About Trans

Home About Trans

What I Learned as a Trans Dominatrix

trans dominatrix sex sex work

How I learned to survive as a trans woman and sex worker.

Any names mentioned in this piece have been changed to preserve anonymity.


I knew before I came out and began my transition that I would most likely have to do some form of sex work in order to survive. I had to resolve myself to the fact that this would probably be part of my future as a trans woman, because it might be difficult to be gainfully employed if my identity didn’t match with what people perceived when we met. This is unfortunately common among the people in my community.

Beginning a life in sex work wasn’t even the hard part.  I had tried for so many years to alleviate my depression and dysphoria through random sex, I had lost track of how many partners I’ve had. I also tried to escape my dysphoria through cocaine abusea serious addiction that alienated friends for years. I managed to quit using cocaineas well as ecstasy, acid, mushrooms, and marijuanaand have been clean since January of 2015.

My main experience with sex work was as a professional dominatrix, so that will be the primary focus of this story. I infrequently performed on-camera sex work with another trans woman, and prostituted myself once or twice, but I will leave those things to someone who may know that life more intimately.

 

Lizpic1-242x300 What I Learned as a Trans DominatrixFlexibility is essential. Whatever “rules” you have are probably going to be broken at some point, or at least severely bent. For example, I would never meet a client until the House sub, Nettle (sort of a secretary/assistant/ plaything/demonstration tool), had gone over the rules of the Dungeon, discussed safety measures, obtained informed consent from the client (consent I would also obtain before beginning a session), and collected payment (or tribute, as we liked to call it.). There were occasions when a potential client was wary and needed extra reassurance. Michael was a man who had never visited a dominatrix before; and though he was interested, he was nervous. He wasn’t experiencing anxiety just about safety and whether or not I would hurt him, but was also nervous about anonymity. So I dropped the dominatrix persona (having a persona, almost like a stage character, really helps especially in BDSM) and sat down with him to speak one-on-one so that he could see that I was a real person rather than a whip-wielding maniac.

Everyone is looking for something they think might fill a hole in their lives. The majority of the men who booked sessions with me requested “CD” (or crossdressing) services. For them, that meant fishnets, panties, and a bra in which they would perform tasks like massaging my feet, cleaning the Dungeon, or touching my body and making out with me. For me, it meant acceptance from older men stemming from my terrible, sometimes physically/mentally abusive, relationship with my father. Most men who visited me were older and had the disposable income to use on luxuries such as a visit to a dominatrix,

Whatever it is that people are looking for, most are too afraid to chase it. This is usually out of the fear of the unknown, or that of looking stupid. I don’t regret working as a dominatrix, at all. Sometimes I can’t believe I did, but it was what I had to do in order to survive and I enjoyed it at the time. Ultimately, I decided to stop, because I wasn’t okay. While I had no problem facilitating men’s fantasies of being tied up (tying knots is something else I’ve learned as a dominatrix; who needs the Boy Scouts?), being beaten, having hot wax poured on them, or watching them ejaculate just from looking at me, I still wasn’t okay with being fetishized.

I knew that my clients were coming to see me because they found the idea of a woman with a penis to be supremely erotic, even (or especially) if they would never be allowed to see or touch my penis; the idea of its existence, tucked out of sight, was what made them drip on my carpet. But in the end, I wasn’t okay with my transness being fetishized, or promoting the fetishization of trans women.

To be clear, for trans women who do perform sex work, I have no judgement, because we as trans women do what we must to live and survive. I refuse to shame or judge anyone for their sexual lives, as long as these activities only involve consenting adults. And since I am a white trans woman, I had the access and perceived respectability to be a dominatrix, to be “in charge.” Yes, I worried about being murdered by a strange man (which is why I kept a gun hidden but easily accessible), or being arrested, but there are many challenges which trans women of color face as sex workers which I was able to avoid.

The shame lies not in sex work, nor in doing what needs to be done in order to live. The true shame lies in a cisgender world that continues to marginalize trans people, look down on us for being marginalized, and then using the only currency, the only thing of value left to us to survive. The shame lies in a society created and controlled by white people who desire the bodies of people of color, but don’t value their ideas, contributions, or culture. The shame lies in a patriarchy that only sees women as fuck toys. One day, if trans and cis, queer and straight, people of color and white, women, men, and non-binary people work together to end this fucked up system, sex work can become something into which people enter not because they have to, but maybe because they just like to fuck.

