My Life in Sex Work
My parents kicked me out and threw me into the streets at the age of 13 with HIV. Sex work saved my life.
Risks as a transgender sex worker
I also acknowledge that sex work comes with many dangers. I know transgender sex workers who have been beaten, raped, poisoned, and even killed. I can say recent crackdowns on online adult advertising have made things worse, by forcing sex workers back to the streets, where it’s harder to prescreen clients.
Survival sex work and HIV
On the street, harassment and profiling by the police is a constant reality. I'm regularly stopped and frisked for “walking while trans” and have been coerced into state-sanctioned sexual violence. I provided sexual favors in exchange for "get out of jail free card." I believe that the decriminalization of sex work is the best path to giving sex workers the stability and protection they need and deserve to live free and be safe.
My phone rings it a potential client. My voice is soft. “OK. What do you want? How much time you looking to spend? Safe sex only.” Now even softer, “I’m good. You can look at me. Call me on facetime, you’ll see. I’m not pretty, I’m beautiful. Hun, I’m good and I’m fast. Tell me what you want and I’ll give it to you. $150 a half-hour. You’ll see, I’m worth it. You’ll see.”
I'm a dynamic salesperson. Excellent customer service skills. Alternately funny, seductive, and assertive. I closed the deal as Lucas and Cookie ran around the apartment. The client can't come here.
At times, I also work the street to find potential dates. On the street, tension is high, as the cops cruise by, threatening the women with orders and insults. “Hey honey, you better get some clothes on or I’m gonna run you in.”
Navigating sex work with HIV
Like many sex workers, I live with a high level of stress. As we walk down the street, a vehicle passes.
As the man yells, “Aye ma,” I panic. As he U-turns, I beat myself up. I ask myself, “Do he know I'm a transgender woman? How am I going to tell him I'm HIV positive? If it's only oral, should I tell him?” As he pulls up, "What's up, ma? Where are you going?" My voice softens, "I'm only walking to the store.” He responded, "Do you need a ride?" I respond, "No, thank you." He says, "Can I get your number?" As we exchange numbers, he asked, "What are you doing later tonight?" As I smiled and giggled, I responded, "I'm going to text you in a few."
I invest a lot of time in my appearance, my clothing, and my body, and embrace my looks. I don't make enough to feed myself, put clothes on my back and keeping a roof over my head is difficult, as well as trying to stay in medical care. Law enforcement makes it worse. I have been arrested for loitering and spent a miserable night in jail. I was not given HIV medication. I was in solitary confinement without clothes. Warden thought I was suicidal because I was a black transgender woman. I determined not to repeat that experience.
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