Cape Verde: A Story of a Transgender Prostitute [Part 1.5]

This post is one in a Series. A list of all of the posts in this Series can be accessed here.

We’re walking down one of the cobblestone streets of Santa Maria.

He’s sashaying beside me, in his black lipstick and dark-auburn gown.

We’re definitely getting stares.

We come across Anso.

“Heeeyyyyy Ansoooo!!!!”

“Heyyyyyyy Mayowaaaaa!!! Begeeeee!!!”

We exchange pleasantries, amidst excited laughter.

Anso is one of my Senegalese neighbours.

He is also a member of the Baye Fall- an Islamic sect whose meetings I regularly frequent for the free food.

I usually understand nothing that is said at the meetings. Usually they’re just chanting strange things in Wolof.

But food.


That is a language we all have in common.

Bege” is this word the Senegalese guys use when they’re greeting each other. It’s some sort of an expression of regard for the other person.

I don’t know if it’s a Senegalese thing, or a Baye Fall thing. I don’t know.

Anso has his dreadlocks wrapped up in a swollen rastacap which sports the usual Jamaica-colour stripes.

After Anso and I are done exchanging pleasantries, I continue heading down the street with the sashaying trans-woman beside me.

“Hm, you’re very popular.”

It’s the transgender guy.


Well I certainly don’t see things that way. Although to be fair we have come across a good number of people with whom I’ve stopped to exchange excited greetings.


I don’t know. I still don’t see myself as a popular person. I think today is just a good day.

We’re walking by a roadside grocery store. A Mini Mercado.

The Mini Mercado is owned by a Cape Verdean couple. It is situated on the ground floor of their 1-storey home.

The woman is usually seated at the counter- processing purchases with a smile, and counting money with a very remarkable air of satisfaction with life.

Her husband on the other hand, is an extremely annoying guy- I don’t like him. I don’t like him one bit.

He’s this pesky stocky guy that walks about by piercing the air in front of him with his big round stomach. In actual fact there is nothing so annoying about his physical appearance- I’ve just grown very inclined to perceive it negatively because of the pointless hurt and frustration he has made me experience.

Every once in a while I’ll be somewhere in the store- maybe selecting eggs or picking onions. This guy- this despicable edifice of annoyance, just appears from nowhere and begins to accost me. He tries to budge me about with his stocky frame, with a bewilderingly unfounded frown on his face.

And he doesn’t speak English!

So I never understand what exactly his problem is. In spite of the fact that I can speak enough Cape Verdean Creole to get by, his mutterings usually don’t feel sensible enough to make any real meaning to me.

Like, what the fuck is this guy saying please

And then I myself get upset to the point that my limited Creole becomes inadequate as an avenue for verbal expression.

So I switch to English:

What the fuck is your problem, What exactly is the issue, Why in the name of God are you bothering my life, etc etc.

But of course he never understands anything I’m saying.

And so to him I’m just uttering this jumble of unintelligible sounds.

And worst of all, he mimics me.

He pouts his lips and sticks his tongue out in my face and goes “Tfe tfe tfe tfe tfe“, making fun of my English fricatives.

One day at dawn, I was walking by his house. To my pained dismay I looked up and saw him standing at his balcony, gripping the railings with his stocky arms and frowning down at me.

In my head I thought:

“Jesus Christ, this guy again.

The day has barely started for God’s sake.

I’m barely awake.

I’m still navigating the realm of inspiration that exists between sleeping and waking.

What is all of this nonsense?”

I saw Anso hanging out by the road with a number of his Senegalese friends.

I drew his attention to the glaring gargoyle on the balcony.

“Anso, what is this guy’s problem?! He’s always staring at me and trying to make my life miserable for no good reason. What the fuck is his problem?”

“Hahaha! You’re not the only one who experiences that! He does it to everyone! His wife never lets him have sex and so he’s always walking about in a horrible mood.”

Now I had absolutely no idea if what Anso said was true, but it made perfect sense. And it felt good. It was a very enjoyable explanation for the pesky guy’s inexplicable irritability. So I chose to believe it.

I raised my eyes up to the stocky frowning being on the balcony- seeing him then in a very different light. I pointed my finger at him and began to laugh out of spite.

Haha motherfucker.


