As the US Olympic champion Bruce Jenner has undergone the transformation to a transgender woman, Caitlyn Jenner, she's been hailed as a hero for diversity, feted on magazine covers and celebrated in her own television show. Her arrival on the world stage has been hailed as a breakthrough moment.
But for many transgender women, the reality is very different. They can only dream of such a reception.
In this profoundly moving Four Corners, reporter Caro Meldrum-Hanna takes us into the lives of four transgender women.
In the face of discrimination, unemployment and the constant threat of violence, they have turned to sex work.
“It’s all about sex. Sex to survive.” – Francine
There’s Daniella, a talented stylist, who has struggled to find work in the fashion industry. To pay the bills, she travels around Australia as a high class escort.
“I want to feel love, I want my family, but it’s not love that I’m getting ... its killing my soul” – Daniella.
There’s Francine, a former engineering and business management student whose beauty constantly turns heads in the street. We meet her as she’s recovering from a vicious attack inflicted by a client.
“That’s the life of ladyboys. You need to keep on fighting. We will never surrender. Never. As long as you have the beauty and the quality of being a person, a good person you will keep standing in this world.” – Francine
And her friend Divina. She grew up in poverty and uses much of the money she earns from sex work to support her family overseas.
“I’m the breadwinner. Without me they cannot live. Where are they going to live? In the street? They cannot afford an apartment, they cannot afford to live, how are they going to buy food?” – Divina
And then there’s Nora. Beaten and abused as a child she works the streets.
“I am what I am. Take drugs and prostitution. All my clients and all my partners, they’re not normal people. They don’t have a day job but I am good. I’m a good person. I am trying.” – Nora
Despite the challenges, they face their lives with bravery and humour.
In this eye-opening account from inside a hidden world, Four Corners reveals the price many transgender women pay simply to be themselves, as they ask: when will society give them the same rights as everyone else?
FOUR CORNERS: ESCORTS, reported by Caro Meldrum-Hanna and presented by Kerry O’Brien, goes to air on Monday 3rd August at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 4th of August at 10.00am and Wednesday 5th atmidnight. It can also be seen on ABC News 24 on Saturday at 8.00pm, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.