Trans sex workers launch publication

Netta Marcus, leader of SistaazHood.

The launch of an activist fashion publication by trans sex workers organisation, SistaazHood, along with Dutch photographer Jan Hoek and fashion designer Duran Lantink, took place on Women’s Day last Friday, August 9.

Sistaaz of the Castle is the result of an ongoing collaboration between Hoek, Lantink and six women from the SistaazHood community that started five years ago.

Together they created a series of photographs and a fashion collection based on the women’s sense of style.

They initially reached out to the women through social media because of their modelling work the organisation SWEAT (Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce) had displayed at one of their events, for a school project.

Most of the women are homeless and live under a bridge near the Castle of Good Hope. The publication shows the daily lives of the Sistaaz.

Netta Marcus of SistaazHood was excited about the launch.

“It wouldn’t have been possible if the sisters and I did not work together, but Jan and Duran made it even easier for us.

“We chose Women’s Day to launch our work because I believe that it is a day of queens and that is exactly what we are, so why not.”

With 2bob of Malaika playing in the background, SistaazHood’s Lilly Nxanga who also got featured in the book, said: “This song takes me back to when I stayed back home. There was a spot (pub) close to where I stayed and I remember rocking up with my long blonde hair and fabulous energy.

“Having everyone look at me funny, especially the homophobes. The dance floor was my home and that’s where I mopped the floor with their faces.”

She said that every time the song comes on, it makes her look back on how far she has come.

She said that the images in the book for her represent the struggle they are now going through so that transgender generations to come do not go through the same horrors as them.

SistaazHood was established nine years ago.

“SistaazHood is an activist organisation advocating for the decriminalisation of sex work and the human and health rights of transgender sex workers. We have come very far from where we have started and our group is not only about glamour, we are also an advocacy group which deals with the day-to-day problems we face,” said Netta.

She said even though their safety is always under threat, their job is what puts food on the table.

She said they established a safe space where they support each other and work closely with other NGOs such as the Triangle Project, Sweat and Gender DynamiX.

She said most of them have been rejected by their families, which is part of the reason why some are homeless.

“We have found a home in each other and a place where we belong.”

However, Netta believes that it is because people don’t understand them or are not educated about trans people that they end up being violent towards them.

“All they have to do is simply ask. We are always prepared to educate others,” she said.

A supporter of SistaazHood, Jackye Majawie said she was invited invited to the launch by Gender DynamiX.

“I thought it would be cool to see the beautiful work other women have put together.”

She said that she was very excited to see how other trans women identify and embrace their womanhood.

If you are interested in purchasing the book, contact Netta at or Maria Stacey at 082 222 6601.