I didn’t transform into a woman; I became aware that I was one.
At the age of fifteen, June began her hormone replacement therapy. It was around this time that she was drawn to Singapore’s red-light district, which she says was a safe space where transgender individuals congregated. “Thirty years ago, there were no apps such as Grindr, Tinder or places such as gay bars. The red-light district became a place where I could mingle with other people just like me, to be safe and part of a community, to get advice from my sisters, and feel loved. It was a place where I was seen as who I was on the inside.”
Gay men and women have the choice of keeping their sexual orientations a secret, coming out only when they feel safe to do so. Transgender people enjoy no such luxury: They wear their gender identities on their sleeves, literally. The appearance of a man in woman’s clothes or a woman with a buzz cut is incongruous with what society deems as acceptable. When transgender children or teenagers get chased out of their homes because of their overt behaviours, they have to turn to sex work, because they have no other qualifications or skills. The sex industry is the only one that does not discriminate their gender identities.
But then a vicious cycle begins. When a sex worker is arrested and incarcerated for soliciting, her possessions are thrown away. The first night she is out of jail, she needs sixty dollars to pay for rental and food. To get that money, she has to slip back into sex work — it is the only way she knows how.
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