Searching through various fashion resale apps to sell my lingerie collection, taking stock of my velvet bodysuits and mesh teddies, I start to feel a lump growing in my throat. “I’m sorry I put you through that,” I say to no one in particular. These fancy femme undies I bought for my Pro-Domme sessions also were a significant expense and I’m so mad at myself. I could have bought a small vacation with all this. Damn it all.
“I said to the sun. ‘Tell me about the big bang.’ The sun said, ‘it hurts to become.’’’
-Andrew Gibson, trans poet
But I’m tired of kicking my own ass for choices I made when I didn’t know any better, couldn’t know any better. Like when I hired a photographer for a sexy photoshoot and totally self-sabotaged the entire thing. I showed up high as a kite and put no effort into my outfits, whatsoever. Shoving those velvet teddies into a duffle bag along with a few pairs of stilettos, I arrived at the shoot like I had been summoned to jury duty.
“Sup.” I said to my wonderfully professional photographer. She was as nice as could be, bubbly and really quite good at making me feel at ease. Still, everything about the shoot felt wrong. I told myself it was because I got too high/paranoid and also something about the moon phase being incorrect or some celestial bodies not being in alignment. Right, Lorde. That’s it. Blame the moon.
When I got the 100+ photos back, I cried. Horrified despite the excellent quality of the photos, my heart deflated. My heart cracked. I felt that I looked like a clown, like an imposter. Who is that? This person in the photos looked grotesque, like a painted doll—not a nice, lifelike, doll, but a dead-eyed and dead-inside doll. I posted one of the photos to my Instagram anyway and got more likes and interaction than ever before, which only hurt more. People like this version of me? It must be the best version and even if it’s not, I better not change a thing about this. I better not fuck up this thing that’s working.
Except it wasn’t really working. Ever seen a potted plant all root-bound? Bunched-up on itself so its roots are tangled, crisscrossed and mashed? That was me. My skin began to feel too tight. Every time I performed as a femme, I felt uncomfortable. I became phobic of taking any new clients and would only work with a specific few who I knew fetishized my cock above all else. Cock-worship was a major catalyst for me affirming my gender. I didn’t know it before I was a sex worker, because no one had ever truly worshipped my cock before, but the feeling of having someone perceive my cock as more than a silicone tool, but an extension of my being, my actual cock, felt so fucking aligned and true. It felt great. I wept the first time I felt truly seen as a man. By contrast, it hurt so much when I wasn’t perceived as a man, especially when clients (cis men) highlighted some transphobic and transmisogynistic things about themselves, with comments like, “I’m so glad you’re a biological woman” or, (said wistfully) “you ALMOST look like a trans girl with that cock.” Oof! Being perceived as a “girl with a dick” felt like being a lump of cookie dough cut with the wrong cookie cutter. I felt like I had no control over how I was perceived even though I was the one in charge as a Domme. I left sessions feeling disoriented, sad, angry and anxious. I used more drugs than I wanted to in order to numb myself after these performances that felt so disingenuous.
So I started screening calls. Anybody who wanted a session that sexualized me in a feminine way was blocked or ghosted. Anybody who I knew who fetishized me as a Femme Domme was removed from my email blasts. I made less money because I dissolved most of my clientele. So I doubled back and thought, hey, what if I pretend to be a girl? What if I put on femme drag and conjure this super-femme persona that I can just turn off when I’m not working?
Well, that worked for about 69 seconds. While I’m an excellent actor, I’m a terrible liar. Besides, acting and lying aren’t the same thing. Acting is often the choice to play a character and I felt like I had no choice. When I looked at leaderboards of top models online, I saw a ton of cis femmes, all white, and no trans people. This is not representative of the adult industry on the whole, but it’s what I saw in my online bubble. I thought the only way to be successful in this industry was to fit a strict code. Thus, I code-switched. I was a trans boy to my friends and chosen family and a Femme Domme for my clients. I thought putting on femme drag and engaging in conscious persona-swapping would help my business and that it would feel fine. It didn’t.
While some SWers are able to perform happily as femmes in their profession while living non-binary/trans identities in their personal lives, I didn’t find it comfortable to switch between the two identities. This might be because sex amplifies my dysphoria. Before I came out as trans, I was having sex as a femme with all of my partners meaning sex was inherently performative since the beginning of my experience with it. Only after engaging in sex work, after consciously curating a performance as my stage persona, was I made acutely aware of when said performance was disingenuous, when it wasn’t a BDSM session, but a re-traumatizing song and dance. It felt incredibly dissociative for me to engage in sex acts as a femme. While I was working hard to realize, accept, and love my trans identity in my personal life, I felt like I was going into sessions and undoing all my hard work. I finally accepted that persona-swapping was harmful to me.
