Sex work is the only way these trans women can survive during the pandemic, and it’s all thanks to Donald Trump
Sex workers' rights protest in New York, 2019. (Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Trans women in New York are being forced to continue selling sex to survive during the pandemic because their lack of documentation excludes them from emergency financial assistance.
Speaking on Showtime’s Vice docuseries, two undocumented Latinx trans women in New York spoke about their fears for their safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two women were already vulnerable – both are from Latin America, where the life expectancy for a trans woman is just 35 – but the global health crisis has exponentially increased the risks they face.
Both women sought asylum at the US border, and were then detained and later released by ICE, but both continue to be monitored with ankle bracelets.
Without legal status, “sex work becomes their only way of survival”, Vice reported.
And despite not being able to work while maintaining social distance, despite not having access to the masks recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they “have to” keep working to live – even though, with New York the epicentre of the US coronavirus crisis, they fear catching the disease.
“Only God knows how we would recover, or if we would recover. That’s our fear,” one said.
Undocumented people have provided many of the essential services during the pandemic, while being excluded from emergency financial support.
It is this that means sex work is vital to their survival, even while it risks their lives, the two trans women said.
Reporter Paola Ramos said: “Many of us are thinking about what it means to survive a pandemic.
“But if you’re undocumented and transgender, that meaning has turned into something completely different.
“You have to go through so many other barriers, you have to think through so many other plans.”
She added: “It is shocking to understand that for some people, staying home is not an option. That’s not part of the vocabulary.
“The trans undocumented migrants that we talked to are forced to do sex work because it’s their only way of survival.”
Some people in the US were eligible for federal coronavirus stimulus money announced at the beginning of April as part of a $2trillion stimulus package – the largest economic stimulus in US history.
Cheques of up to $1,200 were posted to US taxpayers, and those directly affected by the economic impact of COVID-19 were supposed to get robust financial support.
However, Trump’s package did not include undocumented migrants.