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On the Front Line with the Women Who Fight Back by Stacey Dooley

On the Front Line with the Women Who Fight Back by Stacey Dooley

Author:Stacey Dooley
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Ebury Publishing


7

Babs, Derya and Tiera

Trans prostitution

Babs was amazing. She was my girl. She was so, so warm and lovely. As we walked along the street, she’d clasp my hand and kiss me and say, ‘Oh, my Stacey!’

She was larger than life, bubbling with vitality, typically Latin; a huge character with deep, soulful eyes and a dazzling smile. I really liked her and felt sure we’d be pals if I lived in Rio de Janeiro, her hometown. And her family were so sweet – her nan, all her pals. It was great to hang out with them.

‘Stacey! Come and sit down! Have some food with us,’ they’d say. They were so friendly and welcoming.

Babs was a top performer at the Rio Carnival, a total star. She was the first transgender woman ever to lead the parade, which is a massive deal in a country where people spend all year long looking forward to Carnival. Wow. You literally cannot overestimate what a privilege and an honour it was for her to fill that role.

It was like a fairytale. When the cameras were on Babs and her image was being beamed to tens of millions of people around the world, she was celebrated for being a beautiful and talented performer. She was the face and body of a liberal, accepting culture. She was the star of the show, the queen of samba, right up there with the rest of Brazil’s top celebs. She was an inspiration.

But everything changed as soon as the dust settled on Carnival season.

One minute she was up on a pedestal and her life was all sequins, glitz and glamour as she led the parade at the Sambadrome, the next she dropped out of the sky and landed with a bump on the streets, where she struggled to earn her living as a prostitute. Overnight she went from celebrity to social down-and-out.

The contrast felt really stark: during carnival she was centre stage, respected, admired and adored; the rest of the time she was on the side of the street running the risk of being killed. It was a dramatic fall from grace and understandably confusing for her. She couldn’t help asking why society had such double standards, especially as many of the cisgendered star performers at Carnival had lucrative jobs as actors, models and entertainers during the rest of the year.

Babs longed to give up prostitution. Unlike Alvora in Russia, she truly despised it. She loathed being on the streets – there was no part of her that enjoyed being a sex worker. But when times were hard, it was her only way of paying bills and supporting her nan.

It feels like the world is waking up to the vast numbers of people whose gender identity doesn’t match their birth-assigned sex, as well as the idea that gender can vary beyond simply being male or female. But life as a trans person remains incredibly challenging, even in countries like Brazil that have a history of tolerance and liberalism. Babs was a



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