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Life isn’t easy; sex work is worth considering – Jela Jane

Jela Jane said her entry into the sex industry was driven by need, which was worsened by her being transgender. “LGBTQIA people like us can’t find work due to discrimination. So we do this.”

PHOTOS USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSE ONLY; ALL IMAGES BY VITALII KHODZINSKYI FROM UNSPLASH.COM

This is part of #KaraniwangLGBTQIA, which Outrage Magazine officially launched on July 26, 2015 to offer vignettes of LGBT people/living, particularly in the Philippines, to give so-called “everyday people” – in this case, the common LGBTQIA people – that chance to share their stories.
As Outrage Magazine editor Michael David C. Tan says: “All our stories are valid – not just the stories of the ‘big shots’. And it’s high time we start telling all our stories.”

Jela Jane, 22, was exposed to sex early. “Since Grade 4 pa, ga-sex na ko. Pa-BJ ra to (I have been engaging in sexual activities since I was in Grade 4. Just oral sex, though).”

By the time she turned 20, “nag-start na ko ato (I started sex work then),” she said, mainly after noticing that her friends were earning from selling sex. “Na-feel nako nga, ‘Ay, makakuwarta diay sila ani na offer (I thought, ‘Oh, you can earn while offering this)!’

She also didn’t finish schooling “kay way kuwarta akong parents (my parents were broke).”

Currently, she works on- and offline, “whatever nga himuon para maka-income nga ginagmay (whatever needs to be done to earn some money).”

Kita man kong bayot di ta kakita ug work kay daghan kaayo discrimination. Mao na lang na (LGBTQIA people like us can’t find work due to discrimination. So we do this).”

LIVING AS TRANS

Jela Jane was maybe seven years old when she said she knew she’s trans. “Kana gani chalk, morag pulbos kay ako na i-eyeshadow. And then the pencil I used that for my eyebrows. At Grade 2, mangita na kog way nga mag-make-up kay na-feel na nako nga babaye na jud ko (I pulverize chalk, and use the powder as eyeshadow make-up. And then the pencil I used that for my eyebrows. At Grade 2, I looked for ways to apply make-up because I felt I’m a woman).”

Lain kaayo sa kinabuhi nga di ka tanggap sa imong parent (It’s hard when a parent can’t accept you),” she said.

Jela Jane’s mother was more accepting, however. When her father tried burning her make-up, it was her mother who saved it. “Kay makabantay akong nanay, kuhaon na sad ni nanay kay musukol man siya para nako (She’d notice the make-up to be burned, and so she’d save it because she fought for me).”

She recalled how – while she was in Grade 6 – her mother persuaded her father to just accept her. “Ingon akong nanay nga sige lang kay imo man gihapon na anak dawata na lang. Mao to nga ni-adopt na lang jud akong tatay, gidawat na lang jud ko (My mom said for hm to accept me since I’m still his child. He caved in and accepted me).”

Jela Jane is the second of three children. And right now, “tanan sila wala kabawo unsa akong trabaho ron (all of them do not know what I do for a living).”

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“At Grade 2, mangita na kog way nga mag-make-up kay na-feel na nako nga babaye na jud ko (At Grade 2, I looked for ways to apply make-up because I felt I’m a woman).”

CARING FOR SELF

As a sex worker, Jela Jane said she always uses condom. “My friends taught me. They told me that dapat safety lang daw (we should be safe).”

This is anchored on her fear of getting infected with HIV. “Dili pataka ug kuwan kay wa ka kabawo kung naa ba na siyay AIDS (You don’t just have sex with anyone because you ca’t tell if your partner has AIDS).”

For Jela Jane, “ang HIV, hugaw jud kaayo siya… Mahadlok pud matakuran. Kay gi-ingon, naa may tambal, pero dili man gud na ma-sustain ang tambal gud (HIV is very dirty… I am afraid of getting infected. They said there’s medicine for it, but it’s not like you can sustain taking the meds).”

Dili pataka ug kuwan kay wa ka kabawo kung naa ba na siyay AIDS (You don’t just have sex with anyone because you ca’t tell if your partner has AIDS).”

LEARNING IN LIFE

Her peers – also her friends – help drive the direction of Jela Jane’s life now. “Magpadayon aning work kay naa man diri ang friends (I’ll continue doing this line of work since my friends are in this industry, too),” she said.

Not that she always trusts her friends… in a manner of speaking. This is particularly since “sa mga friends, ang uban, inamaw gyud. Unya sagulag kabuang ba, so mura kag mag-duha-duha kanang imo gani paminawon o dili (with friends, some always kid around. They make fun of everything so you’d have second thoughts if you’d listen to them or not).”

All the same, “ingat na lang. Mao dapat ila-ilahon siguro nimo ang tawo siguro, unya kung unsa ang iyang lihok, unsa ang iyang lifestyle. Kanang makabawo jud ka nga limpyo jud siya (just be careful. This is why you really need to know your clients, their actuations, their lifestyles. You should be certain they’re truly clean).”

And with that, it’s “padayon ra sa (continue with) sex work… as long as you’re making a living.”

The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan completed BA Communication Studies from University of Newcastle in NSW, Australia; and Master of Development Communication from the University of the Philippines-Open University. Conversant in Filipino Sign Language, Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, and research (with pioneering studies under his belt). He authored "Being LGBT in Asia: Philippines Country Report", and "Red Lives" that creatively retells stories from the local HIV community. Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism, and Art that Matters - Literature from Amnesty Int'l Philippines in 2020. Cross his path is the dare (guarantee: It won't be boring).

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