What Is a Fetus by Any Other Name?

Trump CDC transgender fetus science
A sign marks the entrance to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta on Oct. 8, 2013. David Goldman / AP file

Are the scientists of the CDC pandering to the right in order to gain congressional approval? And if so, what could be next?

OPINION: Today, as I was scrolling through Facebook to pass the time, I came across an article written by The Hill. I didn’t think much of it at first, but after the first read, I found myself frantically searching the web, hoping that it wasn’t true. After getting the same information from the Chicago Tribune and AOL, I had to admit that what I was seeing was, in fact, real.

What was being reported is a direct attack on the first amendment to the constitution. This amendment grants protections in respect to establishment and the exercise of religion, the right to peacefully assemble, the freedom of the press, and even the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The one protection that most people remember, however, is the one the article threatened: freedom of speech.

On December 14th, officials with the CDC circulated a list of words that they are now forbidden to use in official budget policy documents for the 2019 year, which is due to be released in February. These words are: evidence-based, science-based, vulnerable, entitlement, fetus, diversity, and transgender. According to the articles, these banned words may also be excluded from official documents in other branches of Trump’s health department.

An analyst who attended the CDC meeting told the Washington Post that the CDC was given alternatives to some of these words. In place of “evidence” or “science-based” they were instructed to use the following: “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes”.

It is widely known that the Trump administration is doing everything in its power to stifle the media. From calling reports that aren’t flattering “fake news” to denying the smallest of facts when confronted, great lengths have been taken to keep us from the truth. Even the repeal of net neutrality is a way for the people to only see what the government wants us to see. By allowing corporations to control our access to the internet, then the decision of what we learn is left in the hands of those that can profit from our ignorance. For them to directly ban words like this is a direct contradiction to what the first amendment protects. How far will Trump go to change the way we think? If we no longer call an unborn child a fetus, will it be easier to ban abortion? If we no longer refer to research as science-based, will it be simpler to replace the truth with what they want us to believe? Already we see Republicans citing the bible as if it were verified fact, and as if we all should believe as they do. If we don’t openly use the word transgender, then how will we ever receive equal treatment in life?

First, official documents in the CDC. What’s next? Modifying scientific facts our children are taught in their science classes? Many people want to believe that we possess an awareness of the world around us and the current events in our country. In the end, however, how can we know that the news we hear every day isn’t information that has been filtered and edited to be more palatable?

Update: A memo sent to NBC News from CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald stated that no words had officially been banned from the CDC. The statement read:

“The CDC remains committed to our public health mission as a science- and evidence-based institution, providing for the common defense of the country against health threats. Science is and will remain the foundation of our work … As I have said previously, there are no banned, prohibited or forbidden words at the CDC — period.”

Dr. Fitzgerald went on to explain that the discussion of verbiage had been a topic of discussion at a staff-level meeting to find the best way for 2019 budgets to pass the Republican-led Congress. However, as Dr. Sandro Galea, who serves as dean of Boston University’s School of Public Health, stated to the Associated Press, “If you are saying you cannot use words like ‘transgender’ and ‘diversity,’ it’s a clear statement that you cannot pay attention to these issues.” This could be seen as applicable, even if the words are simply be dismissed from budgetary discussions to win a right-sided vote. 

Meet the Doctor Changing Trans Lives

Dr. Angela Sturm is helping trans people affirm their gender identities through facial plastic surgery

(HOUSTON) — For many people, when they hear about a person transitioning, they immediately recall as much information about gender-affirming surgery to the genitals as they know. For almost as many, that’s not much information. However, what most cisgender people fail to understand is that there’s more to gender-affirming surgery than what is often referred to as “bottom” (genital) surgery. As a matter of fact, NBC News reported than in 2016, less than 0.5% of gender-affirming surgeries actually were performed on the genitals. This news isn’t quite revelatory, as the National Transgender Discrimination Survey reports that 33% of trans people have not medically transitioned, with 14% of trans women and 72% of trans men saying that they most likely will not ever transition fully. But with plastic surgery procedures to the face and chest, trans people are able to become more comfortable in their own skin.

LADD7089_high_res-218x300 Meet the Doctor Changing Trans LivesThat’s where Dr. Angela Sturm comes in. Dr. Sturm (MD, FACS) is a double board certified female facial plastic surgeon. According to her website, she specializes in rhinoplasty, eyelid surgery, facial feminization surgery, and facelifts. Dr. Sturm attended medical school and her residency at Baylor College of Medicine, and has since gone on to join Facial Plastic Surgery Associates here in Houston. She’s been in practice for about six years, and has been doing facial feminization for five of those.

