I’m a queer sex worker. So, there is it. I’m out. Can I go now?
No, I can’t, because that is not, how outings works.
I learned that already years ago, when I outed myself as gay. It’s not a one-time thing. You may come out to your parents or friends … but that does not make your colleagues know about it. Or your distant relatives. Or your neighbours. Or the parents of your kids friends. Outing is a continuing process. And a painful one.
I hate the need of outing myself. But apparently whatever society might see as abnormal, as strange, as queer, is something people have to publicly admit. To stand up for. To explain.
I hate it. I hate that I have to explain myself for being. That I have to explain my existence.
Every time you’re outing yourself to a friend, a family member, a neighbour, a colleague, you’re risking rejection. It creates a shitload of questions in your mind to work through. When do you out yourself? To whom? How? What reaction may you get? How to deal with whatever reaction it might create?
Who to not out to because you do not want to get the imagined reaction?
Everything sexual is still a topic that many people feel very uncomfortable talking about. So when you finally take your guts and out yourself to someone, it might be that the fact that your LGBTIQ+ or a sex worker is no reason for rejection but the very fact that you’re “pushing that topic” onto them might cause rejection.
So it is not only the question if how someone might react to the outing itself but also to the urge of talking about it at all. The “we don’t talk about that topic” reaction is quite common.
I kinda get it. Everything sexual is still a big topic to never talk about in society. (Similar to mental health issues. Admitting mental health issues is actually quite an outing too.)
And I’m kinda okay with it. If someone does not want to talk about a topic I don’t want to force it onto them.
However, because these topics are so deep in the “do not speak about it” land, you cannot really talk about it, without outing yourself. If you want to talk about gay sex as a man, everyone will know, you’re at least questioning your heterosexuality. And it’s quite the same with sex work. If you want to talk about the actual lives of sex workers, everyone around you will believe, you’re either a sex worker or a client. (Or an old-fashioned feminist working in the rescue industry, not giving any agency to sex workers but believe you have to speak for them, as they are all enslaved and brainwashed so they can’t speak for themselves.)
If you out yourself to someone and they are neither rejection you for the thing you’re outing yourself for nor for the fact that you find it okay to talk about it, it mostly results in tons and tons of questions.
As much as I love curiosity and the interest in my life, it very easily becomes the sole topic to talk about. When I’m outing myself in a group of people it either makes no-one talking to me any more because they don’t know how to talk about it and feel very uncomfortable talking about it - or (worse) they feel uncomfortable talking to you because you just became a persona non grata.
Or you have all the attention and whatever the topic was before the outing, will be gone because everyone is so much more interested in you. Not actually in you but in your sex life. If the topic in the group was taxes and I had a question about doing taxes as a self employed sex worker, I most likely will not even get an answer to my actual question but will be asked 437 questions about evil, nice, ugly, fat, old, skinny, young, handsome, rich or poor clients; about the legal situation of sex work, how I work, when, where, what sex practices are my favourites, how to have anal sex without shitting the other one and if I want sex without payment. (No, I do not.)
Again: I appreciate curiosity and interest in my work. Society knowing more about sex and sex work would be incredible helpful. But answering the same questions over and over again can become very draining. Sometimes I think about starting to charge for answering these questions. It can provide answers to questions - in many professions that is in itself a business model.
On the other hand, there are people aware of the annoyance of having outed yourself and being asked ALL the questions and therefore avoid asking me about it at all, as they don’t want to annoy me - and then often quietly forming opinions about my work. And at least with friends, that is even worse to me: friends avoiding a topic they have questions about but instead of asking me, they are googling stuff and just assume something. So, if you we are close and you have questions about me doing sex work, please ask me! I’m actually way happier to answer a question I have been asked hundreds of times before, than learning, you assuming stuff about me.
