Saturday, August 30, 2003

Letters to the Editor

p. A27.

Surviving on the streets

I write to express my dismay with the story "For Transgenders, Meaner Streets" [Style, Aug. 22]. By focusing on whether transgendered sex workers should disclose their transgender status to clients, the implication is that somehow the victims of attacks are to blame for their own murders. Your paper raises the issue of whether transgender prostitutes have a responsibility to disclose their male genitalia, but you fail to mention that the men seeking prostitutes along the Fifth and K streets NW "stroll" know they will encounter transgender women. No one is fooling anyone.

Unlike some non-transgendered women who choose prostitution as an occupation, for transgender women — especially those of color — this is often not a choice. The powerful social stigma attached to being transgendered results in lives rife with discrimination. Denied the educational and employment opportunities most people take for granted, these women turn to sex work as their only means of survival.

Finally, the use of the term "lifestyle" in the subheadline — "A Difficult Lifestyle Turns Deadly" — implies a behavior choice. These are not "different lifestyles" but simply lives — lives that are continuously subject to violence and discrimination. Your paper took one step forward last year in its sensitive coverage of the tragic murders of Stephanie Thomas and Ukea Davis [Style, Sept. 18, 2002], but it took two giant leaps back in this article. I ask your paper to grant transgender victims of hate violence the dignity in death they were denied in life.

— Jessica Xavier
Silver Spring

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Created: November 29, 2003
Last modified: January 14, 2004
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