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.

Cape Verde: A Story of a Transgender Prostitute. [Part 2]

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

He passes me the computer he has been typing on. He’s working on a CV. Says I should go through it. Point out modifications which could be made.

I think I might be influencing him somehow.

A few hours ago when we met, he explained that he used to study Informatico (what I think is the Cape Verdean/Portuguese term for general Computer/Information sciences. He was a student at a pretty prominent university on a different island- the capital. Now he’s entirely dependent on his boyfriend for upkeep. Well not entirely dependent; he side-hustles as a prostitute.

That was a few hours ago. And he seemed pretty fine with the state of things.

Now he’s telling me to help with his Curriculum Vitae.

I’m not quite sure how to feel about this though:

I myself am not particularly positively disposed towards CVs. Towards tertiary institutions of education, and resumes and CVs and all that stuff. The idea that textually presenting this pretty formulaic depiction of yourself with the intention of only plugging into already-existing value-creating structures, is the non-negotiably singular way to find some sort of a place for yourself in life.

And that anyone who isn’t doing that, doesn’t quite know what they’re doing with their life.

It gets me so annoyed- that way of thinking.

This existential disagreement is one of the reasons I’m on a gap year from college in the US in the first place. And I’m seriously considering not going back.

I go through the CV. It’s in Portuguese, but I try to give some helpful perspective regardless. He seems grateful.

No problem, no problem.

We are at the place of a trans-woman friend of the initial trans-woman I’ve been interacting with for the past few hours. I keep hanging out in their living room, just looking around and trying to make sense of the bewildering number of toothbrushes I saw in the bathroom.

At some point he signals to me that it’s time to leave. I respond to his signal and get up from the chair. I’m not sure what he’s going to end up doing with the CV.

We’re outside the apartment. He says he’d like to go back to the restaurant. Some European tourists were eyeing him while we were there.

I nod in understanding. I know what he means. The European guys at the restaurant want him to fuck their ass.


I mention that I’d be heading elsewhere. He asks if I have some money to spare for another drink. I make him aware that that is not exactly the case.

We exchange pleasantries and part ways.

Part 2.

Image Credits: (Person in image is completely uninvolved with the story)

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)