Trans people globally live under the constant threat of violence, and for trans sex workers this is heightened by illegality & stigma. This Trans Day of Remembrance we’re sharing a short statement from a migrant trans woman in our network on how criminalisation impacts sex workers’ safety
My name is Gabriela, I am a transsexual woman and sex worker for 25 years. There are few options where I come from. I did not want to starve on the streets. For some of us to leave our home countries, it is for survival. Life can be unbearable with violence and discrimination.
But many of us leave our home country for more than basic survival. I stayed alive in Brazil for many years. I hope for more than just surviving. I had dreams of coming to Europe, for more acceptance, for freedom, for the money and security, and to support my family.
It takes a lot to leave family and friends hoping for a better life and when we come here to find this same intolerance and hatred. It is also very frightening to not have the papers to work or live. You must live your life hidden. You have no power.
The work is very dangerous, the clients may attack you, refusing to pay, rape you. The laws do not protect us. The police where I am from are our abusers, they have much power to do what they want, they extort and terrorise us, and the laws enable this.
In the UK I do not report violence. The police everywhere are sexist, racist and transphobic. It’s not worth it. You do not want to be arrested or deported. You will not be believed anyway, or blamed for bringing this on yourself, for being a migrant, a prostitute, transsexual.
Your life is not seen as having value. The clients know this, so they target you, also the gangs, with robberies, you are an easy target for them. They know you are working alone and cannot report these things.
The “feminists” call for the clients to be criminalized – but the prostitution does not go away, it is just to become more hidden, and when this happens we are attacked more, exploited more.
They look at us not as workers that are in need of having rights, but as victims who do not know we are being exploited. This is why they talk at us, and do not listen to what we are to say about our own situation.
The exploitation and violence we suffer, this cannot be solved through the criminalization. To give more powers to the police it is bad for sex workers, They have never been here to give us protection.
Friends who work in France since the law change there, they work now deeper in the forest, there have been many more attacks, more murders of migrant trans women. The laws they affect mostly those of us already at high risk of violence.
Decriminalization of course will not solve everything, but it will remove some of these things that make life hard and dangerous. The police will still treat me bad I am sure, but I will have more rights to make demands, work safer and report violence without arrest for myself.
We need the feminists to stand with us to demand these protections and rights for us, for the power to be put in our hands to improve these situations, and to fight with us against border control, racism, police abuses, anti-trans laws and poverty which is putting us in danger.