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