From The Independent UK: http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2012/06/18/bodily-autonomy-confessions-of-a-transsexual-sex-worker/
By Paris Lees
Monday, 18 June 2012
When Channel 4 screened Ria: Diary of a Teen Transsexual last Tuesday I was prepared for ignorant comments. I didn’t predict though that criticism towards 17 year old Ria would focus so heavily on her sex work. I was invited to meet her as part of the documentary, to show her that there’s light at the end of the transsexual tunnel. When I learned she was turning tricks I rolled my eyes and said “Ooh you little scamp!”. I identified with her (infer away) and hoped she was safe, naturally, but it wasn’t really any of my, well… business.
I was unimpressed with a flurry of comments I saw on Facebook which condemned Ria’s massage parlour job as “morally wrong”. The commenters were otherwise supportive of her transition; a bizarre case of “We don’t mind you letting a doctor reshape your genitals, but you’re not allowed to rent them”. Some defended her with the rather sweet, but utterly condescending I-was-no-angel-at-her-age-we-all-do-stupid-things argument. What about students who fund their university education through sex work? Are they stupid? And why can’t we be angels and promiscuous? And who, precisely, are these perfect people passing judgement on others? It makes me feel like going out on the beat, just so I can report back how deliciously unashamed I am.
We’re all judgemental at times. I once had a friend who enjoyed sticking hooks in his back and hanging from the ceiling; apparently this induces euphoria. I think it’s repulsive. That is not, however, the same as believing it to be wrong, which I don’t. And what exactly does “wrong” mean anyway? It’s a suspiciously slippery concept. All we really have are the consequences of our actions – in my friend’s case, stretched back-skin. That’s no skin off my nose though.
In addition to “wrong” I’m also wary of “why”. Many trans people have low self-esteem from living in a culture that repeatedly tells us we are unattractive, that we are inferior, that we are worth less. Combined with an ambivalent relationship towards one’s body, horrendous employment discrimination and a youthful libido, it’s easy to see why many young trans women turn to prostitution.
It’s true that Ria is only 17, and I don’t dismiss that there are often many down sides to working in the sex industry. However, in cases where it is both consensual and free from abuse, we shouldn’t judge people who have sex for money any more than we should judge those who have gay sex, group sex or phone sex. It’s just human behaviour. I’m far more interested in why people wish to condemn it.