Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

This is what it’s like being a sex worker: ‘Police dragged me out in public naked’

My name is Cleopatra. I’m from Mitchell’s Plain and I’m a sex worker.

I identify as a trans woman. I wear short mini skirts and high heels. I’ve been doing sex work for seven years and have been living on the street for 10 years.

I’m working here in Cape Town, under the bridge. The police chase me away like a dog.

They would shout: “Ai ai, move move! You can’t stand here!”

I would ask them: “But why can’t I stand here? Why can’t I walk up and down here?”

“You can’t just chase me. I’m not a dog. I’m a human being.”

One night I did business with this guy. Then the privates [the police] came up. I was naked and the client had his pants down.

The one policeman grabbed the client.

I said: “No stop it! You can’t come just like that and grab the man. You have no right to do that.”

Then the other two policemen came. Each one took me by an arm.

I was still naked.

They pulled me around, dragged me around. Then they took me out into a public space. Everyone could see me.

I pleaded with them: “Can’t you give me my skirt? Or put me in the van? You can’t mos do this to me.”

They refused to put me in the van.

“Ja, but you’re a man,” they said. “You come and fuck with other men here and let yourself be fucked in your ass and you give the men blowjobs and things!”

But I am not a man. I’m a transwoman.

The people were standing around, looking and laughing.

“Hahaha”, they laughed. “Look, it’s a man!” — Cleopatra, a sex worker in Cape Town as told to Dylan Bush

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Mbeki tells ANC that land without compensation goes against the...

‘This would be a very serious disincentive to investment,’ says Thabo Mbeki in a document arguing that the ANC should not proceed with the Constitutional amendment of section 25

Micro-hydropower lights up an Eastern Cape village

There is hidden potential for small hydropower plants in South Africa

More top stories

Abattoir compliance for game meat will kill Eastern Cape industry,...

Last month, the department of agriculture issued a notice saying that the slaughter and dressing of game meat at any place other than an abattoir was prohibited, and that those not complying could be fined or imprisoned

Gauteng health system is heading for catastrophe

While officials remain entangled in bureaucratic knots, clinicians warn that the continued closure of the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital risks a ‘humanitarian disaster’

Entrepreneurship will save South Africa’s youth

Complaining about ‘reverse racism’ and BEE serves no one. South Africa’s white youth should focus on entrepreneurship instead

Union calls on government to nationalise ‘profit-driven’ Clover

The dairy’s Lichtenburg factory, which is being closed due to service delivery issues, employs about 380 permanent and 40 temporary workers
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×