WATCH | Trans, homeless and without an income in the pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic quickly rendered sex workers without an income with those who are transgender and homeless hit particularly hard.

In various areas of Cape Town, homeless transgender sex workers are living under bridges, in open fields or wherever they can find a space in which to set up a home. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected these women’s lives significantly. 

Shortly after South Africa was placed under national lockdown in March to halt the spread of the coronavirus, sex workers’ movement Sisonke and the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) announced that sex workers were “the hardest-hit group of workers [affected] by the global pandemic”. 

Khanyisile Phillips, a community engagement officer from trans rights organisation Gender DynamiX, said the situation was worse for homeless trans sex workers. 

“Any other trans person might be marginalised, but when it comes to homeless sex workers who are also trans-identifying, they are the most marginalised,” said Phillips. “Not being able to make money [because of the pandemic] puts them under further strain and makes them more vulnerable. People don’t want to engage with them because they are on the streets and seen as carriers of the virus. They suffer severely.”

In this film, commissioned by Gala Queer Archive, homeless transgender sex workers speak on how the pandemic is affecting them.

Video by Carl Collison
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