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 abuse—a serious addiction that alienated friends for years. I managed to quit using cocaine—as well as ecstasy, acid, mushrooms, and marijuana—and 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.
Flexibility 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.