Transgender Sex Workers

When I formed YNotbU, one of the things I was keen to share was my passion for speaking up for the minorities within our community. I wanted to change the message from just being about transition, because these were already covered by numerous organisations and maybe even well understood. In particular two that were very close to my heart. Transgender prisoners and Transgender Sex Workers.

Earlier this year, I spoke to three women about their experience as sex workers and the post gained quite a bit of interest, so much so in fact, that I decided to follow up with the women to do a more in depth question and answer session with each of them. So, with that in mind, lets meet Claire*

  • Joanna :- For anyone that didn’t read the original post, how did you get into sex work and how long have you been doing it for ?
    • Claire :- I was working as a massage therapist in Cambridge at the start of my transition and came to realise that a number of girls were also working as escorts for clients in order to earn some extra money. Although I wasn’t desperate for money, I was really keen to explore my sexuality and thought escort work would be a good way to do it. It was as simple as that really.
  • Joanna :- How long did you do it for ?
    • Claire :- A little over six years, between early 93 and 99.
  • Joanna :- So, tell me about your experience
    • Claire :- Well, to start off with, I didn’t really realise what escort work was. But came to realise that it was just companionship for men and women on dinner dates, or meetings, which wasn’t really what I was looking for. So I spoke to the Studio owner (Mandy) and told her what I was thinking of doing.
  • Joanna :- And what did she say ?
    • Claire :- She was really good about it. She told me to go away and think about it and to try escorting for a little while longer and if I still felt how I did, she would help me out, but there would have to be some strict ground rules in place before hand.
  • Joanna :- Sounds curious, what were they ?
    • Claire :- (laughing) it wasn’t anything really, just my playlist, alt.com profile and also agreeing to regular GUM tests.
  • Joanna :- Playlist ?
    • Claire :- Yes, its a BDSM pre-requisite, which lists all the things you’re happy to do, safewords, that sort of thing. The by-word of BDSM is safe sane and consensual and the playlist helps keep things that way. The strange thing is that it isn’t really needed between people “on the scene” as there is a mutual trust and understanding between them. Its really for people on the fringe to try to establish consensual limits in light of police operations like operation spanner in the late 80s.
  • Joanna :- Operation Spanner ?
    • Claire :- Yes, In the UK the police successfully prosecuted a number of gay men for actual bodily harm which had been inflicted consensually during sex. Despite a number of appeals to the house of lords and the ECHR, the convictions were upheld, But the associated debate and activism led to Organisations like the spanner trust and even S&M pride.
  • Joanna :- Ok, so what was on your list ?
    • Claire :- It doesn’t really work like that. The list is all list of all S&M and sexual activities, with you indicating your willingness to do the activity, You then sign it and it’s stored for your agent (in my case Mandy) to refer to if people ask for particular things.
  • Joanna :- Ok, so what were your preferences ?
    • Claire :- I was wiling to do everything on the list, which included things like piercing, protection, knife play, threat, fluid sharing, asphyxiation, toilet play, drugs, bondage, humiliation that sort of thing. Later on, I even agreed to waive my safe word for a husband and wife for a scene they wanted to try over a weekend.
  • Joanna :- You agreed to waive your safe word ? Isn’t that the point of safe sane and consensual ?
    • Claire :- Yes, but its more about trust. I did it because I had known the couple for a while and had sex with both of them separately, so felt confident with them, although I agreed to not knowing what the scene they had planned was.
  • Joanna :- Ok, we’ll come back to that later, but what was your first experience like ?
    • Claire :- It was a really vanilla intro for me. He wanted me to turn up in a corset, fishnets, thong and high heel stilletos. Once there, I had oral sex with him twice and he used a dildo on me. An hour later, I had £40 in my purse and was driving onto my next client.
  • Joanna :- You had two clients on your first day ? What would have happened if you decided you didn’t want to do it ?
    • Claire :- (Laughing) yeh, that wasn’t going to happen ! Remember, I knew what I wanted to do from the start of things, so, these early introductions to things were just a stepping stone for me.
  • Joanna :- But, didn’t you feel that you were just fulfilling a fetish for these guys and devaluing women to just sex, underwear and high heel fetishes ?
    • Claire :- No, I didn’t. At the time, I just saw it as me expressing and exploring myself sexually. I wasn’t speaking for a cause, judging people or their choices. I was just giving myself the opportunity to be me.
  • Joanna :- And looking back at it now ?
    • Claire :- It’s behind me now, I’ve learnt about myself and my preferences. I don’t need to go back to that time and having lived it, I can say that I understand some of the issues it raises and wouldn’t judge anyone for choosing to live that life.
  • Joanna :- Best and worst experiences ?
    • Claire:- Best experience was undoubtedly the women I met and worked with. They were incredible, supportive, understanding and completely there for me. Worst experience was one of the last scenes I did. I blacked out and woke up 4 days lated in just my underwear in a different city to where it started with no clear memory of what had happened. It made me realise I needed a way out though, rather than the next thrill, which I had become hooked on. So,I guess even that was a positive.
  • Joanna :- What do you mean ?
    • Claire :- When I first started, I hadn’t realised that S&M experiences could be like a ratchet. Every new experience would set a new bar for the level of thrill. In particular when it came to pain thresholds. I got myself into a loop where experiences needed to become more and more extreme in order for me to “feel” them,
  • Joanna :- Does that ever leave you ?
    • Claire :- I think so, but it takes time to appreciate a different intimacy experience. You have to recondition yourself and de-sensitize. I also had some “witness marks” which I had to cover with tattoos, which wouldn’t have been my first choice for myself normally, but marked a new me and a new start. So why not ?
  • Joanna :- What advice would you give a transgender woman looking to get into sex work now ?
    • Claire :- I’m not sure any advice I could give would be relevant now. In this age of social media, the rules have changed, everything is so visible now and women have to be so much more careful now about putting themselves out there and the choices they make. Maybe the best things I could say would be what I was told when I first started. “Be safe”, “Learn about headspace, which is important for separation between real and fantasy” and it really helps if you “treat it like a lollipop”.

