A note on sex work

I have a few friends who do sex work and sexualized work (prostitution, dancing/shows, pornography) to supplement their regular income and to pay for transition. If you have any other option, I strongly urge you to consider avoiding sex work.

The young TG women I know who do sex work seem to have a variety of motivations. In some cases, it seems they think it's the only employment option we have. This can fueled by blows to self-esteem like being forced out of school or home. Lack of qualification for other types of work leaves them with the tough choice of low wage work requiring little skill or the potentially more lucrative and dangerous world of sex work.

One of the motivations for a couple of young women I know is a twisted form of validation and acceptance. They find the attention of clients validates their sense of themselves as women. They confuse a business transaction for an emotional relationship. Being an object of desire makes them feel wanted or makes them feel female, even if just for a little while.

Many sex workers I know have low self-esteem and try to use sex work to bolster it, in the same way some women mistake an abusive relationship as a sign of love. Most women who turn to sex work are vulnerable in some way, either financially or emotionally, and there are always people who seek to exploit that vulnerability.

I know a couple of sex workers who just do it for kicks. They like the danger and seaminess of the whole thing, and they like playing out a fantasy. That's fine, but it's important to understand that your fantasy may not match up with the fantasy someone else has for you, and that's when things can take a bad turn.

Many TS women who are involved in these fields end up doing drugs, since payment is sometimes rendered in drugs. This is a very slippery slope-- many turn to drugs to escape the feeling of self-loathing they have, but it quickly spins into a downward spiral of misery. I'm not just saying this to scare you. It's your call. However, I've been around long enough to see how hard it is on young women. Sex work ages you a lot faster than other jobs. A 25-year-old hooker usually looks harder than a 25 year-old who went to school and got a regular job.

I have no problem with this type of work per se. For some, it is a way to make tax-free money quickly, but it often comes at a high cost.

Safety tips

I have a list of safety tips below for anyone considering this line of work. Again, I recommend it only as an option of last resort.

Showgirls, exotic dancers, etc.

This field can be potentially lucrative if you're young and passable, but it's a pretty short career, and you have to be smart and disciplined with your money. You'll make a lot of tax-free cash fast, and it's easy to lose track of how most people live. The main thing to do is to set aside a specific amount each week. Also, don't keep putting all your money back into costumes for your act. There's a point where that makes bad business sense. In addition, it's good to have a plan for what you want to do after this career is over, usually by the time you're 30. That means it's a good idea to learn another skill for the job you'll need after you're too old to entertain. There's nothing worse than going from a life as a dancer with seemingly endless cash to a low-skill job as a waitress, etc. Those who don't prepare for something after their entertainment days are over often get a pretty harsh reality check when their income no longer matches the life they got used to.

If you are working at a club where they don't know you are TG, you must take extra caution to avoid a potentially dangerous situation. Regardless of if they know or not, you need to be really careful with fans. Most of them will be fine, but you might occasionally run into a creepy one. This happens to almost all entertainers at one time or another, so be careful.

Pornography

Some TG women get involved in doing phone sex or online porn. These are potentially lucrative options that can be slightly safer, but you must be very careful how you do this. Some people who use these services are very sophisticated at using clues in your conversation to find out where you are. Some are also good at tracing online trails and numbers back to their source, which could provide them with your address or other personal information. While phone sex is generally pretty anonymous, many callers will want to meet in person. Do not do this unless you have read the tips for street prostitutes and bar girls below. Doing pornographic scenes in photos and video are also pretty safe, but once you commit to taking sexual photos of yourself, they can easily come back to haunt you long after the original shoot. They will be copied, scanned and put online, stolen and used by other pornographers, etc. They'll basically take on a life of their own that's totally out of your control. This can be a problem if you decide you want to go straight later and leave all the porn stuff behind. This can be especially embarrassing if you goal is to have surgery and you are forever memorialized in film as a pre-op porn star.

Prostitution

I'm not really concerned about the legality or morality issues, although you must keep in mind that you could be arrested and fined or imprisoned for solicitation. Depending on your age and the circumstances, you could have a criminal record that future employers might discover in a background check.

Also, anyone who thinks prostitution is fun and romantic has watched "Pretty Woman" a few too many times. Besides the fact you'll probably end up with some pretty gross people now and then, prostitution can really be hard on your self esteem.

Men seeking the services of TG prostitutes are sometimes very scary. Many of them have issues about their own sexuality which can make some men seek transsexuals to use and then violently punish. It's their way of dealing with their own self-hatred for their sexual feelings. These men can be extremely dangerous.

