In the rundown Istanbul neighborhood of Tarlabasi, Yanki, Helen and Sechil struggle daily making a living as sex workers in Turkey's transgender community. Along with facing discrimination and possible violence, the three are in search, in many ways, of their own identities as well.
According to Sheval, a former sex worker and now a human rights activist who underwent a sex-change operation 14 years ago, there are about 5,000 transgender persons currently living in Istanbul, with most having migrated from other parts of Turkey.
By night, most of the transgender sex workers work the streets and clubs scantily dressed in mini skirts, high heels and tight tops, including Chisem, a 28-year-old beginner transvestite who recently arrived from Diyarbakir in the east. While the clubs might offer some protection, targeted hate crimes against the LGBT community exposes the troubling side of a country growing more religiously conservative.
Rena Effendi is a freelance photojournalist based in Baku.
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