San Francisco Task Force on Prostitution
Final Report 1996
Prostitution Task Force
Sex Workers' Issues Testimony Meeting-Kiki Whitlock
I'm speaking as a private citizen, not for any agency or any organization but as a person who has a testimony to give. In terms of myself, just a little background.
I am Filipina American. I am a post operative transsexual person. That means I had genital reassignment surgery to change my sex, not my gender, but my sex. And I want to talk today about some of the issues within the Transgender community. Basically let's start off by giving a couple of concepts to everybody. Transgender is an umbrella term that we use, to talk about different types of people. They can be transsexual, cross dressers, and other people that challenge the gender boundaries. The transsexual person is either a person who has had some type of genital surgery to change their sex, or they desire to. The cross dresser or transvestite is the person who wears the other gender's clothes or they get into that aspect of it, of expressing their gender through clothing. Other people who challenge the gender scope would be people who consider themselves androgynous, and as well as considering themselves as transgender, also it could be impersonators, people who do shows or entertain in terms of expressing their gender through different roles.
To talk about some of my own personal experience, I did sex work before, and people do sex work for different reasons. For me, it wasn't that I did it because that was the only job I could get or because I was coerced into doing it. I did it because I wanted to. I just wanted to see what it was about. And I used to work out of a place called the Black Rose. Its not around anymore, but many people who know the Tenderloin District-- it was a place between Eddy and Ellis on Jones. Most people know that was a bar for transgendered people and alot of the patrons came into that bar came there for the express purpose of meeting transsexuals, cross dressers and other transgendered people either for sex for pay, or for sex for free, whatever the case was. So, in that place many people worked out of there. It was a working bar for most of the people and by and large it's mostly male to female, as opposed to female to male however some people do think that only male to female transgendered people do sex work, but that's not the case. There are many FTM or female to male people who do sex work as well. I know many.
In that Black Rose I did this work because I wanted to see what the transgender community had to deal with in terms of what this life was all about. And for me it was really eye opening because I really saw first hand all of the issues such as discrimination, because you are transgender, by the mainstream society, and definitely lots and lots of harassment particularly by people like the police and other people in law enforcement. Many people that are transgender do sex work strictly because they consider it as a way to survive, so it is survival sex. I would think for most of the transgender people that I know, because they face issues of discrimination of employment, housing, health care and public accommodations, and often times they aren't going to be able to get a job because society won't give them the opportunity. So sex work is a way in which they can survive, but it really puts them at a very big disadvantage because often times people take advantage of the fact that this may be the only way you can survive, so they can feel free to discriminate.
Telling you a little bit about another personal story. When I did sex work, I remember going to jail once, and I remember how I was treated, and I am a post operative transsexual woman and I was treated like shit. So I really knew it must be worse if I had been pre-operative, and didn't have the surgery, or if I had been a cross dresser. It's even worse, I remember them telling me, well, we're just going to throw you in this tank when it was supposedly to by in a place called the queens tank where they put transgender people. I said I'm not going there because I'm a woman, and then so the first question came, Are you a sex change? I was totally appalled because it was like they wanted to have me prove who I was. I don't know anybody else in society who has to prove who they are. Because of this situation, they have to determine what's between someone's legs but being that I was at a distinct disadvantage by being in jail I had no choice but to cooperate if I wanted to be put with women where I knew I belonged. I remember the doctor or the nurse or some medical person taking me into a little room and asking me to show what I have, and I did that and she said, that's a good job you got there. So it was like, okay, you're a woman, you come with me. To make a long story short, these are just some basic issues that are just obvious in terms of the transgender community and people having to face different types of harassment.
In concluding, there is this new piece of legislation that people might have heard about that I have worked really hard with in terms of helping transgender people get some type of legal protection from discrimination in all of the areas that I mentioned, definitely in the areas of employment and accommodations, also police would have to adhere to this new policy in terms of whether a transgender person is a victim or whether they are a person who is alleged to have committed a crime. They should be treated with all of the human respect and dignity that anyone else is given. I would think that many police are going to have to get themselves together in terms of this whole issue of dealing with the Transgender community because there's always going to be people like me around. Maybe I won't always be around, but there will be somebody. Watch Out.
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