I Was Once a Transgender Sex Worker in Malaysia

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Sex workers and transgenders are groups that hardly get attention in the media. We never talk about them, but they’re stigmatised and thought of as dirty and immoral. However, they’re as human as you and me.

Meet MS, who’s both a transgender woman, and a former sex worker.

She worked the streets of Changkat Bukit Bintang and prowled the heart of KL from August to December 2013.

How It All Started

I was actually working with an NGO before I became a sex worker. It wasn’t something I planned, but the NGO had some issues and they told me that the project I was working on wasn’t going to be continued.

I was out of a job. I needed something to cover my expenses immediately, as my savings were close to zero at the time, so I turned to sex work.

I stayed at a cheap hotel at the corner of Changkat Bukit Bintang. There were three of us sharing a room with a double bed, so we took turns using the room if any one of us had clients to bring back. I had some experience being an escort before, so the whole business wasn’t new to me.

In order to get customers, I’d hang around the night spots around Bukit Bintang. Clients usually spot you as a sex worker through your body language, dressing, and eye-contact. Experienced customers usually know what to look out for.

I was working solo and I had an average of about one customer every two or three days.

A Working Girl

My working hours were from about 9pm into the wee hours of the morning. I had a few interesting customers like this Datuk character. He saw me when I was just hanging out at the lobby of a 5-star hotel.

At first, he passed by with a group of associates and didn’t seem interested, but later he came back and made a proposition to me. His driver drove us to his mansion in a luxury car.

He was a clumsy lover, but he paid well so I didn’t mind. He paid me RM600 that night – the most I’ve ever made in one night.

But on the other hand, I also had about three clients run out on me without paying. That happens in this business. Other deals didn’t happen because of a ‘misunderstanding’.

For example, there was this one Japanese guy who didn’t know I was a transwoman. He brought me up to his hotel room and I broke the news to him. He didn’t believe it at first, so I guided his hand for a feel. He freaked out and we didn’t continue.

Security wasn’t that big an issue for me since I worked in an ‘open’ area, meaning that nobody had exclusive rights there. But there were a few close calls.

For example, there was this one time when there was this Indian guy who tried to engage my services, but I wasn’t in the mood for it at the time. We almost got into a scuffle. Luckily, the guy handling the valet parking nearby stepped in to help me.

Also, sometimes you get clients who try to take advantage of you. For example, they’d send one person to deal with you, but when you get to their room, it’s more than one person. Naturally, I rejected that client.

In terms of diseases, I always protected myself by making my customers wear a condom if it was penetrative sex. Oral sex was a bit of a risk for me, but it was a calculated risk since I won’t catch HIV unless I had a mouth injury. However, I was largely exposed to other STDs. Thankfully all the guys I met during my time as a sex worker were clean.

Image credit: MS

What Made Me Leave

There were a few things I wasn’t happy about. I just developed this loathing for men over the three months I was doing it. I actually quit before I even found a replacement job.

I still remember, during the last days before I quit, there was this boy, somewhere between the age of 15 to 18, who followed me around and started asking ‘how much for one round’. I got fed up, and stopped and threw a water bottle at him. That didn’t stop him. I had to pull out a pen-knife which I carried with me before he ran away.

Another time, one of my clients tried to have penetrative sex with me without using a condom. That really made me think ‘no more’. I became a misandrist because I simply hated men. When you’re disgusted with the main source of your income it’s no use to continue.

I was also tired of all the drama by the other transgender sex workers. They were vicious and would start quarrels. That was actually the bigger source of stress for me compared to the guys.

Can you imagine that some of them went to ‘bomohs’ (witch doctors) to put curses on other transwomen? I’m serious. They would cast spells to either make themselves look more attractive or make others around them look less so. Does it work? Well the power of belief is something very strong.

There was also the issue of foreign sex workers spoiling the market rate by charging really low. They have a higher quota of customers per night so they made it hard for the rest of us by charging so low.

During my final days as a sex worker I put out a call for help on social media saying that I wanted out, and if anyone can help me that would be great. So I had some of my friends channel a bit of money to my account. Someone else recommended me a flat for rent while another one recommended me to an employer who was looking for a secretary.

What I Learned on the Streets

I learned that many of my customers liked me because they thought that I was approachable, meaning that I interacted with them a lot rather than being stony and silent.

That has helped me a lot in my fulltime jobs. Regardless of what you do, having good social skills is important. You have to be able to interact with people.

Also, I learned to accept anyone and everyone no matter how they look, so that’s me being non-judgmental.

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