Your wife is completely satisfied by the fulfilment of managing a successful grocery store. The grocery store gives her all of the stimulation and excitement and catharsis she needs in life, and she has no need for sex.

You’re probably bound both by your marriage vows and by the possible societal disapproval of marital infidelity by a man your age, and so that leaves you stuck in a sexless marriage.

Plus, having sex elsewhere will cause problems with your primary source of income- which is the grocery store you both manage.

She probably just turned away your sexual advances. That’s why you’re out here fuming on the balcony at 6 o’ clock in the morning.

Hahaha motherfucker.


We’re still walking down one of the cobblestone streets of Santa Maria- The trans-woman and I.

He’s still sashaying beside me, in his black lipstick and dark-auburn gown.

Something I think I’ll always find strange about seeing a biological man in a gown, are the narrow hips. The gown just goes straight down from the waist. Like it tapers from the shoulders down to the waist, and then poom– just sharply straight down from there. I actually think it’s a bit funny.

We’re still walking down one of the cobblestone streets of Santa Maria.

We’re still getting stares.

Image: Bunch of people gambling somewhere on the streets of Santa Maria.

Waking Up in a Brothel at Obalende.

It is about 1am.

Someone is banging on the door.

Come out come out! Una time don finish! Come out come out! Una short rest don expire!

The human being on the other end of the door for some reason assumes I paid for just a few hours. The time has run out now, and I’m supposed to exit the room with the prostitute I’m expected to be spending time with.

I get up from the bed, sleepy and annoyed.

I paid for a full night! I did not pay for a short rest! I think you have the wrong room!

It is about 3am.

Someone is banging on the door.

Come out come out! Una time don finish! Come out come out! Una short rest don expire!

Jesus Christ. What is wrong with these people.

This time I’m too annoyed to properly get up.

I yell furiously at the person to leave me alone.

It is about 11pm the previous evening.

I am at Obalende. I was on the way to Oyingbo on Lagos Mainland, to purchase some replacement parts for my motorbike. Rear brake pads are worn. Entire chain drive needs to be replaced.

Expenses expenses expenses.

The major bridge connecting Lagos Island to the Mainland has recently been under repair. This has led to an immense traffic congestion on the alternate routes connecting the two segments of the state.

I should have gotten to Oyingbo since afternoon, but for some reason I am still at Obalende at 11pm.


I need a place to spend the night.

I am at a bar.

Drinks. Conversation. Flirtatious interactions.

There are lodgings upstairs. This is the lowest-priced in-house accommodation I was fortunate to come across this night.

It’s a pretty interesting room. At least I find it interesting. It’s in one of these like colonial-era Lagos buildings.

Sharp edges. Gable roofs. Windows made of patterned glass panes fitted into metal frames. I spent my early childhood in one of them.

I do not quite understand these colonial buildings though. They look absolutely nothing like what you’d expect of like usual British architecture. I would expect a much higher number of resplendent Victorian buildings and stuff. I mean, there’s the Cathedral at CMS and there’s this Lagos House place close to the Tafawa Balewa Square, but that’s like just about it.

What did all of those British people do when they were here, if they didn’t build like actual legit British empire kinds of structures?

I don’t know. Maybe I just don’t have such a substantial familiarity with British architecture. My only impression is gotten from movies and the internet.

Possibly if I’m in Britain at some point in the future I’ll make sure to pay close attention, and properly delineate commonalities across British architecture and that exemplified in the general colonial-era Lagos buildings.

I am at a bar.

I have been continually extricating myself from the physical and conversational grips of sex workers since I got here.

Handsome man, Sweet Guy, I want you this night, Let’s go upstairs, I want your cassava today, I am going to show you wonders tonight, etc etc.

The usual perfunctory attention and desire that I imagine the sex workers in this place have learnt to express– a consensual façade for what is little more than a largely unfeeling financial transaction.

Woman stop lying, you don’t really like me. Not really.

You have rent to pay. Tomorrow’s breakfast is not sure. That’s why you’re telling me all of these pretentious things. You took one look at me and came up with an estimate of how much you could obtain from me at the end of a night. Now you’re expressing insincere excitement and desire with the aim of realizing your financial anticipation, let’s stop deceiving each other please.

