Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

#KaraniwangLGBT

My peers are my mentors in sex work: How Kris started and stayed as a sex worker since 17

20-year-old transgender woman Kris engaged in sex work when she was 17 or 18, mainly because of the influence of friends. These friends – for better or worse – continue to be her main source of support, including on staying safe while working, with organized institutions failing to serve sex workers.

Image used for illustration purpose only; all photos by Cao Quốc Hưng from Pexels.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.”

Twenty-year-old transgender woman Kris was maybe 17 or 18 when she started doing sex work. “Sa kadtong amiga nako, nag kuyog-kuyog ra ko nila ba taga-gabii, then, like, masuya dayun lagi ko kay makakuwarta sila ikaghuman nilang kuwan. Mao tu nisunod na lang ko. Ara sa Mandaue (I went out with my friends every night, and I was annoyed that they earned after engaging in sex. So I did what they did. That was in Mandaue).”

Even then, the amount received varied. “Ang bayad depende ra. Kung BJ ra, blowjob kay naa sa ₱100 or ₱150. Unya kung ganahan ka magpa-sex gyud, anal, kay depende lang pud sa sabot. Kung gamay kanang ilang ihatag, like ₱300, ana, ₱250, dawaton lang sad namo. Kuwarta lagi (The payment received varied. If it’s just oral sex, you get ₱100 or ₱150. If you are willing to have ‘real’ sex, you haggle. The smallest amount they give is ₱300 or ₱250, but you still accept it. That’s still money).

Sexual activities, for Kris, have been occurring “sa sulod sa kalibunan, sa kanang may grass-grass ba (in grassy areas)”, not too far from bai hotel in Mandaue in Cebu, where – along with her friends – Kris spends almost every night.

And in a way, this has become Kris’s world… at least for now.

COMING OUT TRANS

Kris’s parents separated when she was still young; her father had numerous partners, so she has six siblings from her father’s side (she’s the second child), while her mother – as Kris dismissively said – “also has hers.”

Kris knew she’s trans when she was five or six years old. Initially – and even if she knew her family already knew about it – Kris didn’t show her true self “kay nahadlok ko basin dili na ko dawaton (I was scared they wouldn’t accept me).”

Sexual activities, for Kris, have been occurring “sa sulod sa kalibunan, sa kanang may grass-grass ba (in grassy areas)”, not too far from bai hotel in Mandaue in Cebu, where – along with her friends – Kris spends almost every night.

All the same, Kris openly lived as trans outside of her home, joining LGBTQIA beaty pageants even at a very young age. It was in one such pageant, joined when she was eight years old, that her family found out how she publicly lived. “Nalipay sila tungod nga nabal-an na nila na ing-ana jud diay ilang anak or apo. Bayot gyud. Okay ra man sila. Dawat na nila (They were happy when they found out their child is really like this. Part of the LGBTQIA community. They were okay with this. They now accept it).”

Growing up trans, Kris remembered her mother repeatedly tell her not to pursue sex work… or live a salacious LGBTQIA life. “Akong mama, magtudlo man sad siya about nang ingon ana, dili na ka magpa-toyang o mugamit ug laki kuno, basig kanang maka-kuwan daw na siya sa lawas, naa daw’y mahatag nga bati sa lawas, kanang like AIDS, ana. Nahadlok pud siya tungod sa akong (bayot) nga iyaan; nag-TB siya. Patay na. Namaligya pud siya sauna (My mother, she told me not to be promiscuous and frequently have sex with men because this could be bad for my body as they could infect me with something, like AIDS. She’s also afraid because I had a gay uncle; he had TB. He’s dead now. He was also a sex worker).”

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

PHYSICAL SAFETY OVER ANYTHING ELSE

Kris understood all of her mother’s fears… but while working the streets, more than the implication on her sexual health, she grew more scared of the risks of sex work on her physical being.

“First time nako tu, kay nahadlok jud kaayo ko. Kay akong huna-huna ato basin kanang unsaon ko diri. Kanang naa bay something nga matabo nga bati. Naa ba ni siya dala nga armas, o kutsilyo? Ana (The first time I did it, I was really scared. I was thinking at that time that they may do something to me. I have heard of bad things done to others. I thought, does this person have a weapon or a knife? Something like that).”

And so while Kris worried about getting infected with STI, “para nako, ang mas dako nakong probema kana gyud na naa gyud ka sa situation nga ana, kana gani nga naay gipangdala nga kutsilyo. Kana akong mas dako nga problema (for me, a bigger problem is being placed in a situation like that, when clients could have knives. That’s a bigger problem for me).”

Kris knew she’s trans when she was five or six years old. Initially – and even if she knew her family already knew about it – Kris didn’t show her true self “kay nahadlok ko basin dili na ko dawaton (I was scared they wouldn’t accept me).”

SOURCING SUPPORT FROM PEERS

Even now, most of what Kris knows about STI, particularly about HIV, comes from other sex workers. “Naa sad mi grupo sa among barangay. Nakapanudlo sila sa mga HIV, unsaon ang kuwan… paglikay (We also have a group in our barangay. They teach us about HIV, and how to avoid getting infected).”

Alas, what these people know continue to be limited – e.g. the over-emphasis on using condoms and lubricants to avoid HIV infection; and lack of knowledge, or even awareness, about other tools that can be used, particularly pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

Kris understood all of her mother’s fears… but while working the streets, more than the implication on her sexual health, she grew more scared of the risks of sex work on her physical being.

Kris, like her mentors, mainly source information from informal channels – e.g. YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok. “Feeling nako dili ko makakuha ug information about PrEP kung walay internet kay wala man say nag-topic ana (I feel that you can’t get information about PrEP if there’s no internet because no one discusses this with us),” she said, adding, nonetheless that “ang nakit-an sa internet, gamay ra man tu sya nga salida (what I see online, that’s not much).”

And yet, with official channels still not their preferred service providers (e.g. barangay health centers, NGOs), this reliance on peers.

But this is what it’s like for Kris for now… and perhaps others like her, only relying on others with the same experience as herself, instead of those supposed to render services to her. “Kay naa man sila (Because they’re there),” she said, so “sila na lang tuohan (you just believe them).”

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. He grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City), but he "really came out in Sydney" so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing, and a developed world". 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).

Advertisement
Advertisement

Like Us On Facebook

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Health & Wellness

In a study of trans masculine people who use testosterone and who no longer menstruate, 33% still showed signs of recent ovulation in the...

NEWSMAKERS

The Archdiocese of Capiz is disallowing the holding of LGBTQIA beauty pageants the day before, and on the actual day of the fiesta, as...

#KaraniwangLGBT

Meet Dale, who - after discovering his intersex variation when he got sick when he was only six years old - underwent surgery to...

#KaraniwangLGBT

Meet transgender woman Jam, who started sex work at 17. Though she used to earn only ₱500 per customer, nowadays, she can make from...

Advertisement