Marginalized and stigmatized – China's transgender sex workers

Gabriel Domínguez and Juan Ju
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"I usually never left the apartment before 9 or 10 PM. But when I once did my neighbors saw me and accused me of being a female impersonator. They reported me to the neighborhood committee who then brought a police officer to inspect my temporary residence permit. As a result, the landlord kicked me out of my apartment."

These are the words of Haima, a transgender sex worker living in Shanghai, speaking to Asia Catalyst, a non-governmental organization which focuses on health and human rights in China and Southeast Asia. According to its latest report, transgender sex workers like Haima are among the most marginalized and vulnerable populations in China today.

Based on interviews with female transgender sex workers across Beijing and Shanghai, the authors of the 72-page report argue that this minority suffers from intense social ostracism as well as legal and economic marginalization, leaving them vulnerable to both HIV infection and abuse at the hands of law enforcement officials. All of the interviewees featured in the document – 35 each in Beijing and Shanghai – were born male, but "presented as women while doing sex work."

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