Now I don’t mean to be sanctimonious or anything, but unless there is a brand of masochism where getting paid for having sex with people you don’t like, is perceived to somehow be more enjoyable and desirable than having sex with someone you’re attracted to and who expresses genuine desire for you, prostitution is a pretty sad situation for the sex workers.

We talk about this. Me and the pretentious woman who is trying to get money from me at the end of the night.

Everything is bad. Life is bad. She needs money. She agrees.

She used to be a DJ. Things happened.

I give her something for her time and leave her to go find actual customers. The night is still young.

It is about 6 am the next morning.

Ahhh!! E fuck you four times, him no pay??? Ahhh!!! Na God go punish am!! Ahhhh!!!

I do not understand what is happening. My sleep has been interrupted multiple times in the past few hours. I still need to sleep some more.

Ahhh!! Why you sef no tell am say you no dey okay??!!

There are multiple female voices in the next room. These people are not going to let me catch the last few minutes of sleep I’m aiming for. An additional hour of sleep is just infeasible at this point.

Oya wash the floor wash the floor!!

Someone is scrubbing the floor. The air smells of soap and disinfectant.

Okay that’s it. That’s it, I have to get up.

It is about 8:30 am.

I need to get to Oyingbo.

There was an issue in the room next to me at the very-low-priced-lodging cum brothel. A sex worker was sick, but was not able to take time off work, most likely due to financial pressures.

She found herself with a particularly demanding customer. Their activity ended with feces on the bed. Feces from her body. The unconscionable customer employed his repulsion at the feces as an excuse to escape the brothel without paying for her services.

The soap and disinfectant I could smell was to clean up the room.

It is about 8:30 am.

I just got some gum.

I need to get to Oyingbo.

Image: View from the bathroom window.

Dinner at Sonnenallee

He invited me for dinner at their place today.


It’s at Sonnenallee. These German names are so amusing though.

“Sonnenallee”. Like “Sonnen alley”, but with that weird, arcane, amusing German twist. Haha.

I’m excited.

I’m on the road. I’m walking this evening. For some reason I’m not taking my skateboard.

I’m walking by a building. There’s some scaffolding on the side of it. I’m on the sidewalk. Underneath the scaffolding.

There’s a building with scaffolding along Adelbertstrasse too. There’s a flower shop on the corner. I’d love to go get flowers there sometime. Possibly also engage in a conversation with the shop owner. That’ll be interesting. That’ll definitely be interesting.

There’s a guy at the junction. He just walked by me. He is like in his forties. He looks deep in thought. I wonder what he is thinking about.

I am at Sonnenallee.


I’m buzzed in.

It’s an interesting staircase. Very spacious. And there’s a significantly comfortable looking rug on the stairs.


There are aloof, yet warm-looking lamps on the wall to light up the stairway.

Mm. Interesting.

I keep going.

We are having dinner.

It’s an interesting Danish meal. He says there’s something it does to the body. Drops the body temperature so the room suddenly feels warmer.

I’m not quite sure if I feel that. There’s a lot to take in, I’m not quite sure how perceptible a not-so-extreme temperature change will be right now.

I think she made the food. That’s impressive.

We keep talking.

We talk about her. About her past relationships and her considerably discomfiting sexual tendencies. We talk about the painful effects those tendencies have had on him.

They ask if I’ve had a threesome with my girlfriend, give information on their attempts at getting another girl to join them from a number of bars.

The thought of a threesome has not even crossed my mind. My relationship is pretty young. We’re really still getting to know each other’s bodies. Mutual orgasms recently began happening. Threesomes are not on the horizon right now. These guys should calm down please.

We keep talking.

They show me around. Their bedroom is so nice though. It’s in the penthouse. There’s a window in the roof, from which they have a pretty interesting view.

It’s at night. And I don’t peer through the window. But I’m sure the view is interesting.

We keep moving about.

He showed me around a balcony with a garden earlier in the evening. There was more light then. Really interesting place.

We keep talking.

He is trying to set up “Hey Siri” on his Mac.

This guy is very smart. I feel like he doesn’t get enough credit for that from the classmates. In my opinion their impression of him is overly weighted by the pretty negative view the school administration has of him. I don’t really care what the “adults” in the faculty think. I think he is a great guy.

We keep talking.

I’m back at Adalbertstrasse. I’m at my girlfriend’s apartment.

