Sex work as a trans woman

5 February 2016

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Alice is 21-years-old, and works as an escort in Melbourne. She is also transgender, having transitioned from male to female. Although she considers it a dangerous job, Alice says that she has no intention of quitting any time soon.

Here she talks to Geordie Little about her clients, the social climate in Australia, her approach to marketing herself and the risks involved in sex work.

Geordie: How would you say transitioning has affected your life?

Alice: Oh my god.

G: I know, it’s a very broad question.

A: Yeah, oh, fuck, I don’t even know where to begin with that one. I guess, cause I sexually transitioned at a very young age, so I was like twelve and a half when I started wearing make up full time, and it kind of meshed with a kind of like punk grunge kind of phase, it kind of blended together, so it kind of excused a lot of interpretation from other people, but my mother very much didn’t like it, she like pretty much sat me down and told me like, you know, she’s okay with a homosexual in the family but definitely not a tranny she was like…

G: What sort of age were you at this time?

A: Yeah, I was like thirteen, so really really young. I didn’t even, it was so innocently intended so it was like, I just went out into the big wide world and it was sort of like what’s fucking wrong about it, what, why? But yeah.

G: Alright, so I guess the next thing I wanted to talk about is, how long ago did you start working in the sex industry as an escort? Was that how it started?

A: It was about twelve months ago, and that was, I just jumped into it, I had no idea what the fuck I was doing. I just jumped into it because I just knew that I wanted to make money, but the idea that I had of it when I jumped into it was very much the idea that I encounter people. It’s very caricatured in a gross way, so I very much underestimated the amount of choice you have as a provider, because people can have quite comical interpretations.

G: What do you mean by that?

A: It’s like supply and demand, I guess, so it’s not like you’re being paired with, you know, people who have like radical body types because you can do a career and not really do that much work of that kind, I mean it’s up to you and what you’re comfortable with and how much you’re planning to make in a week.

G: Okay, so what sort of clients do you get?

A: Well I’ve played around quite a lot with my marketing too, I’m obsessed with that part actually, it’s a little bit compulsive when it comes to playing around with wording or visual imagery, or if I get a tan, if I stay pale then I get a different client. There’s a stereotype that it’s quite desirable in an escort to be very sophisticated, but that can tap into a much older demographic, so I guess if you’re a really cliché, high end escort then you’re going to hear older voices on the phone. But I feel like being, at the moment, very casual, it’s very me, it’s young and that gets more. So I see guys who are just very normal, in their late thirties to late forties, and that’s a good demographic for me.

G: So you don’t generally get clients that are sort of in your own age group?

A: Oh yeah, but that’s hard, I don’t trust them. I just wouldn’t trust being with someone my own age, it’s really weird and when I have gone to see someone my own age, and he was actually a virgin, that was too much for me, I couldn’t do that, it was too stressful. I actually don’t want to be the person of the most, I don’t know, responsibility. That’s why I like seeing older men, it’s easier to see older men.

G: Would you say that it’s a responsibility to be the first person that someone has sex with?

A: I don’t know, if I’m the older person, I see somebody that’s my age or I’m older, then I feel compelled to be very motherly and I don’t want that responsibility.

G: So most of the time you’ve been working has been independently of brothels yeah?

A: No, no, privately.

G: So that’s unregulated?

A: No, I have a sex worker registration number.

G: Alright, so, I guess what I’m getting at is, do you think that it’s a dangerous industry at all? Has that been your experience at all?

A: Oh it’s definitely a job in which I’m very critical, it depends on how efficient your people skills are. I think that it’s definitely a dangerous industry. If you are very efficient at reading people then it’s not.

G: Have you had any encounters of that sort?

A: No, I know a girl who works in London and she’s been raped and stuff, and I’ve not been through those kinds of circumstances yet.

G: You’ve mentioned before that you’ve had trouble finding a house, do you think that you’ve experienced discrimination because of your work?

A: Yes, of course, definitely.

G: Were your expectations of the sex industry different to your experience of it?

A: Well I had no expectations, I had no idea what the fuck I was doing, but I did like underestimate a few things about it, and I overestimated a few things about it. Yeah, it was totally different to what I thought.

G: What sort of stuff did you underestimate or overestimate about it?

A: Well, I mean, I didn’t forecast the kind of guys that would see me, the situations that I would end up in, the men that I would meet, all that kind of stuff.

G: What sort of stuff do you mean?

A: Well I’ve had good experiences, I’ve had bad experiences, but I’ve had some good experiences too, that redeems it a little bit, but it’s still a very stressful job, you have to be constantly looking over your shoulder and, you know, that’s very stressful.

G: How long are you planning on staying in the industry for?

A: Well, if I lived in a, I reckon if I lived in a European city, cause it’s just more advanced, I think I would do it until I’m thirty.

G: What’s different about the industry in Australia, compared to overseas?

A: Well it just comes along with the territory, especially if you’re a trans worker, cause I put up an advert in London that kind of, it was definitely a more advanced market in that regard, so if I lived in London that would be good for me.

G: Do you think that it’s more accepted over there?

A: Yeah, it’s how their cultural climate rubs off onto their local sex industry, so that’s a factor.

G: Well, how do you think Australian society views sex workers?

A: Well I think that it’s obviously better than in America, from having met Americans, but I feel it can be very mixed. I reckon it’s usually good, and the people who don’t usually think positively about it don’t really know much about it, but then at the same time, I don’t think I agree with the sex industry as a blanket whole, I think that if it’s in certain very specific conditions then it’s fine.

G: Well, thanks very much for talking to me Alice.

A: Awesome, cool.

Geordie Little is a first-year Journalism student at La Trobe University.