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eda-sofiA

sex worker

May 22, 2018

 

How old are you?

I’m 27.

Where are you from originally?

I am from Buffalo, New York.

What brought you here?

Life. 

Where else have you lived?

A lot of places. I’ve lived in Buffalo, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee and now New Orleans.

How long have you been here?

I’ve been here just about a year.

Do you like it?

I do. I love it but I don’t like it all the time. I don’t like anybody or any thing all the time.

How do you refer to your work?

I call it sex work. If we’re talking about my main form of income, it’s sex work. There’s a lot of different kinds of things that I do. That’s just one of them. That’s the main one. Being a transgender woman, I wish there were more avenues of income that allow me to have the freedom to pursue my personal interests and also the freedom to not work in a place where I am harassed or ridiculed because that has happened in the past when I try to keep regular jobs. That has kept some options off the table for me. But to answer your question: sex work.

How did you get your start?

Years and years and years ago, I left town around the age of 15. I have always been a very feminine person even before transitioning. I’ve also always been sort of goth-y, very cute, very femme and I don’t think a lot of people even knew I was a boy. I didn’t talk to anybody in school and stayed to myself. When I left home I had to start figuring out things to do and I noticed that certain types of men would take an interest and talk to me about things. I wasn’t a stupid kid, I knew what they were after. I just didn’t mind and I thought it was a way to explore my budding sexuality at that point. That turned out not to be right or real but I thought, “If I get what I need I don’t care.” I have been doing that on and off since then so over ten years now. Even at times when I have had full-time jobs, I have still always had a benefactor or two laying around whether it’s a sugaring situation or a straight-up solicitation. If I feel like doing it, I’ll do it. I don’t have any qualms about it, If you have enough money, you can pay for any experience. And that’s just one. Not to say that I am buyable but an experience with me can be discussed.

Do you like it?

That’s a loaded question. Do I like it? I like what it does for my life. I like the freedom and the independence that I am able to have because of it. I like that it usually leaves me some form of a nest egg or savings so that if I need to help somebody or if I have an emergency myself…I grew up with nothing and I’ve always had nothing especially since transitioning. I think I’m cute, I’m not the hottest babe around but I’m not bad so there’s no shortage of demand. Just how to find it is getting fucked up right now. I like it for those reasons. I like it because I like having a house. If I need to let somebody stay here I can. I am also chronically ill. I am HIV positive. It’s undetectable but still there’s a lot of complications from the meds and other health issues so having a house and not having to work full-time and being able to take time when I am not feeling well and am not mentally or physically able, I like that.

How old were you when you transitioned?

I was 25. I started a little late. I had a lot of other things going on and I had a series of bad doctors. I had a lot of really bad psychiatrists who kept trying to tell me I was depressed and drug me into oblivion. Klonopin, Xanax, anything they could to numb me out. I became horribly addicted to them and developed a dependency on them and then alcohol and had to go to rehab. When I got out of rehab and got sober, I realized what the problem was. I just needed to go ahead and grow the tits and call it a day. I am happier. Happy is never a constant state but I am happier and definitely more stable mentally and physically.

Can you tell me about how transitioning changed your work as a sex worker?

It all comes down to who is looking for what. Before I transitioned I used to male model part-time and I was a hairdresser and was very good-looking and muscular and handsome and always had good hair and was very fashionable. It wasn’t who I was on the inside but work happens and life happens. I was doing a lot of really great things and accomplishing things that people in those fields would want to accomplish with relative ease. Whenever I decide to do something it’s not long before I’m doing it. The men and the women and the whoever who used to be involved with me in sex work when I was living as a male were completely different. They were usually people that wanted to be with men. But with me, there’s this mix of people who want to try something in between which is misguided. As a trans woman there’s a lot of fetishization of trans people. I was definitely seen as more of a person when I was working as a male and now I am seen more as a sexual object and expected to perform in ways that reflect that. I have worked with a lot of my sex worker friends doing doubles and things like that and they have this ability to act and turn on this other part of themselves that is completely within the niche of whatever the client is trying to fetishize them as and I can’t do that. I’m just me. It works out because I usually end up retaining a lot of my clients because they think I’m a real person they can hang out with. They think I’m smart and cool. I breathe and I bleed like everyone else. Maybe this isn’t right but I find what works for me is not trying to be that fantasy porn star person because I don’t have the energy or the patience to come up with a whole other human being. There’s already too many of them living inside of me.

Before you transitioned and then after you transitioned, did you notice any difference in just treatment in day-to-day life?

