These are a few of my foster kittens, on the day before they got adopted! I hide them in my spare room or spare bathroom when clients come and try to make my apartment somewhat resemble an upscale incall, not a smelly cat ranch. These kittens (plus two more and the mom) were abandoned, so my partner and I took them all in at one week old and raised them for three months. I collected all the hundies from my drawer for the picture. —Emily
Being a sex worker who doesn’t disclose their transgender status is a minefield, and it’s one I have to navigate every day. The trials workers like me face range from navigating transphobic workplaces and colleagues to selling sex to people who would likely not be happy if they knew our truth.
I began doing sex work a few months after I had sex reassignment surgery. I entered sex work for fairly typical reasons: poor mental health, poor physical health following my operation, and the resulting need to make money without working long hours. I had to choose between advertising myself as a cisgender person or a transgender person. Considering the lack of a profitable market for trans women sex workers who have had sex reassignment surgery, I decided to not disclose my trans history in my sex work, and instead to advertise myself as a cisgender woman.
There is a trope that trans people only do sex work in order to “save up for the operation”, but this is not true. Trans people, like everyone else, do sex work for myriad reasons, reasons which are too numerous and diverse to be reduced to one easily digestible motivation. But as a result of this common misconception, people regularly refuse to believe that trans people who have gone through surgical reassignment could still need to enter sex work. Yet our position as a minority group that faces a lot of discrimination in employment and housing doesn’t disappear should we choose to go on the operating table. This reality is a hard one to accept, but it’s our truth—people don’t suddenly start to treat you as human when you have surgery. Our struggles as individuals living under a transphobic society remain regardless of our genitals.
I entered sex work ignorant of the ins-and-outs of the industry. I simply walked into a local place that specialized in the field I felt most comfortable working in and signed up for my first shift. I’ve since been doing sex work without disclosure as a trans woman for a couple of years. I’ve met many sex workers, seen many clients, and managed to succeed at making a living.
There are some close friends who I work with whom I do disclose to and others who I’ve decided will never get to know about my past. Every time I tell someone I have to make absolutely sure they will be okay with it before taking that leap. All it would take is sharing my history with one person who reacts badly, and before I know it my whole client pool could find out, and I could end up in poverty, or worse, dead.
Exotic Cancer is a 24-year-old stripper who has been dancing for four years down under in Melbourne, Australia. Since just before the start of 2018, her Instagram account has amassed a respectable fifty thousand-plus followers—many of whom are strippers that delight in her Easter Egg-colored snapshots of the minutiae of work.
Puttering around the Mojave as a child, I shouted “Tu madres es una puta!” to the delight of my father and other day laborers. Before I could even count in Spanish, I knew how to say, “Your mother is a whore!” The colloquialism revealed two truths about living under a heteropatriarchy: first, a woman’s worth is calculated by her perceived sexual currency, a currency that ostensibly depletes with every sex partner she acquires. Second, a man’s worth is based on his proximity to high currency women. To have a mother for a whore, then, is akin to social death.
These truths of heteropatriarchy are intimately tied to the shame of sex. Sex working mothers not only reveal the doltishness of this shame but help dismantle heteropatriarchy in the process.
I spoke to several sex working mothers about shame and “coming out” to their children. While there are varying degrees to which a sex working mother’s social and legal situations allow her to be “out,” (for example, sex working mother Autumn S. cannot be out to anyone about her work because she fears losing her child to the state) one thing is for sure: sex working mothers have profoundly healthier ways of talking to their children about sex than the general population in the United States.
To the readers of this post, let me say first: I’m sorry, and I sympathize. I’m displaced and down in the trenches with you. I’m a ‘lower-end’ full-service and fetish worker. My way of life got taken down with the personals section of Craigslist. It’s the only platform I have ever used, and I’m taking my platform back. In order to help my fellow workers in the trenches and fight this censorship, please allow me to impart my tips and tricks on the loopholes of Craigslist.
One of the great things about this community of workers is our resilience and intelligence. The loopholes are always there, especially if you’ve got a sharp wit and way with words. I’ve been on the scene for seven years, and I’ve never met another fellow worker who was not also part entrepreneur and part lawyer. We are strong. We are powerful. We are a community. And Craigslist is no match for us.
The first major thing to remember about Craigslist is that the market is still there. Clients will always be there.