Last week I was performing a webcam show for an audience of several hundred viewers, and one person excitedly commented, “this is great, trans people are so accepted nowadays.” I had to take a pause from my erotic performance to inform him that unfortunately my body, my work, and my very existence are all under unprecedented threat.
My Life and Experiences As A Transman and Sex Worker
I am a transgender man and sex worker. I began medically transitioning back in 2015, and within a year I was thrilled to have grown enough facial hair and masculinized my body shape sufficiently that I was generally assumed to be a cisgender man as long as I kept my clothes on.
However, people frequently meet me with my clothes off. I have done a little bit of everything in the adult industry – webcamming, escorting, studio porn, indie porn, erotic massage – and through this work I have come fully into myself.
I think a lot about the ways in which my career has influenced my own identity as a queer trans man. For me, being a sex worker has been transformative. My actual experiences in sex work contrast with common narratives that these careers are the result of trauma, lack of alternatives, or sexual depravity.
Instead, my work has directly confronted my internalized bodily shame and preexisting feelings of disempowerment while fostering a sense of power and autonomy.
When I speak about experiences, I don’t just mean good sex, although of course, that’s part of it. I mean learning how to relate to diverse people, and how to offer them kindness and gentleness with the expectation of mutual respect. I mean providing healing and reassurance through my words, and yes, my touch. I mean recognizing the power of my own body, the importance of pleasure and safety, and fully embodying my personhood. And I also mean the imperative of self-advocacy.
As a transgender sex worker, my body cannot help but be political. I must continually be an activist for my own right to exist.
In some ways, that optimistic webcam viewer was correct; people like me are more visible today. My social media feeds are filled with trans and queer people telling their stories boldly and sharing the fullness of their lives. Close to a quarter of Gen Z identify themselves as something other than straight and cisgender, a fact which exists in stark contrast to the genocide unfolding against trans people.
My Existence Is Political, and It’s Under Threat
Does genocide feel like a dramatic word to you? I use the word genocide carefully and with precedent. Half of my family was murdered at Dachau by the Nazis. But long before their concentration camps were busy exterminating Jews and other “social undesirables,” one of the Nazis’ earliest acts was to burn the library of the Institut fur Sexualwissenschaft.
The Institute for Sexual Research was doing groundbreaking research and offering care for transgender people, and its destruction set medical care back decades. This was not an accident; enforcement of so-called sexual morality was the cornerstone of the Reich’s rise to power, and remained a theme throughout their regime, as moral panics often do.
Today, I watch with rising alarm as the rhetoric of the far-right filters seamlessly into the political mainstream. As I write this, over 250 legislative bills have been introduced in the US in just the past year to criminalize different aspects of being LGBT. This includes policies that ban any discussion of gender and sexuality in educational contexts (of course, heterosexual cisgenderness remains the default and is perfectly fine to discuss and coercively enforce.)
These prospective policies also include banning trans people from life-saving and life-improving medical care, in opposition to the direct guidance from every major medical organization. Politicians are busy removing children from their parents and turning a blind eye to rising violence against LGBT people and organizations.
Politicians and pundits are calling for queer people to be imprisoned or killed, and claiming that trans people, in particular, are perpetrators of violence, pedophilia, perversion, and social disruption, and must be exterminated. When they gleefully speak of “the transgender question,” they invoke the same “final solution” as the Nazis did.
So yes, genocide is the right word.
Objectified, and Yet Underprotected
I imagine that you can recognize the paradox between me wiggling around naked on screens around the world – racking up millions of views, successfully paying my bills, and pursuing my interests – while my personhood is being progressively removed from the public sphere.
How can I be a full human being when I cannot safely or legally use a public bathroom? How can I experience the love of my friends and partner, when I cannot access the medical care that lets me inhabit my own body with comfort? How can I fully offer my own healing sensuality in the face of eliminationist policies about my body?
There are common threads between being trans and being a sex worker. As a person with these overlapping marginalized identities, I must continually advocate for my own bodily autonomy.
I must fight against people and policies who say that I cannot consent to my own medical care which I seek out for myself. And these are often the same people who believe that I somehow cannot consent to take my clothes off and have sex with whomever I want to, under whatever conditions I choose.
Whatever your personal feelings are about either transgender people or sex workers, I hope that you can hear my words and my truth. It’s okay if you would find being a porn actor yourself unimaginable, and it’s also okay if you find the idea of being born in the wrong body incomprehensible. But I would hope that you can understand that these are my intertwined realities and choices and that I am as full a human as anyone.
I would also hope that you understand that genocidal regimes never stop with eliminating just one marginalized group, but rather gain strength with each atrocity. Both trans people and sex workers are often the canaries in the coal mine of fascism, but we are not the only groups who will ultimately suffer from these policies. Losses of bodily autonomy ripple through all of our lives, and should send a chill down all of our spines.