Oh absolutely. I was always perceived as a white gay man and no matter what, your white male privilege doesn’t go away. It doesn’t go away if you’re gay. I’m actually Romani Sinti but I never told people about that and I never told them about my Jewish heritage either and I played the white gay boy game and that was awful. But I was cute and I guess fun to be around. I didn’t think so but that was the world I lived in. People treated me a lot better and with more acceptance. I didn’t constantly get stare-downs like I do now. A lot of people abandoned me while I transitioned. Misogyny is something that runs rampant in white male culture and where I was living in Tennessee is very heteronormative and I think some people felt like I was switching teams. It’s ridiculous to me but it’s rigid there. But I didn’t like a lot of those people anyway and I was being myself and while everyone was slowly going away, I was fine with it because I’d rather have a handful of people that are actually there for who I am than having a room full of strangers while I am also a stranger. People are a lot more forward sexually now than they ever were, especially men. I can be walking to the corner store and dudes will straight up signal that they want a blowjob with their hands while looking at me. Has that ever worked? Have you ever looked at a girl walking down the street and did that and have her go, “Yeah! I’m in!” NO! No. Women don’t—no. To say I am a misandrist would be a huge understatement but whatever. I lived long enough in a male-dominated culture and a male-dominated sub culture that I can say with absolute certainty that I am not into guys. I like that they pay me but I often refer to my clients as semi-sentient ATMs. They don’t see me as a person so why should I treat them that way? Unless I come across someone who treats me really nicely and is kind and is out to meet a nice alternative girl or femme then I am sweet as punch. I’ll treat you how you treat me. If you treat me like a fetishized, non-human object, I’m going to treat you like an open wallet. That goes both ways. Luckily, a lot of guys are into that. They want to be used which is strange to me but if it works out, no complaints.

What is it like to experience female-based sexism after not having experienced it in your life as a male?

I always knew who I was and it was always the world telling me I wasn’t those things and that caused a lot of unhappiness and a lot of misunderstanding. [You and me] are both 27, we’re not that old but even five, ten years ago, people didn’t talk about these things. It wasn’t a readily available topic of conversation especially when I was a kid. I was going to doctors and telling them what I knew, telling them how I fantasized about jumping into the lake by my grandmother’s house and being surrounded by this cool electro-orb thing and coming out as a beautiful girl. I used to think about those things. Even as a really small kid I didn’t even realize I wasn’t girl. It wasn’t until I got a little bit into my adolescence that people started letting me know that my feminine tendencies weren’t ok anymore and there were ways I had to conform. That has never worked for me. A lot of so-called authority figures in my life tried to tell me which way was up and I have never been able to be told that. It did cause a huge cognitive dissonance because I thought something was wrong. We didn’t even have internet in my house until I was like 13. That was 2003. Even in school we didn’t even really have a computer lab until I was like 14 or 15. Where I am from in Buffalo, if you had a computer you were living big. So there weren’t ways for me to access information to let me know that what I was feeling was real. When you have the whole world telling you it’s not, you start thinking that maybe there is something wrong. 

When I was around 22, I was engaged to a boy named Michael and I was really in love. He knew I wanted to transition but he wouldn’t let me. I thought I could make that work but it didn’t. It stopped working and we grew apart and he started cheating. After we broke up, that’s when I started going to more doctors and trying to get it figured out. This was only four or five years ago but it was harder to get HRT where I was living. I tried and tried and tried and had a really bad doctor who drugged me up and when I finally got through that whole mess of having my heart broken and being alcohol dependent and pill dependent, I got sober again and decided to transition. I am not happy all the time but I feel like the world is more real now to me. I feel more real and I feel like I am not just behind the wheel of an out-of-control vehicle or stuck on a track. I don’t feel like I am experiencing my life as a third-party anymore which is great. I didn’t have a sense of actual mental and physical autonomy in conjunction with each other until the last few years.

How do you define sexism?     

I would define it the same way one would define classism or racism or anything like that. Whichever demographic has the paradigm of power in their favor, then they are not the ones experiencing, they’re the ones perpetuating. When it comes to sexism, it is a male-dominated, male-controlled world still to this day. It’s changing, not fast enough for my taste, but that’s the way it is. Anyone that identifies as a male, even a non cis male, or presents as a male is going to benefit from that. Sexism would be anyone who is male identified or male presenting subjugating any sort of other gendered person to the huge patriarchal wheel that just keeps running over everything. Sexism is a discrimination that is perpetuated by patriarchy, masculinity, and maleness so anybody who is not those things can experience sexism. A man can never experience sexism in my opinion.

How does being treated in a sexist way make you feel?