While Dr. Sturm’s patients aren’t all trans, many are. She sat down with About Magazine to discuss her role in the gender-affirming process and her advocacy as an ally to the LGBTQIA community.

About Magazine: Tell us a little bit about what your specialties are.

Dr. Angela Sturm: So, I do facial plastic surgery. I end up doing a lot more feminization than I do masculinization.

An interesting point I hear a lot is that there’s more of an emphasis on feminine trans issues than there is on masculine trans issues. Can you tell me a bit more about what you see when trans men come to see you?

A lot of times the face shape changes a little bit because the facial fat changes. And then the muscles are a little bit bigger. So, where you may have had an oval-shaped face, it may be a little more square now. So, maybe [the shape] is there, but it’s not quite where they want it. Sometimes we’ll put implants on the jawlines to make them a little stronger. I’ve had people who had jawlines that are good, but have the genetic pooch of fat under the chin. You know? So, it’s kind of, “Well, [the jawline] is there, but I’d like to be able to see it better.” And then, of course, there’s the Adam’s apple. Not all men have Adam’s apple. So, we can do a little bit of liposuction right there and contour the area so that we can see a hint of it. We can also do an implant there, but for the most part, you don’t really need to.

In your patient demographic, are you handling cases for patients that are in their younger years? Or are they more middle-age to later in life? Or is it a mix?

It’s kind of a mix. Not as many younger people. A lot of times they’re just into their transition. And hopefully, if they’re transitioning young enough, they may not need me at all. And it would be amazing if we could get to that place where people were able to get on blockers and hormones at an appropriate time to where they make the transition all on their own. It’s more mid-to-late-twenties all the way up to a patient I had in her seventies. She had lived her life. She was in the military. She raised her kids and grandkids. And then when everyone was raised, she was like, “You know what? It’s my turn.” I thought that was awesome.

DSC_8839-3512605090-O-300x200 Meet the Doctor Changing Trans LivesAnd do you have any experience doing reconstructive surgery on the genitals? 

I do not, because my specialities are head and neck. But I can do referrals. But in Houston, it’s kind of difficult, because there aren’t a lot of physicians doing that. Which is odd, because we have the largest medical center in the world. There are people in Texas doing it who are doing a really good job. But that’s one of my issues with the entire thing. I feel like it’s really unfair that people have to travel outside of the fourth largest city with the largest medical center. It’s ridiculous. San Francisco has more surgeons, as does California in general because they’re more progressive. Plus, everything is covered under their insurance. They can get facial surgery; they can get genital surgery. There are more people doing it there, because there are more people able to afford it. If you want to do it and have the money, you’re more empowered to go out and do it. Surgeons that are doing it are just kind of spread out everywhere, as well as the people who are seeking out the training. And that’s an issue we’re working on, too: getting more surgeons trained in the programs so that more surgeons come out that are able to do it.

On the topic of the cost, a lot of the issue is that it costs so much money to have these surgeries performed. Which can be a hindrance – especially to younger people coming out of college and getting on their feet. Do you think a reform in health insurance could help people be able to afford to be who they are?

I mean, I think we were definitely going in that direction. But I think there’s a lot of uncertainty right now about the direction healthcare is going in.

(Laughs) To say the least.

(Laughs) Yeah, to say the least. But I think healthcare was going in a really good direction, and hopefully it will continue to go in that direction. I know in Texas it’s always slower. But there are more and more states that are getting things covered. And I think as we’re able to show more science and say, “We’re doing these studies. And this is what we’re seeing …” because there’s a ton of research being done now that wasn’t done before that says certain things are medically necessary, and they can’t be denied if they’re medically necessary. We’re getting there. It’s just a matter of collecting all the data and, like you said, fighting the insurance.

Science is constantly evolving, but we’re sitting in an administration that doesn’t seem to value science. 

That’s the truth.

It’s clear that you’re an advocate for the trans community. So, what brought you to want to do this with your career?