I’m grateful for Claire for sharing what she did with me, it gave me lots of things to think about and something that I’ll definitely be coming back to with her in later posts and workshops, but in the meantime, I’d love to know what your experiences are from this scene, or even if you have been tempted yourself !

Love, respect and understanding

Joanna

2017 UK Pride dates

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Eleanor popped us a message on Saturday, asking if we knew when a pride event was happening in her area, so we created this little list of the main 2017 events to share with you – if you’d like some help looking fabulous for your big weekend – be sure to let us know !!  You can contact us through our main page at 

https://www.facebook.com/TransMakeupandBeautyAdvice/

 

This years pride events !!

  •  Belfast Gay Pride                              2017-07-28 to 2017-08-06
  • Website :-                                           http://www.belfastpride.com/
  • Birmingham Gay Pride                   2017-05-27 and 2017-05-28
  • Website :-                                           http://www.birminghampride.com/
  • Blackpool Pride                                 2017-06-11 and 2017-06-12
  • Website :-                                           http://www.blackpoolpridefest.com/
  • Brighton Pride                                   2017-08-04 to 2017-08-06
  • Website :-                                           http://www.brighton-pride.org/
  • Brighton Trans Pride                       2017-07-21
  • Website :-                                           http://www.brighton-pride.org/transpride-brighton/
  • Bristol Pride                                       2017-06-30 to 2017-07-09
  • Website :-                                           http://bristolpride.co.uk/
  • Burnley Pride                                     2017-05-26
  • Website :-                                           http://www.burnleypride.co.uk/
  • Canterbury Pride                              2017-06-10
  • Website :-                                           https://www.facebook.com/events/719463241551943
  • Chester Pride                                     2017-08-19
  • Website :-                                           http://chesterpride.co.uk/#main-event
  • Coventry Pride                                  2017-06-10 to 2017-06-11
  • Website :-                                           http://www.coventrypride.org.uk/
  • Cymru Pride                                       2017-08-25 to 2017-08-27
  • Website :-                                           http://www.pridecymru.co.uk/
  • Doncaster Pride                                2017-08-19
  • Website :-                                           http://www.doncasterpride.co.uk/
  • Dublin Pride                                       2017-06-24
  • Website :-                                           http://www.dublinpride.ie/
  • Durham Pride                                    2017-05-29
  • Website :-                                           http://www.pridedurham.com/
  • Eastbourne Gay Pride                     2017-07-22
  • Website :-                                           https://www.facebook.com/events/218400055237592/
  • Essex Pride                                         2017-06-24
  • Website :-                                           http://www.essexpride.org/
  • Exeter Pride                                       2017-05-13
  • Website :-                                           http://www.exeterpride.co.uk/
  • Exmouth Pride                                  2017-07-01
  • Website :-                                           https://www.facebook.com/prideexmouth
  • Flintshire Pride                                  2017-05-27
  • Website :-                                           https://www.facebook.com/FlintshirePride/
  • Gloucestershire Gay Pride            2017-06-10
  • Website :-                                           http://glospride.org.uk/
  • Hampshire Pride                               2017-02-25
  • Website :-                                           https://hampshirepride.com/
  • Hereford Pride                                  2017-07-29
  • Website :-                                           https://www.facebook.com/events/188128131631829/
  • Herts Pride                                         2017-09-02
  • Website :-                                           http://www.hertspride.co.uk/
  • Hull Pride                                            2017-07-22
  • Website :-                                           http://prideinhull.co.uk/pih/
