Streets Kids: We Live On S** Work
21 December 2021
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A 22-year-old man living on the streets of Bulawayo has opened up on how the city’s “street kids” engage in male sex work for a living.

Talent*, a survivor of sexual abuse which started when he was a Grade Six pupil at a school in Gwanda where he was abused by his class teacher, says the ‘relationship’ marked the beginning of a journey that led to sex work which he is now trying to overcome.

The teacher was arrested but Talent absolved him and he was let off the hook.

Soon, he moved in with friends in a Bulawayo squatter camp after failing to stay with his sister at their family house in Makokoba suburb.

He said his mother was disappointed when she found out about his sexuality and a series of family meetings followed as the family tried to counsel him and convince him to stop.

“I started staying with friends and we would go to a local bar here where we fished for sex clients who would then take us to their homes or book a lodge to spend time with us,” he said.

“My clients were well paying people who would be gay or sometimes they would be married with wives at home.”

He said he is one of the few male sex workers who escaped HIV infection but became a victim of client brutality and harassment.

“A number of boys whom I worked with were treated for sexually transmitted infections. I just got lucky because most of the times we went for unprotected sex as it paid more than protected sex,” he said.

“Protected sex would get one something around two dollars to five dollars depending on the client while unprotected sex starts from five dollars and can go up to US$10. Sleepovers paid more but they were a rare occurrence.”

At the age of 22, Talent decided to speak to a counsellor from a local church that used to come and help them with food and other basic needs.

“Even during my days as a sex worker, there were days when I would sit down in a secluded place and cry because I was not able to believe the kind of a life I had chosen,” he said.

After 11 years of believing that he was attracted to men, Talent has developed hatred of his past life after he met a young lady at a local church and fell in love with her.

“I approached one of the sisters at church and asked for help so that I can be able to accept myself and move on because ever since I met the girl from church, I feel horrible and sometimes I get suicidal thoughts.”

A counsellor who spoke on condition of anonymity said there is great progress in Talent’s behaviour and spiritual life.

“When we first met him with other people living on the streets, he used to wear ladies’ clothes and put pieces of cloth and papers to make fake breasts and when we came in with projects that were gender specific, he was totally confused on which side he belonged to,” she said.

“I was surprised when he approached me and told me he didn’t like what he was doing and he needed help to overcome it.”

Talent believes that if his issue was treated with strictness when he was still young, he would not be where he is today.

“I was young when it all happened and I am not saying I blame anyone but I just feel like if my family had been strict with me and my decisions, I wasn’t going to go through the confusion and dilemma that I went through,” he said.

“I don’t like reflecting on my past life because I now believe I wasn’t myself, the thought of everything that I used to do really embarrasses me and sometimes I find it hard to accept myself.”

*Name changed to protect identity. -Chronicle