Outing yourself as LGBTIQ will very easily be the one thing that identifies you. “Who are you talking about?” - “The gay guy!” - “Ahh! I see …”
It’s the same with outing yourself as a sex worker. “Who are you talking about?” - “The hooker”
I understand that people identify someone by whatever makes someone singular in a group. If there is only one guy with long hair at a party, that guy will be most likely referred to as the “long haired guy”. That way of identifying people however can become hurtful as it quietly reduces your whole existence to that one thing. You’re the hooker now. Being also a maths genius or artist becomes at best secondary if not completely erased. But if you don’t out yourself, you’re constantly living a double life. You have experiences in one part of your life that you can’t share to the other one. That can create a lot of mental load and stress to keep everything to yourself or have at best a few people to talk about - and always have another story in mind on what to tell people about your life, that makes sense to them but is far enough from their lives so you don’t get trapped in your own stories.
As a sex worker outing is quite bi-directional. It’s not just the question if/how to talk to your friends and family about your sex worker life - but also about what to tell clients about your private life. Most sex workers work under different names. Often for security reasons.
I work under a different name too and notices it’s for me not only about security but also about keeping work and private stuff apart. I have very intimate moments with clients and yet, that is professional for me. Similar to therapists knowing very personal stuff about their clients, they still won’t become friends. Or teachers using different names on their facebook profile so their students won’t find their facebook profiles. Clients can be very nice but they are still clients and I need them to stay out of my private life. I noticed a lot of them are quite interested in my private life and telling something about me makes them often more comfortable to open up about themselves and gives them a better session. So I gave my work persona quite a private life too - but it isn’t really mine. It’s an easier, nicer, less complicated one, so I can make them feel intimate with me and still it on a professional level.
I have some acting experience and noticed it helps me a lot in sex work to switch into my work persona - and leaves my private trouble behind for that time. And after a session I’m switching back to my private me, leaving the session behind. So over time I developed a proper work character.
And to be clear: I’m not doing that, because I don’t like my clients or I have to become someone else to “endure” a session or something. My sessions are okay. My work is quite okay.
It is my way of keeping professional and private stuff seperated and give my clients their fantasies and “boyfriend experience”.
However over time there evolves a grey area in between. What is with political activism or sex work colleagues? If I’m getting interviewed about sex work, am I doing it under my sex work name and try to steer people to my sex work persona as it might bring new clients, or am I doing it under my legal name, not being able to gain new clients for the job that currently pays my bills?
What is with everything publicly? Social media? What about acting or modelling? What name do I want to push publicly and what if someone knowing me by one name now reads learns about the other one?
Can I use pictures I use professionally also on some personal, non sex work social media? (No, I can’t, due to Google images reverse search. It’s gonna become interesting and quite scary when face recognition software becomes available to more people)
Should I eradicate my “private” me on the Internet and only act as my sex work persona on the Internet? (There are very few brothels/studios for male sex workers … so it is necessary to find your clients online. So having your sex work identity only offline does not work - it needs to be online too)
Sometimes I feel like Eli Cohen in “The Spy” - slowly blurring the lines between his two caracters. In the last episode he says: “Those nightmares she’s talking about, they’re not even mine, they are Kamel’s [his spy identity]. Taking off my clothes, it doesn’t work anymore. I can’t put him away. I’m pretending to be me.”
I feel quite the same.
You can become someone else, you can impersonate someone for some time - but you cannot unlearn that person. You cannot unlearn you acting role. You cannot not know your work identity in private. That is how not outing yourself to family or friends, makes you behave professionally even in private. How you’re setting up an act for friends?! Can they still be friends, when you’re setting up an act for them? When you can’t be yourself around your friends?!
I guess that is the reason I’m writing this blog post on my private blog. I want to be out. I want my friends to know about that other life I have. I cannot act professionally in my work and private life. Whatever “private life” actually means on a public blog on the Internet. Maybe I should shut it down. Maybe I should use social media only as my sex work persona … but then, what will my private life still be? What will be left “private” for me with little to no family?
Here I am again thinking over and over and over again what to do. Doubting so much about my life, not knowing what to do. “Zweifeln”. The Identity I gave myself 8 years ago. It seems still a precise description of being me.
I want to be me. The whole me, the queer sex worker me but also the actor, the artist, the moderator, the photographer, the philosophy and culture student, the digital politics and activist me.
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