  • Lancaster Pride                                 2017-05-20
  • Website :-                                           http://www.lancasterpride.uk/
  • Leeds Gay Pride                                2017-08-05
  • Website :-                                           https://www.facebook.com/lgbtleedspride
  • Liverpool Pride                                  2017-07-29
  • Website :-                                           http://liverpoolpride.co.uk/
  • London Pride                                     2017-06-24 to 2017-07-09
  • Website :-                                           http://prideinlondon.org/
  • Manchester Pride                            2017-08-25
  • Website :-                                           http://www.manchesterpride.com/
  • Newcastle Pride                               2017-07-21
  • Website :-                                           http://www.northern-pride.com/
  • Norwich Pride                                    2017-07-29
  • Website :-                                           http://www.norwichpride.org.uk/
  • Oxford Pride                                      2017-06-03
  • Website :-                                           http://www.oxfordpride.uk/
  • Plymouth Pride                                 2017-08-05
  • Website :-                                           http://prideinplymouth.org.uk/
  • Pride Cymru                                       2017-08-25 to 2017-08-27
  • Website :-                                           http://www.pridecymru.co.uk/
  • Pride Sheffield                                  2017-07-29
  • Wesbite :-                                           http://www.pridesheffield.org/
  • Reading Pride                                    2017-09-02
  • Website :-                                           https://readingpride.co.uk/pride
  • Rotherham Pride                              2017-07-15
  • Website :-                                           http://prideof-rotherham.webs.com/
  • Sheffield Pride                                  2017-07-29
  • Website :-                                           https://www.facebook.com/SheffieldPride
  • Southampton Pride                         2017-08-26
  • Website :-                                           http://southamptonpride.org/
  • Sparkle                                                 2017-07-07
  • Website :-                                           http://www.sparkle.org.uk/
  • Totnes Pride                                       2017-09-02
  • Website :-                                           https://www.facebook.com/events/1710972252528016/
  • Walsall Gay Pride                             2017-08-26
  • Website :-                                           http://www.walsallpride.org/
  • Warwickshire Pride                         2017-08-19
  • Website :-                                           http://www.warwickshirepride.co.uk/
  • Weston Super Mare Pride            2017-07-29
  • Website :-                                           https://www.wsmpride.com/
  • York Pride                                           2017-06-10
  • Website :-                                           http://yorkpride.org.uk/

Body image and losing weight

 

shutterstock_114975982Even if we’re not intending to transition, as trans women we’re frequently intense observers of female behaviours in our quest to achieve that elusive ability to be able to “pass in public”.  While there are lots of facets to this “ability”, for many, this is felt no more acutely than the difficult topic of “body image” or more specifically “weight”.   The media bombards us with perfect images and articles on everything from “the benefits of dress size” to “how to achieve the perfect body shape” with all the negative connotations for our self esteem that come with them.  So how can we get to overcome these stereotypes and be happy with who we want to be ?

For many, addressing excess weight or unwanted muscle mass is a key part of the transition process and with the power of the internet at your disposal, within a few clicks, you can be left with a bewildering array of options.  Don’t get fixated on losing weight though, the key thing to a successful transition when you think of it, is being happy with the skin you’re in, whatever shape size or colour it is. Remember, a real woman is whatever she wants to be and so can you be too.

But if you do want to lose weight in a healthy way without resorting to starvation or anorexic behaviours, here are some tips from Vicky and me to get you going in the right direction.