It all started with talking to people when I was coming out of training about what’s going on in our city and in our country. And it was just being here. I trained here, too, in the largest medical center in the world. And I realized that there was just this huge need, and that it’s such an underserved community right next door that we’re not taking care of. It’s ridiculous to me that trans people are having to travel and go over all these hurdles. So, it was looking at what I do and what the needs are. So, I went and got some extra training in doing the facial feminization and being able to do it to a high level and provide that care, because that’s what everyone deserves. The whole thing was crazy to me that this was a need here in our backyard, if you will. It also kind of spoke to the feminist part of me that was like, “Yeah! Don’t tell me what to do because of my gender! Be yourself. I’m fighting this fight for you, too.”

“Don’t feel like you have to get stuck in one box and be comfortable with it, because there aren’t any boxes!”

There’s the term passing privilege in the trans community, which is something someone has when they’re able to pass as cisgender on the streets when they’re, in fact, trans. And I think that’s what makes the line of work you do so important, because it affords people the opportunity to feel more comfortable in their skin, even if they can’t put forth the cost of a full transition.

To that point, you know it’s letting them feel comfortable, but it’s also their safety. Because the number of trans people that have been assaulted for simply walking down the street is outrageous. It’s that ability to walk out of your house and not worry as much – I don’t know that you’re ever not going to worry. It’s a horrible place to be when you don’t know what’s going to happen when you leave your house.

Exactly. And you know, in the queer community, we’ve gotten to a point where gay and bisexual, cisgender men and women have the luxury of not facing that fear quite as much, but the trans community hasn’t gotten to that point yet. And ignorance really perpetuates itself to the point where people end up losing their lives. Does it give you a little peace of mind to know that you’re making a difference this way?

That’s part of what makes it rewarding. I love what I do and helping them gain confidence and feel good in their skin. But knowing that it’s affecting their life that intimately, it’s an honor for me to be a part of that process.

I know that this isn’t your speciality, but there are a lot of misconceptions about what gender-affirming genital surgeries look like. Do you know enough about it to give a brief description to maybe clear up some of those fallacies? 

Probably very generally. (Laughs). Typically it’s much easier to go from male-to-female than it is female-to-male. So, male-to-female involves taking out a large portion of the penis, but you keep a part of the … well, the head, basically, and make that into the clitoris. And then you’re using the testicle skin to make the labia. It depends on the surgeon and how they perform it and what skin they’ll use to make the lining of the vagina. Some people use a skin graft. Some may have enough skin in that area to be able to invert it. It depends on the person’s anatomy, and also the surgeon and what their preferences are. Then they reroute the urethra, so you’re able to have sensation and you’re able to go to the bathroom. There’s a little bit of maintenance, because you have to keep the vagina open. So what a lot of people don’t realize is that you have to dilate it with time. And as time passes, you don’t have to do it as much. But there’s quite a bit of homework on the patient’s end. Things can happen, where you have to go back to surgery. And sometimes it’s more than a one-stage process in order to get things to look and function the way you want.

With the opposite, is the penis able to become as functional as the vagina? 

Kind of. It all sort of depends on the doctor, how they’re doing it, and what the patient’s desires are because there is a wide variety of what you can do with it. There’s a surgery called a metoidioplasty, which basically just allows you to be able to stand and go to the bathroom. So, basically, you’re just lengthening the urethra and keeping what you had, but releasing things so you’re able to do that. Then you have the actual phalloplasty, which is where you are creating the penis. So, what they’ll do is actually take tissue from somewhere else – either the leg or the arm – and kind of create it. It’s a very complex surgery. And then you have to hook up all the “plumbing” and all that stuff. So, the people who do that usually have very extensive training in urology and plastic surgery, or they have a team that has that training. A lot goes into it. So, as far as function, there are ways you can make it sort of semi-erect so that you can use it and so that it’s not erect all the time. Or you can have a pump put in it, and some people do it that way. Because it’s so complicated, you make a big decision. Some people will do the metoidioplasty, but it’s not nearly as involved as the entire phalloplasty.

Tell me a bit about your practice.

I am a part of a private practice with another physician, Dr. Russell Kridel. I have clinical appointments at UT Houston and UTMB, so I get to teach and have a foot in academics. But I have the private practice, so I really get to have control over who my staff are and how educated they are on all these things.

When you teach, what are you teaching?

I touch on all of facial plastics, but I do end up spending a fair amount of my time talking about trans and gender-affirming surgeries, because they’re not getting it from other places usually.

With the private practice, is it important for you to have a staff that understands the importance of what you’re doing with the trans community?

