Why Some LGBTQIA+ People are Coming Out to Online Sex Workers

Published: JUNE 24, 2024 | Updated: JUNE 24, 2024
This online sex worker shares why some of her clients choose to come out to her instead of friends and families.

Humans are inherently social, so connection is an essential element of mental health. As a queer, outspoken, seasoned writer on sex, dating, and relationships for over two decades, I've received countless DMs from strangers seeking advice or connection. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, I recognized the massive surge in messages as a profound hunger for connection in disconnected times. Fascinated by human behavior and trusted with intimate secrets, I saw an opportunity to monetize my expertise and set up a profile on SextPanther, an adult sexting, call, and camming site.


"Sex work has a sense of safety and acceptance," says Elise Robinson, LCSW, LICSW, Founder & Psychotherapist at Mindful Care Therapy and Consultation. "Speaking with a sex worker is like going right to the source of information and lived experience, which is comforting to people in the midst of deep questioning or changes."

My online sex work clients range from social media followers to people who read my articles and folks who find me with a Google search. Leveraging my successful career and established fan base, I present myself authentically, sharing real-life experiences and preferences. Online sex work has been a natural extension of my storytelling, with just a slight shift to NSFW content and role-play scenarios.

Creating spaces for safe exploration

My online communities are a safe space for exploring interests and fantasies, both sexual and platonic. They're also a place where people can come to feel heard and empowered, especially when they need to talk about things they don't feel like they can share with anyone else. Often, this includes their exploration of sexual orientation and gender identity, which fits perfectly with my experience as a volunteer with The Trevor Project.


Take David (name changed to protect his privacy), for example: "Exploring my sexuality later in life has been a journey of liberation and self-discovery after leaving a long-term marriage. Sadly, I couldn't confide in friends or colleagues about this deeply personal journey. Opening up to Ryn has been crucial in my coming out as bisexual."

Talking with other sex workers, I've learned that I'm definitely not alone in this endeavor. Lia, an online sex worker, told me that many of her clients confide in her about their coming out experiences, seeking connection, understanding, and support.

"Being able to provide that safe space and encouragement means the world to me," she says.


Why people are coming out to online sex workers like me

It might seem strange for people to come out as LGBTQIA+ for the first time to online sex workers like me and Lia. But there are actual several reasons why people might want to sex worker about their sexuality before anyone else in their lives.

The stigma is real 

Even in 2024, when we have so many out and proud public figures, coming out can still be daunting for many people, says Allison Marx, a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Los Angeles, CA, who specializes in LGBTQIA+ affirmative, poly/ENM-friendly, and kink-knowledgeable therapy.

"People often hesitate to come out because of fear of judgment or rejection from their families or communities, she says. 


 "The current political dialogue and landscape are not very supportive of LGBTQ+ members, and some people are diligently trying to remove the rights of those within the community," says Jamie Downie, LMSW (he/him) associate therapist at Gateway to Solutions.

Religion can compound the shame people feel about their sexuality, Downie adds. Especially in the United States, religious beliefs and organizations have been warped and co-opted to push an anti-LGBTQIA+ agenda, enforcing stereotypes and dangerous narratives to evoke fear of someone's authentic identity.

Downie suggests that the fear of stigma and shame can drive individuals to internalize negativity, concealing aspects they perceive as flawed. This reluctance to share vulnerable parts may stem from a desire to avoid judgment or rejection, hindering genuine self-expression and connection with others.


Lack of resources and education

"By and large, we live in a sex-negative culture. This means that we tend to have a rigid view of how sex and sexuality 'should' be, and therefore, we only talk about and show it in those handfuls of specific ways," says Robinson.

Because of this, she explains, there's a lack of easily accessible informational resources that foster exploration beyond this narrow scope. Instead, the readily available information is often biased, exclusive, inaccurate, and further stigmatizes sexuality.

Marx adds that for folks whose gender or sexual identity doesn't fit traditional norms, it can be tough to even know which words to use or what label to pick. This confusion can make it really hard to start talking to others about it.


Read More: Bisexuality? Pansexuality? Why All These Words Matter

Soft-launching coming out

Robinson notes that exploring sex and sexuality online offers protection and safety from one's existing social network. When we're still learning about ourselves and figuring things out, in-person interactions can feel declarative and consequential.

People reach out to me, as an online sex worker, for guidance when they're not ready to reveal their identity to the people in their lives or when doing so might be unsafe. I've helped military men navigate their identities, men leaving long-term heterosexual marriages and exploring bisexuality, cisgender women exploring relationships with other cisgender women, and individuals of all genders questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity. In all of these cases, these people wanted a clearer understanding of their thoughts and feelings before they told people in their lives, setting off a chain of unpredictable reactions.