  1. Be Patient, you’ve got time.  The transition process itself takes time and so does  losing weight.   You don’t need to rush either.   Most diets we looked at targeting an average weight loss of between about 2.0 – 2.5 pounds per week  (That’s about a Kg in new money).  This is only an average though, when you start you may lose more (a lot of the additional weight loss will be water weight) and some weeks, you’ll plateau and not appear to lose any.  Both are perfectly okay, relax !!!
  2. Weigh yourself at the same time each day. When you weigh yourself (and record the associated weight) you want the record to be as consistent as possible.  Doing this will take a lot of the swing and emotion out of your efforts which can lead to a loss in motivation.  I personally weight myself weekly because I find it more of a reasonable and better indication of success.  Remember, it’s  a health game and not a numbers game !!!
  3. Plateaus are normal !!!.  A weight loss plateau is a stall in your weight loss, where your body is overcoming latency.  Although its frustrating, don’t lose your motivation.  You’re doing all the right things and you don’t want to change your routine with drastic actions such as starvation.  Just be patient and continue what you are doing and you will break through when your body is ready.
  4. Oestrogen will take care of your shape. While there are lots of exercise products which claim to target specific areas, these claims are mostly not true.  Oestrogen however will redistribute your body fat and reduce some muscle mass, you only need to concentrate burning calories and eating healthy.
  5. Consider Yoga and Pilates.  Its easy to get fixated with losing muscle mass to the point where they will avoid any form of weight training because they see it as a form of “bulking up” which is the last thing they want.  The truth is though that it takes bodybuilders mad amounts of time in the gym to bulk up.  Exercise regimes like Yoga and Pilates help “sculpt” and “tone” muscle leading to a better shape and posture.  You’ll actually develop metabolically active muscles without the fat they are helping you burn.  You will actually get a little smaller.
  6. Make use of a personal trainer.  Lying to yourself and making excuses are easy ways out when you’re struggling, particularly when you are trying to do things on your own.  Taking advantage of your gyms personal trainer is a useful way to make a commitment to your goals and getting support when you need it.  Those things are just secondary benefits though, their primary benefit is to help you make the most of the exercises you are doing and use the equipment safely without damaging yourself.
  7. Whatever you do, exercise should be something you ENJOY.  Ideally, you’re looking for three to four exercise sessions a week (more if you can manage)  So you’ll likely be spending quite a bit of time doing it.  If you’re going to stick to it, it makes sense that you should enjoy it.  If you absolutely hate exercise, it will become to skip sessions or worse quit altogether.  Even if you do enjoy your preferred routine, mix it up every now and again to prevent you from falling into a rut and just “going through the motions”.
  8. It generally takes about 30 days to form a habit.  When you start changing your lifestyle for the better, each change, whatever it is will take time to become “normal” Remember what we said at the start, you have more time than you realise and there are no quick fixes. Transition is a long term plan you’re looking at and losing weight is just one part of the journey.
  9. Take an interest in cooking.  The more you cook for yourself and prepare your own ingredients, rather than microwave a meal for 4 minutes or so, you’ll start to appreciate your food more.  It also is a great distraction from just sitting in front of the TV with a plate on your lap and can be tremendously social too.  It also feeds through into your shopping habits too, when you start to think about cooking something and preparing your own meals, you go through the supermarket with a plan and a list, rather than hunting out bargains and “two for one offers” which tend to be unhealthy food choices.
  10. Don’t think of it as a diet, more of a change in lifestyle. Once you reach your goal weight, going back to your old lifestyle will only take you back to where you used to be.  Your transition and routine needs to be a real lifestyle change. Continue living healthy with good food and great exercise.  Between this and the Oestrogen, you will pull off a healthy woman’s appearance into the rest of your life.

 

So, there you go, that’s our tips – what are yours ?  Let us know – who knows, we may even try them out and get back to you !!

 

 

 

 

More than just a label

LabelsKeeping support meetings fresh and interesting for the people who come can always be a challenging proposition, particularly when the group is well established.  You tend to find people migrate to their familiar friends and cliques inevitably form which can make the group seem intimidating or unwelcoming for “nervous newbies” when they first come. This month at the Stratford upon Avon meeting I support, I thought I’d try something a little different, just to mix things up a little, based on the perennial hot topic of “labels”.  The reason for this being that we not only get a number of helpline calls on this subject, but I knew of two people who were coming were struggling to understand the various labels they were coming into contact with.  Far from an ideal situation and one that was creating other problems diverting from the core issue.

In the end, Wednesdays group meeting had five “newbies” to welcome.  So, after everyone had settled down and got themselves drinks and munchies, I split the meeting into two groups, distributing the newbies among them, dimmed the lights and put up a screenshow……..

“More than just a label….”

Cue the groans.  “Hey, you can’t pre-judge a whole evening on just 5 words, stick with it.  I think you’ll find there’s something for everyone in this.  It will certainly get you thinking and talking” I said as I distributed handouts, pens and post-it notes.

