. Therefore, this is the best decision for me.”
Following her retirement as a professional athlete, Aprilia pursued a military career, as a second sergeant in the Army Women’s Corps. It was here that she was finally confirmed to be male, after living the past 28 years of her life as a woman.
According to the Independent Observer, when Aprilia Santini Manganang was examined at the Robert Wolter Monginsidi Army Hospital in Manado, there were clear indications that she wasn’t actually a woman. Due to limited testing equipment at the hospital, she was set to the Gatot Subroto Army Central Hospital in Jakarta for further checks. The Army’s official statement this month was pretty clear.
“Today I want to convey information about one of the Army soldiers, namely Second Sergeant Aprilia Santini Manganang. Aprilia Manganang is not as lucky as all of us. So when she was born, this child had abnormalities in the reproductive system. In health terminology it is called Hypospadias,” Army Chief Andika Perkasa said.
“From the results of the examination, it turns out that from the urological examination, Sergeant Manganang has more male sex organs, he does not even have female internal organs,” Andika added.
“Then the hormonal tests were giving the same results. The hormone testosterone was also measured and it was found that Sergeant Manganang has hormonal levels that fall into the normal male category. MRI radiological examinations also revealed the same thing.”
The former star volleyball player was quick to adopt her true gender, changing her name to Aprilio Perkasa Manganang, adopting a new, more masculine haircut and men’s clothing. He even put out a statement about how relieved he was about the news.
“This is a moment that I have been waiting for, I am really happy. Praise the Lord, I can get through this, I thank you all for helping me to find myself,” Manganang said during a virtual conference. “I thank the doctors who have helped me, I am very happy, I have been waiting for 28 years and finally this year it was achieved.”
Indonesian news outlets reported that Aprilio was born with hypospadias, the second-most common birth abnormality of the male reproductive system. It is characterized by the fact that the urethra does not open from its usual location in the head of the penis, but at the base. Due to limited medical equipment at the time, he was identified as possessing female Instruments, and lived as a woman for 28 years of his life.
Financial issues prevented Aprilio’s family from carrying out further medical investigations, so the female gender was recorded on his birth certificate and identity card.
Aprilio Manganang’s story went viral in Indonesia, with most reactions towards his true gender reveal being positive, although there were those who brought all those achievements in women’s volleyball into question, now that he has finally been confirmed a man.