I don’t allow it. I have never been a person to submit to anyone. I don’t know why but I have never had a submissive bone in my body. If someone starts to treat me in any way I don’t like, whether it’s a sexist or a racist or a classist or transphobic way, I know that I have the ability…I wouldn’t call it a power because sometimes even in situations when you’re powerless you can still say something on your behalf. That may involve consequences but in the long run it’s going to hurt me more to let something pass and sit there and feel like I compromised myself. When someone treats me in a way that I don’t want to be treated, it pisses me off. The other night I was at a bar with a friend and it was her birthday—she’s a trans girl too—and no one had taken her out or really done anything for it. I had just had a really great client and a great day and we decided to go get fucked up and have a good time on my dime. We were at this bar called The Abbey and this guy starts hitting on me around my friend’s back. He’s talking to me and talking to me and talking to me and finally I was like, “Dude, hey, hi, pay attention! I don’t care about your life. You’re telling me about your ex-girlfriend, you’re telling me about the music you play and you think it’s really interesting and I’m not interested. I am here to spend time with my friend. It is her birthday and us two girls are just trying to hang out and be girls!” He just kept going and finally I got so frustrated because he wasn’t listening. I wasn’t yelling at him and I wasn’t being mean, I was just being very blunt. Leave us alone, I want to be left alone. But he kept going to finally I said, “Dude, dude, dude. Shut up. Shut the fuck up. Shut up! I don’t care. Leave me the fuck alone. This is girl’s night.” He looks at me and he goes, “It’s funny you’re out on a girl’s night because you’re a man,” and my friend gets up and before I could even react fucking nails him in the face. Then he submitted. He wanted to buy us a drink and we told him no. This isn’t about placating your ego. You fucked up now sit with it, we’re going to go.That guy probably never had that experience before. It took him 30 years to get punched in the face. When someone treats me in a way I don’t like I tend to meet the intensity of the way they’re treating me. I’m not better than you, I’m not worse than you, we’re just equals. We are living, breathing beings and if you think you’re more important than me or anyone around you, you are kidding yourself. I don’t put up with it.

What is the best part about being a sex worker?

There isn’t one best thing. There are a few aspects I could speak to that would be the best out of it. I appreciate really grateful clients and the ones who appreciate and realize that I am providing a service and an experience that they otherwise would not be able to have. No one around them is under any obligation to do that for them so be grateful. If someone gives you good service, you say thank you because I see myself as a service provider. I also love that being a sex worker allows an outlet and a conduit for men like that to avoid having those experiences by force if they can’t find them in their own lives. There is now an option instead of not being able to find what you want and need and being frustrated with that and victimizing or assaulting somebody. That is something that happens a lot because people are too proud to take that route. You’re going to end up being better and feeling better about what you’re doing if it’s consensual. I think so and if they’re a decent person, they’ll think that too. I think sex workers provide a much-needed violence pressure valve and we also take on a lot of personal violence. But to me it’s like taking one for the team, you know? I’m happy to do it. Usually when I think of myself being assaulted or something like that, I hate it and it sucks. But there’s also a part of me that thinks, “Well if it was me then it wasn’t someone else in that moment.” The other best thing is that my community of sex workers, queer and trans-identified sex workers, is the best community I have ever had. It’s ride or die, take no shit, I can call them at any moment if I’m in trouble, if something is wrong and we create safety amongst each other and that’s great. Lastly, it allows me to do the things that I like which are very simple. I like to cook for people and have people over for big dinners and it allows me to have a house to host them in. It allows me to have a house period and a relative sense of normality. Let’s be honest, I’ve sucked dick for free and I’d rather get paid for it. 

What’s the hardest part?

Sometimes it can be incredibly unstable and erratic. Sometimes the market is flooded and you’re doing great and other times, you’re scraping by. It’s unpredictable. There’s also a lot of people that don’t understand what we do as sex workers and put it down or put us down or think we’re trash. Whenever I encounter somebody like that, especially when they’re a female or female-identified person that is married to a male-identified person, I think, “The reason you still have your husband is because of a hooker.” I guarantee you that when he’s not out there buying the fucking convertible, when he starts getting a little bald and a little pudgy around the midsection, it’s because some hot bitch is sucking his dick and the only reason he’s still there is because he gets to go and do that and still have his comfortable life. It sucks that the whole world is about placating men but it really still is. We provide a service that allows people to explore outside of their lives versus having to dismantle their lives in order to try something new or different. The misunderstandings and the stigma and the amount of work we do that goes completely unnoticed and deliberately disrespected and left out of every feminist narrative just about. Being a trans sex worker, there is trans exclusionary feminism and sex worker exclusionary feminism and both of those have caused a lot of cis gendered women in my life to attack me verbally or emotionally or spiritually. They think I am this self-fetishizing wannabe fuck doll that’s making a mockery of womanhood and that’s completely the opposite of what I feel I’m doing. I luckily have a very good base of all kinds of different women and femmes in my life and as long as I am accepted by the people I care about, I don’t’ really give a shit about anyone else. I just don’t. I don’t have time for it. I don’t give a fuck what Suzy Q Whitewoman with her big house and husband in fucking suburbia thinks. Who cares about what I’m doing and why do you care? Just do what you want. Obviously use your head, don’t be an idiot. Don’t do anything that you want to do. But things that other people have a problem with or discriminate against you for but make you happy or will better your life? Just do it. Fuck everything else, it doesn’t matter.