The other extremely dangerous situation to avoid is sex work where clients don't know your status. If they find out you're TG and go into a homophobic panic, the consequences can be deadly. I know someone here in Chicago who had the side of her head crushed in and was stabbed a dozen times. All information indicates she was probably killed by a "date" who found out she was TS. They never found her killer.

The money is very tempting, I know. I was considering it myself at one point, and I have a good job. If there's any way to avoid it, please do. If not:

General tips

  • Negotiate price and service up front. Get the money up front. Always.
  • Try to use a condom, especially for anal sex. Use a lot of lube, too.
  • Do not work when you are high or drunk. You will be much less alert, and you'll be more likely to do something risky that you wouldn't do sober.
  • Wear shoes in which you can run, or that you can slip off easily.
  • Don't wear anything around your neck. Necklaces, scarves, key chains, etc. can be used to strangle or drag you.
  • Get yourself checked at a health clinic as often as possible. TG prostitutes and the men who seek them out have extremely high rates of HIV infection (as many as two-thirds of TG sex workers in some cities, according to one recent survey).
  • Carry a cell phone. You can call yourself and leave a message with a description, etc. That way they know you are not as isolated and vulnerable.
  • Work with friends if possible. If no one you know is around, pretend they are! Call to the nearest passerby something in the vein of "See you at such and such, at such and such time." Anything to let client know that you will be missed and have been witnessed leaving with them.
  • Share information with other sex workers. If you have had a bad experience with a client, pass the details on to others. Describe the car, his rap, anything that will help others avoid going off with him. Ask others about their bad experiences, too.

Try to solicit in the safest place possible

  • Fairly safe: take out an ad in the local alternative paper or on the net.
  • Fairly safe: sign up with a service.
  • Less safe: do it in TG bars with friends.
  • Least safe: be extremely careful on the street. Try to work with others.

Carefully observe the client

  • Listen to his voice
  • Observe his body language.
  • Listen to your female intuition-- if it doesn't feel right, there's a good chance it isn't.
  • Trust your instincts and be willing to turn customers down.

Try to verify any information.

  • Get a phone number and make sure it's a legit one.
  • If you get contacted through email, keep copies of any emails, especially the information at the bottom showing where it was sent from.
  • Get the license on his car.
  • Make sure a friend gets a good look at the client you're with, and make sure the client knows that someone else has a really good description of him.

Getting into a car

  • Make sure the client is alone. More than one person increases your risks.
  • Do a full circle around the car. Get the license.
  • Check behind the back seat to make sure that no one is hiding.
  • Always check door handles before you get in to make sure they work.
  • Make sure you know how to unlock the door before entering car.
  • Avoid vans, pickups, and SUVs, especially with tinted windows.

Going somewhere

  • Pick your own parking spots and hotels. Unfamiliar places are much less safe.
  • Check address. If client says he's taking you to one place, but pulls up at another, this may not be all he's lying about.
  • Unless it's a regular, avoid bridges and tunnels.
  • Generally speaking, the nicer the hotel, the safer the situation.
  • Don't enter a room if there are other men there. If others show up, you leave immediately.
  • When in a car or in a room, keep an eye on the exit at all times and do not let the customer block your access to it.
  • I advise against bringing someone to your house. It's much easier for a man to beat or kill you there and leave than it is to assault you at his place and then have to deal with getting rid of you.

Sex safety

  • Take charge of the situation. Try to control the whole encounter.
  • You are less vulnerable if you are on top.
  • Try to negotiate out of vaginal or anal sex, or get your customer off some other way. Many postoperative women are more likely to tear during vaginal sex.
  • Charging a lot more for anal sex may discourage cheap johns.
  • If you want to douche, brush your teeth, or use an enema, wait until you are done with work for the day or night to do so. These can make it easier to catch something.
  • It is wiser to give than to get. This goes for bondage, spankings, water sports, oral sex, and rimming.
  • It is never a good idea to allow a stranger to tie you up.
  • Decide for yourself what you will and will not do. Have a price list and time limits, and stick to them.

A final note about your earnings

If you are doing it, you must be very disciplined with your money. Having a lot of cash on hand makes it very easy to spend unwisely. If you are saving up for something, you need to set up a place to save your money. Deposit a specific amount of the money you make into an account you don't touch. Don't blow all your money on clothes and luxury items if you want to go straight quickly. You have to think of it like any other job and put aside the money you'll need for SRS, school, etc.

Finally, one of the toughest things about this kind of work is that once you start, it gets difficult to stop. You get into a social circle where that is your life, and it doesn't seem that shocking any more. It's also hard to go back to school or get regular employment if you've been doing sex work for an extended time. You get used to the cash and the hours, and that can make it tough to move on.

You must think long-term about what you want to do with your life. You have a lot to offer the world besides your body!

Again, please consider any other options first.