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At Pornhub, we recognize the increased risks trans individuals face, especially in the sex work industry. We sat down with Rachael Wells from Pineapple Support, a therapist who specialises in gender and sex work, to better understand the experiences of trans sex workers and offer wellness advice to the valued members of our community.

Rachael, tell us about the work you do.

What I do with Pineapple Support is I run support groups. I can see clients through Pineapple, but mostly I support them a lot doing webinars. Outside of Pineapple, I'm a clinical manager at a community mental health agency. I do trauma therapy with mostly trans people, the LGBT community, and people in the adult industry, or a little bit of both or all.

What are common issues that tend to come up often with trans sex workers?

The first one that always comes to mind is fetishization without wanting it. Users join platforms like cam rooms and act like watching trans porn is their dirty little secret. Even if the trans performer is very confident, and accepting of themselves, this fetishization makes them feel shame and think “Am I always meant to be outside of my community, a source of shame, like there's something inherently wrong with my body, and how I use it, and what I do with it?”

How do you address issues surrounding feelings of shame?

I've always been a strong proponent with any of my industry folks, especially my trans folks, to focus on boundaries. And people get fearful around that because they think, "You're messing with my livelihood. You're recommending something and I think it's going to lose me clientele." And yet, people that have taken the leap and gone through with it seem to get a more supportive clientele, people that are actually celebrating that person, their body, their identity, because they're setting those boundaries.

courtesy of unsplash

What advice would you give someone who is beginning their transition? What are some things they should consider to best take care of themselves during the process?

It sounds silly, but Google is a great friend. As someone who is also trans, it can certainly be a journey, and you can feel like there's so many stopping points and legal issues. Seek out local resources, like “Trans Lifeline,” and know who can support you if you are feeling down and suicidal or hopeless throughout the process. Check in with other performers that are also trans, people that have walked a path before you and ask, “What would you recommend?”. Word of mouth is so powerful in the trans community. And you can learn about those legal, financial, and transition resources.

I would say, at the end of the day, the biggest thing is that even though there may be dysphoria or discomfort with the body as it is, that’s okay; your body is doing what it needs to do, and it will get to the other side.

Most of the time, when we're transitioning, we think, "Oh, my gosh, I'm not doing enough. I need to do this. I need to do that." If it's something we want, we aren’t doing enough. Limitations that happen in this world are more systemic and we can only do so much. So, just try to be compassionate and speak to yourself like you would a beloved friend or child. I doubt we would tell them, "You're not doing enough. You're a bad person." We wouldn't do that.

What is the most common concern among trans women and trans men in the industry?

I'd say with trans women, the major issue does seem to be harassment and death threats. People or clients get very intense about, for example, “If you don't allow me to talk to you in this manner, treat you as less than, I'm going to do something about it.”

When it comes to the trans men and the trans masculine folks, I hear very specific things about misgendering and almost disinterest. They tend to be treated like their assigned sex at birth or often feel like they’re not being taken seriously and that they can't be masculine or strong in any way. So I would say a lot of toxic masculinity comes into play.  

What are common misconceptions people might have of trans performers? With that in mind, what are common misconceptions that trans performers might have of themselves and their own community when they get into this line of work?

I think a lot of misconceptions that people who are seeking out porn have is seeing the performer as a caricature and not a person. People think they can just say whatever they'd like to them or make demands of them, because they're just seeing this person as who they are based on their content. We're forgetting this is a person that has interests, families, a house, pets, all sorts of multitudes in their life. So that can kind of create the cycle which goes into the perception that trans performers have about themselves. I've noticed with a lot of clients; they feel like they have to feed into the fetishization; feeling like they might have to defer to themselves in derogatory ways to be able to get hits online.

What are the biggest differences you see between cis and transgender sex workers who seek counseling?

