“What can I do tonight for you sir? Any business?”
Rebecca shouted after a car along Jackson Street in Curepe. The vehicle did not stop. It was a response Rebecca was all too familiar with, at least since COVID-19 infiltrated T&T’s shores.
The time was 9 pm at month’s end, usually her peak period. She said she would have been lucky to get a client before midnight.
“Some nights on a good night, I used to go home with $2,500, now you going home with $400. Sometimes you don’t even go home with any at all,” Rebecca said, sporting a short black dress and a blonde wig.
Rebecca identified as a person of trans-experience, meaning someone whose gender identity does not match their assigned sex from birth. Her clientele is quite diverse.
“Police officers, businessmen, gangster men…just about anybody with money.”
But they are not seeking her out as they used to.
“It has changed drastically. You may come out from 7 pm and you may stand up till 1 am and you won’t get the first client. You may get the first client around 2 o’clock,” Rebecca said, as a vehicle pulled up. Rebecca invited him to join her.
Social distancing has threatened the very core of her business model. While some may think sex will always sell or may be a crisis-proof industry, Rebecca said that’s not the case.
She has even had to adjust her prices, saying a little is better than nothing at this point.
“With my regular clients, if for example my normal price is $500 and they come with a $300, then I would not pass on that.”
While Rebecca wonders how she will now make ends meet, the scare of COVID-19 is on the front burner as well.
Rebecca is asking clients to be faithful.
“I does tell them, Mr Man, you are going to have to stick to one client until COVID done. If you have a wife stick to your wife and if you coming out to meet me then meet me and go but if you coming out to meet me, she and the old lady, then we can wrap this up until after COVID and I’ll see you if you survive.”
Rebecca said sex workers are now more visible and targeted by police officers enforcing COVID-19 control measures.
“It all depends on the officers that are out. You know you have some officers who are very hostile, they will jumbie you right through but there are officers who understand your situation so they will tell you to try and wrap it up and go home.”
It’s an already risky job that now has another layer of danger. Brandy Rodrigues, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Transgender Coalition believes it is time to resume the conversation around decriminalizing sex work so that those abused while on duty can get justice.
But Rebecca cannot wait for legislation nor for the virus to pass. If she doesn’t work, she does not eat and to keep a roof over her head, there can be no sick days.