Rachel* is a trans sex worker living and working in Dublin. She talks to Ruth Seavers about the misconceptions surrounding sex work and the wider economic and political debate over how she earns a living.
This article was originally published in the December 2016 Sex Issue of GCN, which is available to read online here.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the trans sex worker who was interviewed
A year and a half ago Rachel, then in her mid 20s, needed a job. Having always been very sexually adventurous, sex work was something she had thought about before and was open to. Deciding to pursue sex work was “quite simple,” she says.
“I posted an ad online and just waited for the phone to ring. I was nervous before my first client, not fearful though, it was more nervous excitement. I never felt at any point, ‘what the fuck am I doing?’ And I’ve never been unsure of my decision to become a sex worker.”
Rachel’s online ad contains a short description, photos and a list of services. Clients can call or text to arrange an appointment, before which she makes sure they’re clear about her rules and price. For Rachel, sex can be intimate without necessarily creating emotional or romantic attachment, something she knows a lot of people might have trouble relating to.
Not A Victim
“I know it would not be the right decision for the vast, vast majority of people,” she says. “I know there are certain things about me and my attitude towards sex, intimacy and my body that mean I don’t struggle with the issues surrounding sex work that many women would.”
Sex workers are often presented as victims who lack real choice or understanding of their lives and decisions. A ubiquitous belief is that there must be an underlying reason to explain why they do the work they do – early non-consensual sexual encounters or a troubled childhood, for example. But Rachel rejects this.
“If people are looking for something in my upbringing to try to explain why I’m a sex worker, they won’t find it,” she says. “I’m from a very boring middle class background.”
A year and a half after putting her first ad up, sex work is Rachel’s main source of income. Soft-spoken and exceptionally polite, she likes the freedom of being her own boss and choosing when she works. Because she doesn’t work for an agency or from a brothel, she is effectively an independent worker. She tries to see between three and five clients a day.
“After five I don’t have the energy to do any more,” she says. “Not physically, just mentally. Like any service industry job, working hard to ensure someone else is happy and enjoys themselves can be tiring after a while.”
The fact Rachel is trans plays into her job hugely. A lot of her clients are looking to try sex with a trans person, and this has its downsides, she says.
“For a lot of my clients their first exposure to trans people is through porn, which is very fetishising when it comes to trans women in particular, so they are familiar with transphobic language and words like ‘tranny’ and ‘shemale’. They’re very ugly words and I can’t stand them.”
Keep reading to find out about trans sex worker statistics and the legalities surrounding sex work in Ireland.