So, I slowly started telling my most trusted clients the real deal. Some reacted favourably, “I think you’re a badass and I’m still going to cum with you because you’re hot. Period.” The ones who really like my brand of bratty charm and caustic wit didn’t care about my gender presentation because that was never their fetish in the first place. They liked the way I talked and the way I held space for the ridiculous minutiae of their daily lives. Being sexualized as a femme was never the draw for them, so I can happily say I’m still making money from a handful of regulars who were seeing me pre-affirmation. Some of the same clients who called my listing when I presented as a Femme Domme are still calling me today as a Boy Bully. They either understand my transness (a small handful), or, are unphased by the persona switch because they are so focused on themselves (a larger handful), their work problems and general worries. This is a topic for another column, but a lot of work I do as a SWer is not sex or even sexual. Oftentimes I get to be on the receiving end of a vent about why someone’s mom doesn’t know how to use her computer and how she always asks them for help even though they are not a computer technician. Chastity-lovers, platonic-chatters, and kinky eccentrics, those with more intellectual and emotional needs, stuck around. It’s funny because I am all of those things I just described. Like attracts like.
I’m the bratty boy next door. I’m Bart Simpson cosplaying as a leather daddy.
Others were not able to understand as easily. Some claimed senility as the reason. “I’m 53 years old. This whole trans thing is really new to me. Why does it matter if I say ‘his cock’ or ‘her cock’? It’s your cock I love.” Oof! My response to that stubborn pushback was, “Changing up my pronouns really turns me on. I’d love it if you would do that.” I kept my professional sexy persona through these explanations, but only for a while. I soon burnt out on that and realized I had to save my energy for explaining my perspective on gender constructs for my actual loved ones. My teenage niece deserves my energy and this explanation. My child who’s six deserves my energy and this explanation. I do not have limitless capacity for everyone in my life. So I protect my energy. For my loved ones. For myself.
New clients who aren’t a fit for me are easier to weed out now. When someone calls requesting a *female* hypnotist I’m comfortable saying, “I’m excellent at hypnosis but I’m not female. I’m non-binary.” Whether or not they understand what that means is not always made known to me. I don’t prioritize educating clients: as much as I feel I am a natural educator and as much as I think it may help the trans community on the whole, I don’t enjoy doing gender education and erotic labour at the same time. It addles my brain. In fact, although I can only speak for myself, I’m guessing lots of trans people are exhausted by the endless educating of the general public we are often forced to do. And having to advocate for the validity of your own existence in this education process can take a massive emotional toll as well. Doing it at the same time as a sexual transaction is a lot. A lot. Thus, I find myself working with more and more queer and trans clients for precisely this reason: I don’t feel I have to explain myself. Cis people, when you do the labour of gender education you take a load off of my shoulders. Thank you.
But there’s still a lot of work to be done, or undone, depending on your perspective.
The photoshoot was the catalyst for my gender undoing and now I’m more fully realized in my work. I don’t wear lingerie to sessions, I wear boxers and a T-shirt with the sleeves cut off. I replaced bush-worship with pit-worship (same hairstyle, for me) and I have kindly asked any subs with public blogs about me to change my pronouns in said blogs. I’m actively seeking out role models and heroes, other trans sex workers, particularly trans masc Dommes (see my list below for SWers who have influenced me). It took time, research and introspection to discover a different niche for myself, a different avenue. I’m the bratty boy next door. I’m Bart Simpson cosplaying as a leather daddy. The new persona I have is so much closer to my real self than the previous Femme Domme iteration I explored. He takes himself a lot less seriously, is more fun, playful and overall joyful. He’s much closer to an authentic me.
I’m about to go into a meeting with a trans sex worker in-training who wants coaching on how to embody his sexuality and monetize it. Should I start sex work after my top surgery? He asks me. Would it be wiser to stick with one persona? I reply that it’s entirely up to him. If he doesn’t feel sexy in this current version of his body, maybe wait. But also, sharing his top-surgery and recovery experience with his clients could be really intimate, erotic and genuine. I tell this baby SWer to do what feels right and if he’s not sure what feels right, that’s okay, too. I tell him to keep listening to desire and to keep honouring his own boundaries. Like another Sun, he will soon be reborn, bigger and brighter than ever.
Trans Sex Workers to Follow on Social Media
Lorde (he/they) is a nonbinary trans sex worker, poly-player and parent. Their special interests include Deaf/HoH, neurodivergent and queer accessibility and visibility in the adult industry. When he is not parenting or pro-Domming, you can find Lorde at his writing desk working on his column DomMom Diaries or writing poetry about their beloved home on Tongva/Chumash land in Los Angeles, California.