I’ve been a sex worker for the past four years.
It started as a fun side gig but eventually it became my full-time job. I was making great money as a female escort, and I had grand plans for my future.
Since then I’ve found that people outside of the LGBTI community have no idea that trans men even exist.
Most think there are three genders: men, women, and trans; and they believe that all trans people are trans women. Trans men are quite invisible.
We are seen either as butch women or as cis men. The idea that one can be ‘female to male’ is widely unknown, and many people struggle to understand even after it’s explained.
A year into transition, I look rather androgynous with my clothes on. Whether people read me as male or female is still a bit of a coin toss, but they often believe I’m a trans woman.
The worst example was when I was in hospital a couple of months ago. The staff kept calling me ‘she’ despite my male gender marker and title. When I asked them to call me ‘he’ because I’m a man, they became very confused. They could obviously tell I’m trans and thought they were doing the right thing by addressing me as a woman.
Which brings us back to sex work. I kept working as a woman until some months into transition. As my body changed, a few clients remarked about my sexy husky voice and slightly unusual junk, but with a wig and makeup on I had no problem ‘passing’ as female. After my top surgery I started advertising and working as a man. Sex work is perhaps the only industry where women make hands down more money than men. I’m making less money than I did as a woman, but I still work and I still love it.
These days I have short hair, a flat chest, a hairy body, and a deep voice, not to mention a male name.
And yet, almost every client believes I’m a trans woman.
I’m constantly asked about whether I’m circumcised and when I’m getting breast implants. (God knows what they think the mastectomy scars are.) I’ve had clients show up who expected a woman but go with it when they realise. I’ve had others who never realise, even after sex, and keep asking afterwards about how I was ‘born male’. I’ve been flattered when people think I’ve had bottom surgery (I haven’t, it’s all hormones), then confused when I discover they actually think I’ve had a vaginoplasty.
After decades of staunch feminism, I am loath to say ‘what about the men?’
But trans men are underrepresented in the media to the point of invisibility. People never hear about us and we’re a foreign concept. I can’t name three famous trans men, and none who are household names like, say, Caitlin Jenner (for good or for ill).
We need to start talking about trans men. We need to stop making forms that give gender options of male/female/trans (to say nothing of the non-binary erasure and other problems with that format.)
I would desperately like to see just one popular TV show include a trans male character. Someone to introduce the idea to people outside of the LGBTI community, someone I can point to and say ‘I’m like that guy’ and have people understand what I am.
Let’s work for a world where everybody knows there are heaps of genders and more than one variety of trans.