This is our truth, tell us yours
Content note for suicide, especially on the link, bullying, and biphobia/homophobia
I could not read the interview with Adrian Trett without crying. Many parts spoke personally to me, especially when he talked about the homophobic bullying he experienced in school. Being the fat lezza dogged my school days, and like him I hoped having a human shield would help. I didn’t date anyone, but soon discovered the bullies chose a new target when I got off with a couple of boys. Of course then I was a bike, rather than a dyke, but it was preferable since that only involved name calling rather than actual violence.
When I tried to kill myself at 17 it was because I saw no way to reconcile liking boys and girls, I was, in my own eyes, a pervert. A religious background and small town prejudices led me to conclude there was no where in the world for me. Luckily I was wrong, and with the immense good fortune to have been born academic I ended up far away, in the big city, where bisexuality existed.
So far so empowering young adult fiction. Except I also recognise another strand to Adrian’s tale. That of self-destructive sexual behaviour. I am lucky again here since chem sex and barebacking are not paraphilias of heterosexual sex. I also know though that throughout my 20s I behaved with little regard for my own health or safety when it came to sex. I was seeking something, anything, and all too often sought it in the bed of a stranger. Whether waking up with 2 other girls and a triad boss, or in a strange apartment where the doors were locked and no one spoke any language I understood I skirted the borders of that land marked self destruction. I honestly believe it is only luck that means I made it to the other side.
These are narratives sex workers are not meant to have. We are supposed to present the face of either happy hooker or unwilling victim. Some of us are one or the other, some enter sex work with a plan, others drift into it. Some are playing out internal issues, some have no issues and simply like the flexibility, or the income. If I had entered sex work in my 20s I would undoubtedly had been responding on some level to my abandonment issues and my belief I was undesirable. Entering it in my 30s was from a place of calculation, and risk assessment.
You know what? Neither matters. If I had been selling sex whilst I was still looking for that diamond in a mountain of coal it wouldn’t have changed what I needed from the state one bit. Sex workers don’t need to be happy or healthy to deserve rights, nor do we need to have good motives to sell sex. Adrian Trett talks in the interview of making porn so someone would like him. It’s a place I can recognise and understand. There will be as many reasons to sell a sexual service as there are people selling. The beautiful thing about this multiplicity is none of us need to be the torch bearer, none of us need to be perfect. It’s not about “real victims” versus belle de jour but about people, about the fact people are wonderful in their difference.