I tell her about the night. It was a really interesting one.

“A girl you meet today will be interested in knowing what you did last year. A girl you’ve been with for a week will be interested in knowing what you did like a month ago. A girl you’ve been with for a year will be interested in knowing what you did yesterday.”

That was something the Danish guy told me during dinner.

I’ve been with my girlfriend for a number of months. It makes sense that she’s very interested in what I was up to this evening.

Feels about right.

I don’t tell her about the threesomes.

Image Credits:

(Forgive the watermark. I’ve been drinking.)

Cape Verde: A Story of a Transgender Prostitute. [Part 1]

“Some of them really want you to fuck them. They really like it.”

He is talking about sex.

Anal sex.

Homosexual anal sex.

Homosexual anal sex with a transgender woman as the penetrator.

I stare across the restaurant at a group of men seated a few tables away. They are all white except one. The last one is Cape Verdean- a badiu1. He seems to be hanging around them so he can get money somehow. Either by being their ad hoc tour guide, or via some other means.

Apparently all every black person in this room is thinking about is how to get money from white people. Either by being their bartender, or by being their tour guide, or by sticking a penis into their rectum.

I have run out of annoyance at this obsequiousness.


A few hours earlier.

I am in a bus at Espargos2. It is a medium sized bus, not the much more capacious single-decker buses that seem to be the only ones in use in the U.S. or the parts of Europe I have been to. In spite of that, the seating is still comfortable. Unlike Nigeria, the capacity regulations of public transport buses are actually adhered to in Cape Verde.

Much later I would wonder why Sal (the island I am currently on) has none of these larger buses in their transport system. Santiago, a neighbouring island, does. Does it have to do with the difference in size of these islands? Population? Complexity of the road network? I would not have figured this out by the time I decide to write this story.

It is a sunny day. It is always a sunny day on the island of Sal. I think this is the day when a colleague of the bus driver takes a piece of local candy out of my hands without asking, and throws it into his mouth before I can say anything. I don’t know the Cape Verdean name for the candy. It is brown and somewhat flat- bumpy on the surface with a smooth underside. I really enjoy the nameless brown Cape Verdean candy.

I don’t really mind about the candy- It isn’t my last piece. If it was, I would definitely get into some sort of argument with the covetous man. Although I am pretty sure he wouldn’t even do that if it was my last piece. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t.

The bus is on the way to Santa Maria- an interesting urban hub at the southern end of the island. As I look around the bus, someone catches my attention.

The first thing that catches my eye is his lipstick.

He has black lipstick on. At the time of my writing this story I will try to remember his hairstyle without success. I am sure however, that it is interesting. In my perspective Cape Verdeans have very interesting hair. The Cape Verdean population is majorly a product of centuries of genetic intermingling between Africans and Europeans. Consequently, they have a combination of physical features that I find very interesting because they defy the learned mental templates I usually employ whenever I unconsciously attempt to understand, and possibly appreciate a black person’s face.

I suddenly find myself changing seats to be beside him. Questions begin to position themselves at the forefront of my mind.

“What is your story?”

“How do you identify yourself?”

“What is your perspective on the state of transgender rights activism here in Cape Verde? In places like San Francisco, there is a pretty formidable Pride movement, how would you describe the enthusiasm of the people here towards advancing awareness about the transgender phenomenon?”

Before I know it, we have begun to converse.


Is this your new wife?

I laugh out loud. The question comes from a friend of one of my Senegalese neighbours. He is somewhat tall with hunched shoulders. His teeth are sparse and very brown. I do not know much about him, save that he has a very resonant voice and that he is always talking excitedly about New York in the Wolof3 language.

“Hahaha no, he is not. No he is not.” I reply.

I am referring to the trans-woman walking alongside me on the street. We haven’t yet discussed what pronoun he would most prefer being referred to by. He does not seem to mind being referred to as a “he” though.

A question pops up in my mind about something we discussed in the bus.

[End of Part 1]

This post is one in a Series. A list of all of the posts in this Series can be accessed here.

1. badiu – A name to denote the dark-skinned fraction of the Cape Verdean population.

2. Espargos – A city located around the centre of the island of Sal in Cape Verde.

3. Wolof – The lingua franca of the Senegalese people.

Image Credits: (Image has no actual association with the story save the striking lipstick)