What do you feel are the biggest misconceptions about being a sex worker?

I think the biggest one that I have is that sex workers are inherently very sexual people. I am not in my private life. I don’t really have a private sex life. It has not ever been something that I have sought out and most of my younger sexual experiences were either nonconsensual, violent, or through sex work. So I didn’t really didn’t ever develop that part of myself. Even living as a gay man, it was something that I did more compulsively and didn’t take any enjoyment in. Male hormones are insane. Male testosterone will make you have this sex drive that is insane. I hated it my whole life. I hated my sex drive and the kind of things that it would make me pursue or want to do just because “I gotta do it.” Now that I have blocked all that, that feeling is completely gone. For me, that is one of the biggest misconceptions that I am most uncomfortable with. The problem with it is that it’s not even just clients or people outside my personal community and my personal circle that think it. It’s people within my community that aren’t sex workers that think that if you’re a sex worker that you’re down to fuck or cool to talk to in a certain way or sexualize intentionally without consent. I also think there’s this misconception that we’re willing to do anything for a certain amount. There are things I won’t do and ways I won’t compromise myself. I don’t care how much money you throw at me, if I don’t want to do it I just absolutely won’t. Some sex workers don’t have the ability to do that because they haven’t deprogrammed their mind from scarcity mode that capitalism creates in you. But for me, no matter the amount of money, if I really do something I don’t want to do, I’m not going to feel good about it. Another one is that we somehow invalidate feminist agendas or movements or invalidate women who are working hard to be on the same level as men or be treated the same as men. There’s this misconception that as a sex worker, you’re debasing yourself and I always have experienced the opposite of that. It’s one of the only industries and lifestyles where the paradigm of power is not in the men with the money’s favor. I do think SESTA and FOSTA were a huge grab at trying to change that, at trying to rein in back in.

Speaking of FOSTA and SESTA, how have those affected your work and your life?

The work slowed down and it still has been slow. There are fewer advertising vehicles and venues but it hasn’t affected me that much. As long as I have enough to do what I need to do and a little left over to do the things that I want to do and also stash a little away in case something happens, then I’m ok. I know some workers who put quotas on themselves to make x amount of money every day and they don’t feel good about themselves if they don’t. I do have very consistent work which is good but I tend to be really good at retaining people. Because I create a good network of regulars, I’m not constantly looking for new clients. I’m ok, I’m not great. I think a lot of people would be nervous to be where I’m at financially but I’m fine with where I’m at. As for my life, I see a lot of sex workers around me in a complete and utter panic and that makes me really fucking angry. Our jobs are hard enough when we have to worry about our safety. We don’t need anything else to make that more nefarious. 

Are there things that you deal with as a trans sex worker that a non-trans sex worker doesn’t have to deal with?

The women don’t see you as a woman and the men don’t see you as a woman. A lot of times the men see you as a man or as a “chick with a dick” which means they’re there for the dick and just need the tits to be there so they can not feel like a fucking faggot. In social life, private life, personal life, love life, whatever, there is a definite way that I and other trans women are treated that is different than a woman with a vagina. That includes by people in all aspects of their lives. There is a definite way that you are treated as a trans women versus an afab—assigned female at birth—person. There is a definite departure in how those two types of woman are treated.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

To whoever reads this, keep on top of your shit with the new laws. Even if you’re not participating in sex work, it’s a rigorous world we’re coming into so keep on top of your shit. Keep on top of your sexual health and your personal health. Give support to your sex worker friends. Listen to them when they need to be heard. Don’t’ assume how a sex worker wants to be treated. Get to know the person. I am a person before I am trans, I am a person before I am a sex worker, I am a person before I am anything else. Get to know me. If you get to know me in a way that’s equitable, we’ll get to know each other in a way that’s good and fair and agreeable.