"The separation or anonymity of online connections feels much safer, which is particularly true at the beginning of your journey. It is simply a fact that online platforms offer the highest possibility of complete anonymity, which might be really valuable to someone who is beginning to explore and/or doesn't have other supports in life with whom they can be so free," says Robinson.

Guidance for trying new things

As a sex worker, I empower people of all genders to explore their bodies, sexuality, and gender identity. This can be particularly tough for cisgender men who are exploring gayness or bisexuality. A common fear for these men is trying anal play for the first time. Many are curious but hesitant, and that's where I step in.

Through virtual guidance and coaching via Zoom, I create a safe, supportive space where men can confidently navigate their first anal play experiences. From choosing the perfect anal toys and finding the best lube to prepping for anal play and guiding each step of toy insertion, I'm there, supporting and cheering them on.

I sincerely appreciate their trust in me and sharing this intimate experience. Seeing their excitement and joy as they discover a new source of pleasure is rewarding in a way I can't even describe.

Connecting to LGBTQIA+ communities

Finding and connecting to LGBTQIA+ spaces is crucial for newly out queer folks who need support and community. Yet, individuals in small or conservative communities often face significant challenges and resistance to finding and accessing these vital resources. Additionally, engaging with new communities can feel daunting and risky, especially when it involves revealing a new identity.

Virtual spaces play a valuable role in providing a sense of belonging and support for LGBTQIA+ individuals, especially those in small or conservative communities. Through online forums, social media groups, and virtual events, individuals can connect with like-minded peers, share experiences, and access resources regardless of physical location. These virtual spaces offer a sense of community and solidarity, reducing isolation and providing vital support networks for those who may not have access to LGBTQIA+ resources locally.

As an online sex educator, I already know where a lot of these communities exist on the Internet, so I share that information with my clients. This takes the pressure and work off them during a time when they're probably a bit overwhelmed.

To find local LGBTQIA+ community resources, utilize: online searches, social media groups, LGBTQIA+ apps, community centers, libraries, colleges, health clinics, local publications, word of mouth, and hotlines for support and information.

Sex work's similarities to therapy

Marx sees a lot of similarities between sex workers and LGBTQIA+ affirming therapists. Like therapists, sex workers create safe and non-judgmental spaces for exploration, respect confidentiality, and offer reflections based on their own expertise.

"Coming out to an online sex worker or reaching out to one with questions or curiosities can feel safer than coming out to friends and family because you have a certain amount of reassurance that a sex worker who openly advertises that they are queer or that they work with queer and gender expansive individuals is going to be accepting and not judge you," says Marx.  

Sex work is much more than meets the eye. The connection created between sex worker and client can create a realm of healing and growth. Clients find not just physical pleasure but also emotional support, companionship, and a safe space to explore their deepest feelings and desires.

Read More: Online Sex Work is About Way More Than Just Getting Off

It's important to note that the support provided in sex work and licensed therapy differs significantly. While licensed therapists undergo extensive training to offer mental health treatment within ethical guidelines, sex workers may provide emotional support and companionship without formal therapy training. Marx notes that both professions offer a service that prioritizes safety, consent, and confidentiality.

"Coming out to a professional in this way can be a trial run for coming out to more people in your life, and having a positive experience talking to an online sex worker about sexuality or gender identity could give someone the confidence to eventually come out to their friends and family if they want to," she says. 

Robinson adds that by talking directly with someone and building a relationship, even an online sex workers, you can go back and forth in conversation to get deeper, more nuanced answers. 

Finding support and guidance for coming out

Support and guidance are essential for the LGBTQIA+ community. When seeking understanding and acceptance, many find refuge in the caring support of sex workers. From my experience, I've seen how empathy and a judgment-free environment can make a real difference. It's about empowering individuals to be themselves guiding them on their journey with confidence and assurance.

Ryn Pfeuffer

Ryn Pfeuffer is a versatile print and digital writer specializing in sex, lifestyle, and relationship topics. She got her start in the mid-90s at the Philadelphia Weekly, managing a 10-page section of the newspaper and more than 500 lonely hearts.Her professional stock skyrocketed when she started writing a saucy (and pre-Carrie-Bradshaw-era) dating advice column called “Ask Me Anything.” She appeared regularly on local radio stations and late-night TV as an expert on everything from grooming...

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