Tina K. Russell

September 8, 2009

Transsexuality and sex work

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tina Russell @ 6:09 pm

Like many transsexuals in Malaysia, a conservative and mostly Muslim country, the clash between ID card and appearance means Tasha is shunned by employers, and forced to make her living as a sex worker.

“It’s a hard life, people don’t like us, they’re always making fun of us,” she says as she prepares for another night in the grimy alleyways of Chow Kit, the red light district of the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Tasha endures drunken clients, violent pimps, and aggressive competition from other transsexual prostitutes, but what really frightens her are the raids mounted by police and religious authorities.

via AFP: Twilight life of Malaysia’s Muslim transsexuals.

The stereotype of the transsexual prostitute is difficult because it is part true. Transsexuals in large numbers, all over the world, are forced into prostitution because of two factors: the sheer expense of physical transition, and the difficulty of finding regular work. The stereotype then becomes self-perpetuating, as people being to associate transsexuality with sex work and employers presume they are no good for anything else. (This is what makes words like “tranny” so hurtful and problematic: a word so tightly associated with prostitution cements an impression in people that makes it hard for trans women to find work as anything else.)

However, the problem of people’s overly close mental association of transsexuality and prostitution should never be a reason to cover up the original problem. This article does a good job of highlighting the original problem. Remember that transsexuals actually make much less in sex work than cissexuals; the reason we’re so prominent in the trade is that we lack the healthcare and the official and cultural respect that is due anybody in a civilized society. (And, the article averts transsexual profile cliché number one by not showing a picture of her putting on makeup—hooray!)

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