I would say overall themes run similar: boundaries, self-esteem, isolation, safety, monetary issues. But I would say, when it comes to the differences between the cisgender folks and the transgender folks that I've worked with, it’s that there is more focus on isolation. When it comes to online workers, I would say the trans community there, especially in bigger cities, are pretty tight knit. They've got their group, they know who's who, and what's going on. It doesn't mean it's safe, but that's how they keep safety online. For a lot of the cam models that do recordings, I hear a lot of depression about self-image, a lot of existential stuff, like, “Who am I? Who are my people? I feel like I'm floating out here.” They want to have other positive friends and role models that are also trans in the industry. It can be hard to find those people in person too because it's so specific.

courtesy of unsplash

What are the major positives that trans performers find in sex work?

Despite all the stuff that we've discussed, for many, it’s the first-time people have felt free to wear and present themselves in ways that make them have gender euphoria and feel a sense of joy. They're like, “This is a place where I can try things on. I can feel out parts of my personality and self that maybe I've had to tamp down, and I can be who I want to be because I have a large portion of control on my content.” When they feel comfortable enough to sustain the amount of freedom and support, you want to talk about rags to riches … it really can be like that! So, it's beautiful! I love to see trans people thriving!

 Some people have found out that they were actually trans through sex work, which I find really beautiful, and really unique, and amazing because there's so many directions you can go in how you look and present to be.

How can sex work be empowering or harmful to this community?

I want focus on positives here, there are so many! I think people forget it because people outside of the industry like to focus on victimizing people. So many people are in the industry because they value the work, it's fun, they enjoy who they speak to, they make friends, and they get new experiences. Stuff that can be harmful seems mostly to do with an entitled clientele who objectify and make demands, and forgetting this is a full, well-rounded human.

The positives are really such unique networking. I have heard of the most incredible friendships that have spanned across countries and oceans. I have seen people find themselves, whether it's finding gender, sexuality, kind of different roles in BDSM, things about their personality, like “who am I really”. I've seen people that have really opened their creative side. I feel like there's countless things that sex work can do for people that can really build self-esteem, and have someone understand themselves, and accept themselves.

Regardless of gender identity, what should someone consider before they engage in sex work?

You must make sure that you're a reliable person, that you are accountable to yourself and others. You have to go to your shoots and you have to show up online if you want to grind this thing and make it work. You really must be committed and passionate, too. I always encourage people to look and ask, "Do you want to be in business for yourself?" It’s just like starting up any other business. Do you want to run finances and do taxes? It's not all cute and fun like you think it might be; there's a background scene to this. You must be an artist, a performer, an accountant, and deal with marketing. You have to be an Internet genius, you have to be like a coder. So, check in that you have the resources for that and the mental stamina for that. If some things are not quite there, make sure before you jump into it, you find your support, you're seeking therapy, you're in a support group, you're telling close friends and family that you trust and that would support you to make sure that you're not going in blind because I think that's what happens a lot. People jump in solo, and then they're like, "Oh, I had no idea."

We'd like to remind our Models and users alike that they are never alone in this community. We have formed partnerships with resourses like Pineapple Support, a free to use therapy center for all members of the sex work community. We encourage you to contact Pineapple Support and speak to qualified members like Rachael if you are experiencing feelings of uncertainty. You can aslo find resourses on wellness for all genders and body types at our Sexual Wellness Center. While we use this opportunity to shed light on and reflect on the experiences of gender non-conforming performers, it is equally important to celebrate the power, courge, and resilience of the trans community, today and everyday.

 

Comments

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SexwifeKaty 2 weeks ago

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SportPara 2 weeks ago

Hi to everyone Wink Emoticon

GeminiKing333 2 weeks ago

I’m so excited to be here as a trans man with have completed all surgical procedures to have my body match my brain. I definitely need support in this business to get my β€œsex business” going if anyone is willing to help.

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TomaStevi 2 weeks ago

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Enrico Wood 2 weeks ago

tl;dr

Kim Dazy 3 days ago

Thank you this was very informative. I am contacting Pineapple Support to help me as I transition.

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DnDHavoc 2 weeks ago

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doloresman 2 weeks ago

It needs to be talked about. Still a lot of misconceptions and stigma out there!

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Gizelle Woulds 2 weeks ago

This article was enlightening for me! I never realized some of the issues trans people face! This will definitely help me in the future to not be the cause of some of this pain. I would never what to hurt anyone even if it was from not knowing better.

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Singlemtf 2 weeks ago

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