‘If I don’t have sex I’ll die of hunger’: Covid-19 crisis for Rio’s trans sex workers

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02/20/2020

Social distancing is keeping people off the streets of central Rio de Janeiro. And that has created serious challenges for its trans sex workers, who have seen their clientele, and their income, melt away. “You can see what it’s like: empty streets, shops closed, the fallen economy ” says Elba Tavares, 44, from Paraíba state in north-east Brazil. “I am no longer in that rush of prostitution but yes, I sell my body.” But, she says: “There are very few customers.” Fear and prejudice in Brazil drive many trans people into the sex trade but life on the street for a trans sex worker is never easy. “Only the strong survive, and I’m not one of the strongest. I’m one of the weakest,” she says, “and weaker for being poor and for being trans. Even if I was trans and had something, the same discrimination would be there.”

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