The Perils of Working as a Trans Prostitute in Rome - OZY | A Modern Media Company

The Perils of Working as a Trans Prostitute in Rome

The Perils of Working as a Trans Prostitute in Rome

By Silvia Marchetti


Because sometimes it’s OK to talk to strangers.

By Silvia Marchetti

In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”

Dorotea Palloma
Rome, Italy

Tough and sad, as usual. I’m a transgender prostitute living in the worst place on Earth for people like me: Italy. Not only am I a sex worker (seen as bad enough on its own over here) but I’m trans, which translates into being a hybrid monster, a pariah to keep at bay. 

I spend my day either locked up in my room entertaining clients inside an apartment I share with other colleagues or out on the street looking for work. Luckily that happens less often as I have regular clients who prefer to visit me, and we communicate by email.  

Oh, you’d be amazed by who my clients are … actors, politicians, doctors. Men with a family and kids, above suspicion, who you’d think were straight, heterosexuals. Well, honey, that’s just appearance: They all tell me that having sex with a trans has no equals. 

But when I’m out in the city, it’s hell. Women prostitutes see me as a threat, a nasty competitor, so they don’t want me hanging out in the same spots where they do for fear of stealing their clients. So we trans get together in particular areas of the historical center, and clients know where to find us at night. 

My social life sucks. My only friends are the ones I share the flat with, and they’re all trans. I’m never carefree. I can’t take a nice stroll, nor go shopping, without feeling sad each time. Even when I stop at a bar to sip an espresso and enjoy the scenery of Rome’s sunny piazzas, people stare at me with hate. I can read disgust in their eyes. They keep me at a distance, as if they were scared I could infect them with some kind of disease. 

When I go out to dinner, any clients who walk into the tavern avoid sitting at the table next to mine. I see them zigzag toward the opposite side of the room. And if I need to go to the loo, it’s always a tragedy. I pray I just don’t bump into anyone else.

Life as a trans in Italy is hell. Even more in Rome, home to the Vatican. Locals have a bigot mentality and are still influenced by deep Catholic roots. There’s just one neighborhood in Rome where gays, lesbians and trans are welcome in bars and clubs, but even there, residents run away as soon as they see us, locking their palazzo doors and shutting their windows.

Sure, we’ve had one trans politician who was elected in parliament a few years ago, but that didn’t help change the perception Italians have of us. When I pass by, couples giggle at me behind my back and some even shout out bad, vulgar names in a tight Roman dialect. I try to avoid taking public transports for this reason. I have a trans friend who works in the U.S. and tells me it’s another world over there. 

It might sound crazy, but I would like to be recognized as a professional worker. You know, pay taxes and have my own VAT, that sort of stuff. I don’t want to live in the darkness like a nameless zombie for the rest of my life.

Sign up for the weekly newsletter!

Related Stories