updated 21 Sep 2013, 12:56
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So resolute to turn from prostitute to respected worker
by Benson Ang

Singapore - This local transgender woman says that the discrimination got so bad, she turned to prostitution to make ends meet.

The 37-year-old, who wants to be known only as Jolian, was born male.

She is 1.65m tall and slim. Although she dropped out of school in Secondary 3, she is well-spoken and attractive - a natural for sales and front-line jobs.

Yet, she turned to prostitution for nine months because she couldn't think of any other way to earn a living.

In the past, she was a hawker, cashier, clerk and fast-food worker.

She stayed in each job for about a year or less.

This, she claims, was because she was ostracised at work for being a transsexual.

When she was retrenched from her cosmetics promoter job in 2002, she was at a loss.

Jolian immediately applied for sales jobs. But after three months, she was still not successful.

She says: "I was rejected so many times because I'm neither a real guy nor girl. Employers wouldn't give me any opportunities."

She hadn't had her sex reassignment surgery then, so she had to apply as a male for jobs.

And this worked against her the minute she showed up for interviews.

She says: "The interviewers looked at me and I knew I wasn't going to get hired."

Demoralised, she confined herself to her rented flat in Telok Blangah.

She didn't have money to go out. She was late in paying her utility bills.

One night, she returned home to find the electricity had been cut off.

She says: "I was desperate. My savings were running out."

That's when she turned to prostitution.

Every night, she stood at Changi Village, waiting for customers to pick her up.

"I felt that whatever money I could earn from there, it would at least keep me going until I could get a job again.

"It was so demeaning to sell myself. But I had no choice."

To add salt to her wounds, she says, she lost out to the prettier transsexuals, who had bigger eyes and fairer skin.

These girls, whom she calls "sisters", could make $600 a night easily. But Jolian struggled to make $100 a night she claims, despite hanging around for hours.

She says: "I arrived at 10pm and stayed until 7am. Most sisters went home at around 2am.

"I realised that if I stayed until the morning, I stood a higher chance of earning money because the pretty ones had left.

"I could also catch the early morning bus home and save on cab fare."

Back then, her "work attire" consisted of low-cut tops, miniskirts and high heels.

"I had to wear as little as possible to attract more customers. But on the bus, the commuters looked at me with disdain. I felt so humiliated. I could only fight back my tears.

"Those were the worst months of my life."

Being a prostitute was also dangerous. There was fierce competition between the "sisters", even back-stabbing and catfights over customers.

Jolian also risked getting arrested for soliciting.

Clients could turn nasty. Some "sisters" were robbed and raped, she claims.

"The top girls were the easiest targets. They made a lot. Once, a 'sister' was robbed and raped so badly, she had to be hospitalised." Jolian knew this was not the life for her.

When she returned home in the mornings, she scoured the newspapers for jobs, hoping to find work elsewhere.

She skipped sleep to prepare for interviews. That's when she thought of being a courier.

She says: "There was always dispatch work available and employers didn't care if you were transsexual.

"They only cared that you had a licence and were willing to work."

So Jolian scrimped and saved to buy a motorcycle and take riding lessons.

By the end of 2002, she had saved $7,000 and she made a down payment for a Honda Phantom.

And she left Changi Village for good.

Through a friend's recommendation, Jolian found work in an engineering firm.

Through hard work and perseverance, she was promoted to the position of quality surveyor.

She is now pursuing a diploma in engineering in a private school.

She says: "If I can excel at my job, I'm sure that, given the chance, other transsexuals can too."

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readers' comments
Wondered is it due to you looking like from a Korean boy band?
Posted by mystrawberry on Thu, 19 Sep 2013 at 10:17 AM

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