Anyone that knows me knows that I have had my demons in the past and made bad decisions which have affected those who were close to me. I’m not proud of that, but with the promises I’ve made to myself for 2019, I’m working to make sure they don’t happen again. (or happen less, I am human after all)
Reminiscing this weekend, I was thinking about my brief time as a sex worker and found myself asking if this was something I regretted or not. More than that, I came to realise that a lot of my trans friends have all been sex workers, so I thought I’d ask three of my closest friends about their feelings and experiences from that time.
Speaking to Rae* she remembers her time with mixed feelings. “It was a means to an end for me. I can’t really say much more about it than that” she says. “Unemployed, without access to health insurance, I couldn’t afford the HRT I was desperate for, so something had to change and that something was me”. “Looking back on it, I think it was a case of two wrongs making a right. Nature gave me the wrong body, which I had to correct through the wrong of sex work to become the right me”. Curious, I ask her how long she did it for and how she rationalised doing it. “I only did it for 4 years, to get myself through college and to the point of surgery. I then moved and put it all behind me.” Rationalising it was easy. Each months HRT was either so many BJs, or a mix of HJs, Anal and pumping or any other combination. Rent was the same, but after my HRT which was always my first priority. Anything above that went into my escape fund for my new life.” Now in a better place, I ask her “Do you regret it ?” to which she replies, “that’s a complicated question to answer. I don’t regret becoming me, overall I am in a much better place. But I do regret how I had to make it happen. With so much negative judgement about being a sex worker, I try to keep the fact that I did it to myself which can make me anxious sometimes or bring about a panic attack anticipating that someone has found out. I sometime hear co-workers in the kitchen complaining about the routine of their jobs, or how much they hate it. Well guess what buttercup, there’s always someone worse off than you who would trade lives in an instant, I know I did, so how about some gratitude ?”
Krissy* is a little different. “At university, my cocaine addiction ran up a $70k debt which my dealer eventually called in. First it was him, then his friends and eventually anyone and everyone. His girlfriend was the worst, she didn’t mind spending his money, just as long as she had me to degrade myself with him and his friends. She kinda used me as a shield. Whatever I ended up doing, it didn’t really add to the emotional pain that I was suffering from my dysphoria. The only thing that took it away was the cocaine.” So what got you out ? I ask. “Well, I’m not really out of it, I still work as a cam girl, posting videos of myself and doing live videos for paying clients. I’ve kind of swapped one addiction for another. Attention. Its almost like I need the adoration to validate me as a woman. I realise that sounds crap and will offend feminists and probably even some Trans people, but for me and lots of other CIS women doing it, that’s our fucked up truth and I’m not ashamed to own it. For now at least. I realise there will come a time where I will become too old for my vanity, but the way I figure it, I’ll be able to look back at the pictures with no regrets, knowing that I (eventually) managed to build the kinda life for myself that all those self help sites promise and promote. I just got there a different way. So what ?”
Claire* has a similar story. “I wanted to explore my sexuality and a number of women at the massage studio were working as escorts in London, so I thought why not me ? I was already exploring my gender and sexuality seemed a natural progression.” So it was just a one off for you ? I ask. “Oh no, I did about 6 years, maybe a little longer if you count the odd times I did it after I stopped working at the studio.”
Curious, I ask why. “It was strange, each time I did it, the sensation was like a ratchet, the next time had to be more extreme, more painful, more degrading, whatever. I wanted to explore my limits and the people I did it with were just tools to help me do it.” When I ask if she considers herself kinky, she straight out laughs at me. “Sweety, people like me don’t call ourselves kinky, that’s a label for the slap and tickle for couples who shop at Ann Summers !!!” So what then ? What do you call yourself ? “I guess a professional. I had my playlist of what constituted safe, sane and consensual. Safewords and more. Like a contract, so maybe I should call myself self-employed !” What made you stop I ask ? “Two things, I had a regular who used to cut and brand me in our scenes, which although I’ve managed to cover up with tattoo’s since, have left me with an anxiety complex and having to cut myself as a kind of replacement for intimacy.” And the second ? “I went for a no limits weekend scene with a couple in Sunderland and came round 4 days later in a hotel room in Middlesbrough not really knowing what had happened. “ Those two things made me realise I needed a way out.
Thanks to regression therapy and flashbacks I’ve managed to piece a lot of it back together which has helped me get better, or at least mentally more able to manage my anxiety, but without that “oh shit” moment” I don’t know what would have happened.”
Given that, I’m surprised when I ask her about what she has learned about that weekend that she just tells me, in a matter of fact style that absolutely scares the hell out of me, so instead, I ask her if she has any regrets. “None at all about doing it.” she says. “Or even what I did”. “Maybe just the trust that I put in other people, but even then I learnt a lot about human nature”
I’m grateful to all three women (I’ve changed their names) for sharing their experiences with me, which are different to mine. My reason for doing it was simple. Money. We all have to live in the material world after all and like Madonna says, I am a material girl. As for regrets, absolutely. I wish I had never come anywhere near that life, because society doesn’t need another reason to judge me unfavourably.
I just wish society would show sex workers the same kind of respect and equality they deserve. More than that, I guess as a former sex worker myself, I would say that if you’re thinking about doing it, have some respect for yourself and think carefully about it. In these days of social media, it can stay with you forever, in a very different, more public and personal way than it did in my day. All of which make the mental recovery harder.