Trans Women’s “Alternative” Work Experiences in Turkey is a research project was conducted between October 2015-September 2016 by Social Policies Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association, and funded by ILGA Europe. Qualitative methods were adapted for this research and 15 in-depth interviews were made with trans women who have job experiences in their lives. 13 of the informants were from İstanbul, and 2 of them were from Mersin. The interviews approximately lasted 16 hours in total.

Even though sex workers were included in the sample, the research’s main focus was their experiences outside of sex industry. Trans women are overrepresented in sex industry, that is why the aim was enhance their representation in other work of fields and make their problems more visible.

While conducting the research, it was not easy to reach out to trans women who have experiences outside of sex work. Some key people helped us to reach out to informants and snow-ball method was used to enlarge the sample. All of the informants’ names, institutions and companies’ names that they work were changed in order to keep their anonymity.

The women who were interviewed pointed out the importance of the family when it comes to education, their first step to working life and transition process. Family can be a material and moral support until they are ready to work, this support may help them to pursue a career outside of sex industry.

Education is one of the most important processes that is crucial to get into working life. It is also a very important step for choosing a job that trans people can be comfortable with their identities, but due to being discriminated and bullied, education could be a process that trans women cannot continue when they reach puberty.

Seeking for a job is a very rough process for the informants, compare to rest of the society. If the person is in transition process discrimination could be much more threating and higher either they are seeking a job or in the workplace. Compulsory military service might be troubling for trans women if they have not started to transitioning, because when they apply for a job their military service status is being asked by employers. If they are in transitioning process but have not be able to change their identification card, the contrast between their appearance and their ID’s makes their gender identity apparent and this exposure paves the way them to be eliminated from the start of their job applications. Even in the situations that they have all qualifications for applying for a job, this rough patch may lead them to work in sex industry.

Unfortunately, in Turkey, most of the informants cannot choose a sector or occupation that they think they will feel more comfortable or not be discriminated in their working lives. Finding a job in the public sector is almost blocked for trans women in Turkey and not being able to access to education leads them to the service sector that the working conditions are very hard and insecure. Most of the informants feel that they have to work harder than other co-workers or they are expected to show more performance by their employers.

Informants stated that when they start their transitioning process in the same workplace, they are being targeted for humiliation, transphobia, mobbing, stigmatization by their co-workers, employers and other people that they have to come across (costumers, patients etc.) due to changes in their appearances.

Labeling all trans women as sex workers by the society causes prejudices and harassments, for instance they are constantly being sexually harassed. All these negative impacts effected some informants to become distanced from working life. In these situation, some informants stated that they chose to become a sex worker, also sex work gives them to opportunity to save money for their plastic surgeries and future plans. All of the informants want a workplace that they cannot be harassed or discriminated and feel comfortable with their gender identity, that is why most of them wish to open their own workplace in the future.

Only very few of informants pointed out that they sought their rights and litigated due to negative attitudes and discriminations against them in their workplace. Unfortunately, most of the informants stated that they did not choose this way, because they were hopeless and scared of the fact that this might be an obstacle for their future jobs.


Name Age City Education Current Occupation Jobs and Occupation in the past
Ahu 35 İstanbul University NGO worker Media firm worker
Ece 41 İstanbul University Dentist -
Ece Gül 37 İstanbul Middle school Motorcycle courier Shipmaster, Sex worker
Neriman 34 İstanbul High school Barmaid/Manager Textile worker
Selen 35 İstanbul University Tour Guide NGO worker
Neşe 25 İstanbul High school Cashier Sales consultancy
Serap 51 İstanbul Elementary school Artisan -
Peyker 22 İstanbul University student Sex worker Cook
Burçak 35 İstanbul University Sex worker Lawyer
Elif 34 İstanbul High school Sex worker Styling manager
Müge 36 İstanbul High school drop out Actress -
Efşan 20 Mersin High school Sex worker Construction Worker-Waitress-Sales consultancy
Akdeniz 55 Mersin University Secretariat Barmaid, Sex worker
Derya 30 İstanbul University Doctor -
Türkan 36 İstanbul High school drop out Actress Theatre Director-Singer-Radio programmer