An Interview With a Lady-Boy Prostitute in Tel Aviv

Prostitutes in the old central bus station area (the red light disrict in Tel Aviv) earn as little as 50 shekels (around 10 euros) for sexual services and some of them sleep with up to 30 men a day.
Prostitutes in Tel Aviv [source: Cultura Colectiva]

In the past fifteen years, tens of thousands of Africans, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, have crossed into Israel. The majority of these people now live in south Tel Aviv.

Shapira, a traditionally blue-collar area, is one of the neighbourhoods they have ended up in. Hipsters have also begun to move into the area, complete with fixie bikes and yoga lessons. These newcomers have come into conflict with Shapira’s original inhabitants, most of whom are religious Jews from Uzbekistan, Turkey and Greece.

LR, 33

I’m 33 years old. I was a born as a man but I changed to a woman when I was very small. I always felt that I was a woman, you understand? It’s something that you just feel, it’s hard to explain. 

My services? We can go to a toilet if you want, there’s one just there.

DM: No, I just want to know how much it costs for the interview. I don’t want to go to the toilet with you.

Well, I’m just a companion – I’m not a whore. I only offer companionship, there’s no sex here! I don’t have a room or something like that. Everything is intimate or maybe people that are interested in sado, maybe a massage or maybe I would use my hand.

How much does it cost? You’re asking again? I don’t know how much it costs, it’s a different price for each person and for the service. Each person that you see is going to ask for a different thing. There are those people that just want a handjob, or a blowjob with a condom on or that we do something in the car. Some just want to sit and have a conversation. Then there are people that want me to do some sado with them. You know, like to stand on them with high heels. Foot fetish, golden showers – you know, all those sorts of things.

I have a line with who I will see. I prefer Europeans, Israelis. I’m afraid of Arabs because they are not intelligent, they have a very different mentality. Would I do something with the Africans? Ew! Definitely not. I’m scared of them. Maybe I would hang out with them but sex – no way. 

I’m originally from the north of the country so I don’t know so much about this area. I’ve been streetwalking for three years. It’s hard here, really hard. I used to have a business, you know. A place that was my own. But people were stealing from me, the neighbours were complaining, I couldn’t pay the rent and so I fell down to doing this, working on the street.

I don’t have a pimp. There’s nothing like that for lady-boys, it’s only for real women. There are maybe a few transgender prostitutes that have pimps but it’s only a small number, not a lot. Most of the guys that come to see me are straight. If you are gay, you want to see a guy – not a transgender. Straight guys want a guy with a cunt. Homos want a dick. We are for….we’re for people that like sado. Because we’re here and there, you know what I mean? We can fuck and get fucked. And we’re natural, we can do both. That’s real sado. You fuck, you get fucked, maybe you use some dildos or something. We’re real, it’s not a strap-on and we can do it both ways.

I don’t like this work. I want a normal job, a normal life. It’s very hard. If I do something, I have to drink or smoke weed. A lot of the transgenders walking the street do that. Some of them do harder things but, if I see that, I’m leaving – you’re going to lose, it can kill you. And look at my body. I’ve always been worried about my body and putting on weight. So I’m careful, you know? You aren’t going to see a body like this on another 33 years old. I take care of my health and don’t touch those things, I just smoke.

I’ve lived in Tel Aviv for a long time, I don’t even know how long. Before that, I was living in Petach Tikva. That was when I had my business. For now, I’m living near to Rothschild [a street in central Tel Aviv]. Tonight I’m just trying to make one or two hundred, maybe three hundred shekels and then I’m done – I’m going home. 

I have no family, no help. We don’t speak. I’m from a family from the Golan Heights, you understand? My family works in the police and law enforcement. They’re Bedouins from the north. Our roots are not here, we’re not originally Israeli Bedouins. They came from the Golan Heights and settled in Israel a long time ago. 

They are Muslim but my mentality is Jewish. I grew up with Jews, I studied in a Jewish school, my friends are Jewish. It’s the same with a lot of the transgender streetwalkers. I would say that 80 per cent of them are Arabs like me. Their families don’t accept them and this is what happens to them. I already didn’t speak to anyone in my family for 12 years. What can you do? I chose to live this life, I wanted it. I have to be self-supporting because the government only helps the foreign workers, like these Eritreans or the Ethiopians. They help them or someone who is a real Israeli, an Ashkenazi. If you are Jewish from a Middle Eastern background or Arab-Israeli, the government in Israel is not going to help you. 

I….I forgot my family I think. I tried to speak with them a lot of times but they didn’t want to speak. So why would I keep trying? They don’t want to speak so ok, that’s it. I don’t feel Arab. I didn’t grow up in the environment to feel that way, to have that mentality. We lived near a Jewish town, my parents worked there. My friends were Israeli and my family had a different mentality. My brother is with a Russian girl, my uncle married a Russian girl. My dad worked for the army, my grandad too. Our family worked with the Palmach [a Jewish military force that existed in pre-state Israel]. My grandfather’s father gave soldiers to the army. We were the first Bedouins to help the Jews when they were coming to Israel. That’s my family.

But despite that, the government prefer to help the Eritreans and people like that, even though I am the one that they are supposed to be helping first. Still, Shapira is a good neighbourhood. Not outside here with this ugly building and the cars but inside the neighbourhood more, it’s nice. Not the leftists, I don’t like people that oppose Israel. Someone that comes here, they should want to be here. I think the refugees want to be here. 

They are not like these Arabs from the West Bank that came to make a bit of money and then go back there. These are people that escaped from death in their country. That’s something else. There’s a difference between someone that is a refugee and someone that comes to a place for money. They are not like these Arabs from Jerusalem that come to make a little money, make trouble and then go back get and married, then come back again for some more money. 

The refugees, they are relatively good people. They just want somewhere safe. But they are from a different culture, a different mentality. The Eritreans, the Sudanese, the Ethiopians. They are all the same colour but they have some problems with each other I think. But it’s between them, it’s not connected to Israelis. But they still want to be here. They’ll kill them if they go back.

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