One of the many cool and interesting things about the Trans conference and festival at the weekend was that the community has accepted its duty of solidarity with the various transwomen and transmen who for various reasons decide to do sex work at least for a part of the time of their transition. Reasons for this can vary from paying for surgeries to being discriminated against in the workplace - and people find a community there, or find reassurance about their identities, as well as sometimes getting involved with the downsides of sex work - legal trouble, discrimination from psychiatric and surgical gatekeepers for surgery, and stigmatization.
Let's be clear - some sex workers are damaged individuals engaging in self-destruction, some are trafficed and some are parasitised by thugs. Some, possibly even many or most. A significant group, possibly a minority but a large one, are and stay in control of their lives. Much of what is being said about sex work by both the moral right and some feminists tries to infantilize everyone who has ever turned a trick.
When I was younger and thinner, and penniless in Chicago, I did what I needed to do for a while, dancing in bars and hustling in other bars. I also did a little escort work when I was back here to keep the wolf from the door in the early days of my career in freelance writing. I stopped once I didn't need it, partly because I had a sugar daddy - and then because I was sick with surgical complications. I have always had friends who were sex workers, most but not all of them trans.
I have never denied, often affirmed, this bit of my past. I am a respectable middle-class middle-aged dumpy person who used when younger to sell my body and time, and I stand by that decision. I probably would not have done it save for circumstance and I would not have chosen it and some bad things happened as a result - but I stand by it and I think it as important that anyone who has turned tricks, done phone sex, or whatever, be prepared to own that, as I do that people own their sexuality and other bits of their history and present selves.
Which is why I find the pusillanimity of ITV in sacking the KitKatDolls from Britain's Got Talent because the News of the World outed three of the trans song and dance group as sex workers so appalling. They are talented in the strange way involved in being a Pussycat Dolls tribute band and what some of them do when not performing is really no one's business, certainly not something that should stand in their way. If we were not allowed to watch any actor or singer who has ever turned a trick, the world would be a far duller place.
And here they are: The KitKat Dolls
May I say that Vanilla is possibly the least appropriately self-named person evvah? I hope that was ironic, I really do.