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Transgender Filipina Sex Workers Stay in U.S. Despite Dangers

in UNITED STATES, 01/11/2012

In the first of a two-part series in the magazine for Filipino-American New Yorkers, Elton Lugay (with additional reporting from Cristina DC Pastor) looks at the struggles of transgender Filipina sex workers in New York, including some who are undocumented. Among many Filipino transgender women in New York – out of an estimated transgender population of 12,500 in the city — prostitution is a way of life. Employment and survival are the usual reasons for being a sex worker, but advocates are finding out there are others.

Transgender sex workers who are undocumented often bear the twin burdens of discrimination and oppression, say advocates. In some cases, even those who are gainfully employed engage in the sex trade, prompting sneer comments directed toward a lifestyle some would consider revolting and immoral.

Not all transgender women are sex workers, cautioned Sienna Baskin, co-director of the Sex Workers Project (SWP) advocacy organization. Neither is she saying that all transgender women doing sex work feel oppressed or discriminated. “But some of those who chose to do it, do so possibly because there are no other options.”

Several transgender Filipinos explained their reasons for staying in the sex trade here in New York.

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