Trans workers and gender variance-specific issues for trans workers
If you are trans and considering selling sex, it is important to fully consider the legal, health and safety issues and how to reduce risk. Think about whether to tell clients about your trans status or genitalia. If you don’t disclose your status, think about how clients might react if they find out. You run the risk of threats, harassment, violence or not being paid. Do you pass convincingly and want to work as a woman, perhaps restricting your service, or do you advertise as a 'chick with a dick'? Some people get by unnoticed by well-concealed genitalia, known as ‘tucking’, but this can depend on the size of your genitalia, and how practiced you are at this technique. Voice or mannerisms can ‘out’ people. Voice and deportment classes can help. There are trans support groups, but they may not know about the specifics of sex work.
Projects working with trans and sex worker have found that some trans and male sex workers become victims of violent crime because they are the victims of Homophobic and Trans Phobic hate crime. They may also be victimised because of their sex working status. Trans sex workers are especially vulnerable because their clients are typically young, heterosexual and male – but are wanting the services of a pre-op trans sex worker. These clients often present with their own issues around their sexuality. Trans sex workers also have to “pass” in their chosen gender (usually male to female) to avoid been targeted. They are more vulnerable if they are visibly seen as being Trans. Trans sex workers are traditionally less likely to report crime – for fears of being misunderstood about their gender, their work, and for migrant trans people their migrant status. Projects in London have found that currently a large number of Trans workers are on student/tourist visas and need the support of projects to report crime.
Personal safety for trans sex workers
Many of the safety issues which pre- and post-op trans people face when selling sex are similar to those outlined already in the main pages. Some male to female pre-op Trans sex workers have reported problems with disclosure. Should they tell their clients their gender of origin? Others find that there is a market for pre-op MTF Trans people, as clients want ‘chick with a dick’ type workers. Some Trans workers have reported that these clients can become aggressive if confused about their own sexuality. It is also known for some female to male Trans people to sell sex, and again, the issue of disclosure may arise. Street-based Trans sex workers may also find themselves in vulnerable situations and open to abuse by clients and the public. The safety guidelines in this booklet apply here, especially getting to know your area. Some towns/cities have a place where Trans sex workers are more likely to be safe selling. Your local sex worker project can guide you on this. Some male sex workers, who would not otherwise identify as trans and have no intention of transitioning, cross-dress to secure more clients. These workers – often with no intention of passing (looking female) – should think carefully about the places in which they sell their services.
Many Trans people believe sex work is a viable alternative to conventional work. They may make money quickly, and use this to pay for laser surgery, private hormones and psychotherapy as these are not often available on the NHS. However, there are disadvantages to this approach. For example, choosing the right laser technician can be confusing, as there are several types of laser, some are not suitable for male hair growth, and prices can vary considerably. Some people buy hormones over the internet without ever seeing a doctor, let alone a specialist in hormones (endocrinologist). This means that hormone levels are not checked or monitored, and taking hormones can produce nasty side effects. There is an array of products, and choosing is difficult. It means relying on biased sales pitches, friends’ experiences and potential misinformation. Not all hormones sold on the internet or unregulated market are real. There are reports of fake, out-of-date or banned products. Find out as much as possible in advance, and cross-check your information.
UK guidelines prevent clinicians from prescribing hormones to someone who smokes. Some clinics measure blood pressure before prescribing to ensure you have stopped smoking because of the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If you choose to use the NHS, which may mean a longer waiting time, you will be able to get your hormones on an NHS prescription, saving you upwards of £40 per month. The NHS also pays for gender reassignment surgery (GRS), though not all trans workers choose GRS; some choose to have breast implants and keep their genitalia unmodified.
You need to think about whether to continue with sex work whilst undergoing the transition process. Sex work is not considered a viable form of work by some gender identity clinics, and will not be seen as relevant for the ‘real life’ test. Voluntary work is, however, acceptable, so it is possible to do both. But hiding your sex work from those assessing you for SRS can lead to additional stress. If transitioning whilst sex working, allow for not working after surgery (you will need at least a few weeks to heal). So put aside some money for this if you can. Get advice from trans or sex work support agencies about benefits such as incapacity benefit, housing benefit and council tax benefit. SRS is not for everyone. Some people choose to have breast implants, whilst keeping their genitals (sometimes known as ‘chicks with dicks’) because they can get more custom and earn more.
Mental health issues
You are not automatically entitled to counselling or psychotherapy under the NHS. The psychiatrist assesses gender identity disorder (GID ), and acts as a gatekeeper to the NHS transition, but not therapeutic intervention. You can get a list of accredited specialist counsellors and psychotherapists, some of whom provide free services, from:
The Gender Trust
National helpline: 0845 231 0505
Its open from 10am-10pm Monday to Friday and 1-10pm weekends
THT SWISH London
Tel: 0207 812 1809
10am-5pm Monday to Friday, it is London based but can support you by phone or email.
The TransActions Project
NUM is working with Northumbria University and Open Lab on TransActions, a project to listen to trans sex workers, understand their needs and their experiences and to produce resources and information in order to support trans sex workers and amplify their voices.
You can find more information and get involved at their website: http://transactions.space