Absolutely. It’s always important that your staff understands your patients and the patient experience. But here’s it’s really important.

Do you think it’s important to build a strong doctor-patient relationship? 

I mean, I think so. The feedback I get from my patients is positive.

Based on your Vitals.com reviews, people really seem to like you.

I love people and getting to know them. I love to see them at different points in their lives. I have the luxury within medicine to have a practice where I can spend the time to get to know somebody and where they’re coming from. And I love it especially because I’ll get messages from my patients who live in other places who are like, “I’m getting my bottom surgery today!” They let me know where they’re at and how they’re doing. It’s a very cool thing to be a part of all of that. I’d really miss out if I didn’t get to know them so well. You get to get excited with people, and that’s one of the things I love about plastic surgery. I get to be a part of that!

Last question: if you could say something to trans people about medical treatment and surgery, what advice would you give them to help them decide what’s best for them?

These are things that we think about very deeply. And there are a lot of great people, especially in the city, therapists and social workers and such, that are available to talk about all the facets of it. It’s this great self-discovery process, and being able to have someone to talk to is very important. And many of those people who can help are trans themselves. So they’re able to see it differently than you or I can. Gender is three different spectrums. It’s gender identity, gender expression, and biological sex. So, figuring out where you are on those is a big deal. Don’t feel like you have to get stuck in one box and be comfortable with it, because there aren’t any boxes! Being able to figure that out and be comfortable with it is most important. It’s frustrating and amazing trying to find yourself, but you want to be able to have those thoughts and think it through and talk with someone before you have surgery, because it’s a big deal. And with talking to someone, you can sit down and say, “Okay, here’s the plan …”


You can learn more about the amazing Dr. Angela Sturm on her website.

About Adds New Editors, New Business

2018 Will Bring New Editors Into About Magazine, About Editions, The Magazine’s Publishing Company.

(HOUSTON) – In addition to its new trans-specific content page, About Magazine will be adding two new editors to its staff in 2018. The first of which is Jessica Olsen, who will serve as the assistant editor for About Magazine under editor-in-chief, Anthony Ramirez. The second of which will be Ian Townsley, who will serve as the associate editor for About’s trans-content page, About Trans. Additionally, Ramirez’s publishing company, Black Magic Media, will be absorbed by About Magazine in December. The new publishing company will be a branch of About Magazine, called About Editions.

11108275_632889519340_8448281679329518607_n About Adds New Editors, New Business

Olsen has worked with Ramirez at Black Magic Media as the editor of fiction. Her responsibilities will include content editing and generating creative ideas for new content. Though not LGBTQIA herself, Olsen is an avid supporter of LGBTQIA rights and an ally to the entire community.

11899942_413493005505053_8390096606907780785_n-194x300 About Adds New Editors, New Business

 

Townsley is an outspoken advocate for the trans community who hosts support groups at the Montrose Center and local churches around Houston. He is also a drag king who performs in and puts on numerous benefits to serve the trans community in obtaining gender-affirmative surgery. Additionally, he has taken on the endeavor of helping trans people legally change their gender status. Syder-Blake himself is an out trans man.

Though Black Magic Media was not strictly LGBTQIA content before (though many of its titles were written by queer writers), it will be after it’s first season of books. The first book, a collection of poetry by Short Story America prize winner Mathieu Cailler (May I Have This Dance?) will be released December 14th, 2017. The remaining books to be published throughout 2018 are How to Break My Neck (Jessica L. Walsh), Heart Radicals (Les Kay, Sandra Marchetti, Allie Marini, and Janeen Rastall), Lifelong Learning (Ezekiel Jarvis), the second edition of Ramirez’s novel Witches of the Deep SouthSpace Baby (Nicole Oquendo), Nesting (Kristen Figgins), Lady Leda’s Dancing Girls (Amber Edmondson), q & a (Steven and Ben Ostrowski), i was born dead (Caseyrenée Lopez), Maleficium (Witches of the Deep South #2 (Ramirez), Naomi and the Reckoning (Christine Stoddard), and Shotgun Mirage (David Rawson).

Mathieu Cailler’s May I Have This Dance can be pre-ordered here.

20746154_591231791265593_7950855090854775407_o-200x300 About Adds New Editors, New Business17553675_585264088529030_5064738802455479580_n-200x300 About Adds New Editors, New Business20748223_591690497886389_7226524681386153659_o-200x300 About Adds New Editors, New Business