Sex work is my career. I chose my job
Sex work is my career. I chose my job
I was born and grew up in Gugulethu. My mother raised me and my brother. My father was around but we didn’t live all together. I didn’t have the name for it but I always felt I was a girl in a boy’s body. The first time I felt it was when I was three years old. My aunt told me that if they dressed me in boys’ clothes, I would go outside and come back naked. Even at that age, I sensed there was something wrong with this! When I was about five years old I remember being out at the shops with my parents and crying my heart out because I wanted them to buy me a dress. My father was furious. He wanted to beat me
You just get scared
I think he infected my mother with HIV so when I was about 11, both of my parents died within six months of each other. I went to live with my grandmother but I already started taking care of myself even then. My mother knew my sexuality would bring me problems so she had enrolled me at a good school in the city, not in the community, but I dropped out. I was young when I started sex work but I didn’t call it that. Around 18, I met the people from SWEAT and I met other transwomen there. That was the age when I really started taking clients who I met at clubs. It was also the time I was introduced to drugs. I used drugs to deal with the things I had experienced. I’ve seen a lot. Hate crimes and that stuff. We don’t have enough time to go through all the things I’ve experienced, like being raped by a policeman. You expect to be protected by a policeman but then that happens and you give up on the police. You see a policeman and you think ‘he is capable of the same thing the other one did’. You just get scared.
I’m not a baby. I’m a big transgender sex worker woman!
A material girl
So back then I was making money and I felt good about it. Remember, I was living with my granny and it felt good to not stress her about money. I also realised I was a material girl. I felt the need to look a certain way in the location, especially after going to a good school in the city. Sex work allowed me to maintain that look and clients would appreciate the way I looked - how gorgeous and fresh I was. We prefer foreign guys, hey. During the Soccer World Cup in 2010 we made a mess of Cape Town! The money was beautiful. I was on fire.
I get the help and support I need
The Hands Off programme taught us about our rights, how we can take care of ourselves, how we can bank our money, how we can report abuse to the police. With this programme, I have also been able to sensitise a lot of people, even my own family. I get the help and support I need but what I need now is just to be safe when I go out there to work. And I love my work, hey. I am a liaison officer at SWEAT but sex work is my career. I chose my job. When I’m tired, I stop. When I don’t want to do it, I don’t do it. If I want to work at midnight, I can work at midnight. This work makes me rich and I don’t mean rich as in
buying cars rich, I mean rich in freedom.
Coming out of it is my destiny
Going through everything I’ve gone through was my destiny, but coming out of it is also my destiny. When I was 12 years old, I wrote a letter in the back of a bible asking God to make me a body that I want and to look after me and to look after my granny and my family and that kind of stuff. I have started the process of getting gender reassignment surgery and a former client is paying for it, so I will get the body I want one day. I am also just waiting for a place in rehab so once I go through that and stop using drugs, all my prayers will be answered. You know, my aunt still has that bible and I must go look at that letter again!
Aquila, Cape Town
16 Days of Activism 2019
Aidsfonds focuses its 16 Days of Activism campaign on reducing violence against sex workers. We share successful approaches and real-life experiences. Don't miss out on a story, visit our 16 Days of Activism page.