by Janice Covington, Charlotte, N.C.

Prostitution is on the rise in our community, especially among our transgender brothers and sisters. Some say that participation in prostitution for a transgender person or a gay man hustling is the easy way out. I beg to differ.

The primary reason for participating in prostitution, for many who do, is for food, a place to live or just plain survival. Our sisters and brothers are putting themselves in harm’s way because our country will not give us our rights as American citizens to have a job without discrimination and to earn a decent living. Instead, some LGBT people are forced to turn to working the streets, bars or escort services, exchanging their health and STD risk for food, stability, clothing and roofs over their heads.
Some LGBT people would rather commit suicide than turn to prostitution.

This is not much of a life, huh? I was a transgender prostitute in 1969 in San Francisco and 1970 in Chicago; so you see, I’m not just talking theory and thought. I speak from experience.

Yes, I had to sleep on park benches, in hotel lobbies and, yes, in a man’s bed — just to be warm. I’m not ashamed to tell the truth about my past; I can’t change it. This is why I can relate to my sisters who are prostitutes and the gay men who have to hustle. I can attest first hand and understand why prostitution is a part of survival in our community.

We deserve a chance to obtain employment without discrimination. I believe it’s our birth right. I believe that right is protected by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. LGBT people are a proud, educated people who can contribute to society, if only given the chance.

These rights have been twisted into chaos to suit the bigots and the religious right, like the FIRE Church of Concord, N.C. and the American Family Association. They influence our lawmakers to reject any rights we might lobby for. These so-called Christians, in the name of God, only want to eradicate us like a plague. This is why the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is so crucial to our existence. ENDA must pass in 2009.

In the fall of 2007, a congressional sub-committee led by Congressman Barney Frank and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did nothing but play games with our lives by approving an inadequate package that left the transgender community destined for the slaughter house. I was assured by Joe Solmonese, HRC president, in a private meeting held in February in Charlotte that we will not be left out in the next round of negotiations. At the time, he assured me that HRC will only lobby for a full and inclusive ENDA. This March, the HRC Board of Governors and Board of Directors also voted to move forward with support for a full and inclusive ENDA. Just recently, HRC posted this commitment on their national website.

In closing, I hope and pray that we will be victorious for the sake of all of us — so that we do not have to resort to prostitution and suicide, so that we can prosper in society to provide for ourselves without depending on government aid or others. We deserve a car in every garage and a chicken in every pot.

— Originally published on Q-Notes’ community blog at

Q-Notes strives to provide the Carolinas LGBT community with an open forum for discussion and commentary. The views of guest commentators do not necessarily represent the official views or positions of Q-Notes, its editorial staff or publisher.