I know your secrets and I still love you.
A friend gave me a card with that phrase on it for my birthday a few years ago. I treated it like a talisman, a magickal token imbued with the power of possibility. I could be loved despite my secrets.
I am going to tell you one of those secrets right now.
I am a sex worker, a professional pervert, a pro top and bottom, a whore.*
I'm using my friend Ian's blog to confess this because Ian is a loud, drunken avatar of wonderful humanness and is allowing me to make questionable choices and also because I don't want to separate my activism and my job as a sex worker any more.
Let me explain.
I have been an activist for over a decade and in my quest to make the world less shitty and unfair I have done many, many things; from volunteering at an anarchist lending library (because access to information is a human right), to doing unpaid medical work at protests and in other states of exception like in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti a few years back (I am trained as a street medic and an EMT**), to working as an on-call counselor at a homeless shelter, to volunteering at a needle exchange, and volunteering with homeless youth. And the thing is, there are sex workers in every population I work with. Every. Single. One. And they are all afraid to admit it, afraid of what might happen to them if they talk about their work, because people look down on sex workers, and people look down on poor people, and people dehumanize and shame people who choose sex work whether it is a choice due to poverty or not.
My take on that: If you are judging someone because of their choice to survive in the face of poverty, you are an asshole. End of story.
Additionally, many sex workers deal with constant isolation and fear of the police. Resources are few and far between, and sex workers are often afraid to access the ones that do exist, afraid to be honest with their friends and loved ones, and deal with huge amounts of psychological stress.
Why should you care, beautiful creature who is reading this (I assume you are beautiful because everyone is beautiful, society simply tells us we are not)? Because a huge amount of queers are sex workers. A huge amount of straight people are sex workers. A huge amount of people are sex workers. Most of us choose to do it because of economic reasons, some of us enjoy our work, some of us do not. I generally enjoy my work, with a few exceptions. I love constructing an experience for someone, getting into their head and making their toes curl (If I could choose an overly pretentious job title for myself it would be Architect of Experience, Adventure Consultant, Esq.). Queer teenagers are much, much more likely to be homeless and/or choose sex work. It sucks to be queer, still, unless you grew up with money and a supportive family, and many of us did not. Sex work is a way to achieve financial independence for many a queer, trans*, or straight person living in poverty or in abusive situations.
Which brings me to my point: We need to support each other. What does it look like to be an ally to a sex worker? How to support your friend or lover when they come out to you about doing a little ho-in' on the side? Or full time? Or maybe you wanna date that hot hooker you met at the vegan potluck but don't know how to deal with their career of cocksucking? It's a demanding job and it gets more dangerous with each intersecting un-privilege. Queer? Trans*? Brown? Female-presenting? Just being a brown trans* ladyperson in public is often enough for police to assume she is a prostitute and hassle her even if she's just trying to get to the corner store for some juice and eggs. The longer the U.S. economy stays in a recession the more people will choose sex work to help them get by, there has been a huge influx of new people to the sex industry in the past 5 years and I don't see it slowing down anytime soon. I am entirely certain that if you don't know a current or former sex worker, it's because they haven't come out to you. We are everywhere, and that's not a bad thing.
So here's some handy tips:
1. Don't be a dick. Always good advice. (Thanks Wil Wheaton)
2. Dead hooker jokes aren't funny.
3. Intersecting oppressions are shitty to live with. Sometimes you just gotta listen.
4. Offer to be their safe call. They might not take you up on it, but having someone who knows where they are going and how long they will be gone while doing an outcall is a huge help.
5. All sex workers are not dirty or diseased. Most sex workers take obsessive care of their sexual health because it is their tool, and you cannot do work without the proper tools.
6. Don't be Captain-Save-A-Ho. It's patronizing and pathetic at the same time.
7. Respect that sex work is work. It is. It is fucking work.
8. Don't out them. It is not ever okay to disclose that someone else is a sex worker without their consent.
And here are some more, from the Sex Worker's Outreach Project Chicago https://redlightchicago.wordpress.com/2009/02/03/how-to-be-an-ally-to-sex-workers/
and the Sex Worker's Outreach Project NYC(though oddly not on their website, I couldn't find the original post) http://sarahelspeth.com/2012/01/11/how-to-be-an-ally-to-sex-workers/
Here is SWAAY, Sex Work Activist, Allies, and You, a resource that answers for pretty much every question you want to ask about sex work and the industry, though it is dominated by cisgender ladies***: http://www.swaay.org/
And I will leave you with this amazing video, Every Ho I Know Says So:
And remember: If you are a sex worker, someone will love you
*Do not call a sex worker a whore. It is a reclaimed word, like queer and n******r. You don't call your African American friend n******r if you are white. Don't call a sex worker a whore if you are not one.
**Before anybody starts with the "Shut your whore mouth and get a real job as an EMT." bullshit the answer is I tried. I have applied to every company in the area I reside and haven't gotten an interview in 3 years. I am letting my EMT certification lapse when it expires next year because it is not worth the money to re-certify again if I cannot work. I originally got my certification to support my community as a medical resource, and I can still do that without the certification.
***Most resources and information about sex work, even the stuff by sex workers for sex workers tends to revolve around cisgender ladies, and I wish I could find more queer, trans* sex worker narratives and voices.
Hexe is a queer non-binary trans* mixed race Lakota/white sex worker with white privilege. They like being called faggot. Twitter: @h3xtacy Email: firstname.lastname@example.org