The idea behind the presentation was pretty simple, each slide had a written profile of a person next to a blank outline of a body. No pictures, no clues as to gender, just the words of the profile.  Everyone would then get 2 minutes to write a word on a post-it and then attach it to the blank outline.  No guessing, just based on the profile that was presented.  The persons picture would then be revealed in the next slide and we would share thoughts on the labels we had attached, discussing any that people wanted.  Five slides in total.  The next slide was a blank outline with some hints on writing a personal profile.  Five minutes in total (after all, who knows more about being you than you ?) I would collect them up and then redistribute them among the group for another two minutes and then present for discussion.  Crucially, this was all anonymous, with no judgements.  The presentation then ended with a slide containing each of the common words used within the trans community and then an open discussion as to what each of these words meant to our group.

If you’re interested, you can download an updated version of the presentation here.  (I’ve updated it based upon the conversations we had in the group)

There were some interesting points that came out of our groups meeting that evening

  • It’s really difficult to label a person with just one word !
    • It was interesting to hear the discussion on this point and how it developed.  Initially, people were hesitant, “its unfair”, “how can I ?” were common observations.  It got even harder when everyone’s personal profiles were distributed.  People suddenly became aware that they could potentially upset someone in the room, through the choice of an inappropriate word.  Fortunately, two of the more established group members chipped up at this point and asked “why would the words we choose be negative ?”, another chimed in and asked “if we’re finding it difficult to choose one word to label people we either don’t or barely know, why do we get hett up on one word to describe ourselves, without seeing the damage it can cause ?
  • No-one labelled any of the personal profiles as trans*
    • Kind of weird – it would have been an easy label to attach.  When I pointed it out though, one person commented “you said we could only label based on the profile the person shared and they didn’t say that about themselves”  To which someone quickly replied, “I’m also all those things too, I guess, those are the things I would like people to recognise about me as I do myself.  The trans label, it’s as unimportant as male or female.  Its only part of who I am not the whole.”
  • Trans people can be unaware of their communities Icons, community, history and culture
    • Three of the profiles I showed were of leading trans people through the ages.  People who were either leading activists, public figures or supporters of our community and rights. When we talked about these people though, the conversation seemed to fixate on “who are they ?”, “why have you picked those people ?” or even “That person doesn’t know anything about me, or my struggles, why do they feel they can speak on my behalf ?”  Izzy, one of the new girls stepped up to the plate on these points though and asked “We want to feel we aren’t alone, that we’re part of a community, but look at what we do to those people who put themselves out there on our behalf, shouldn’t we be supporting them ?  These people are clearing a path out in the real world, so that I can lead my life more easily in the open.  They deserve everyone’s respect, but especially my thanks ”  Not everyone agreed with this, but for me, I really thought this was a positive, outward looking perspective, which I really admire in people.
  • Trans people often don’t even agree on the definitions of the labels themselves
    • Oh my golly, if you want to cause confusion, try to get a group to agree on a common definition of labels.  We spent almost 10 minutes talking about this, going round and round before Ester, one of the quietest people you could ever wish to meet stood up and had the following conversation with Michelle
      • Ester :- “If even we can’t agree on this, what’s the point ?”
      • Michelle :- “But they’re critical.  Doctors use them all the time to prescribe our treatments”
      • Ester :-  “are you a doctor ?”
      • Michelle :- “no”
      • Ester :- “So why are you worried then ?”
      • Michelle :- “What if they use the wrong word and it prejudices their diagnosis and my treatment ?
      • Ester :- “Tell them they’ve got it wrong and to try again.  they’re labelling themselves as Doctors not infallible”
      • Michelle :- “That’s easier said than done”
      • Ester :- “nothing worthwhile ever is easy.  Being you shouldn’t be one of the things that is hard though”
      • MIchelle :- “I’m not going to win this am I ?”
      • Ester :- “No dear, if you want a label, try tea lady.  Milk with sugar please”

After the slideshow, a few people came upto me and thanked me for the presentation.  Three of them thanked me for the talk, Sarah even said “thanks for making me concentrate on me and not the label used by others to frame my transition”.  I’ve since had some emails too.  My favourite one said

“Thankyou for this evening.  I had become so fixated on what label to attach to myself it was affecting my health and ability to be happy with myself.  I was quickly becoming consumed with what am I, thinking I needed it as part of my identity, but after hearing everyone tonight, I realised that I could let that go finally and say, I’m me and concentrate on being me.  I like that”

It takes a lot of trust in the group to do this sort of thing and for people to share, but I’m glad I felt I could do it and that people joined in. I can honestly say, I’m really privileged to know such wonderful people, who are prepared to take a chance and support each other.