This narrative follows the lives of a group of transgendered prostitutes ("travestis" in Portuguese) in the Brazilian city Salvador. Travestis are males who, at an age as young as ten, adopt female names, clothing styles, hairstyles and linguistic pronouns. They ingest massive doses of female hormones and inject litres of industrial silicone into their bodies to create breasts, wide hips and large thighs and buttocks. However, no travesti identifies herself as a woman, moreover they regard any male that does so as mentally disturbed. The text analyzes the ways that travestis modify their bodies, explores the motivations that lead them to choose this particular gendered identity, and examines the complex relationships that they maintain with one another, their boyfriends and their families. Also examining how they earn their living through prostitution and discussing the reasons that prostitution for most travestis is a positive and affirmative experience.
Arguing that transgenderism never occurs in a natural or arbitrary form, the text shows how it is created in specific social contexts and assumes specific social forms, suggesting that travestis may distill and perfect the messages that give meaning to gender throughout Brazilian society and possibly throughout much of Latin America. 20 halftones