In honor of Trans Day of Visibility, (March 31) Kinkly spoke with two trans sex workers on their work, lives, and experiences in the world of porn and sex.
POV: Trans Sex Workers
Zander (they/them), who asked not to use their real name, is a former pro-domme, porn actor, and sex worker who eventually left the porn industry due to the lack of roles for trans folks outside the binary. Jessi Jax (she/her) started doing sex work in 2022 and says it gave her the confidence to come out as a trans woman to everyone in her life.
Zander and Jessi share both the joys and difficulties of sex work and how they view their transness in relation to the industry.
I’m so happy to connect with you both. Can you talk a little bit about who you are and your work?
Zander: I guess in relation to sex work, it feels important to share some of the identities that I hold. I am a fat, black, disabled, queer and trans person. I used to do porn and was a pro domme/sex worker.
Jessi: I am Jessi Jax. I’m a full-time Chaturbate cam girl, model, producer, artist and LGBTQ+ support consultant. I have been broadcasting on Chaturbate since February 2020. I broadcast 5 days a week for about 4 hours a day [and I have an OnlyFans]. I live in a tiny town of about 700 people in Kansas. I am living in the heart of small town America. I was not always the devoted inspiring person you came to know and love. No one here knows what I do for a living. But they all know I'm trans and surprisingly it's widely accepted.
How did you get into porn? What was that like for you? What was your favorite character or role you took on?
Zander: I actually got into started with a partner of mine who was more known in the queer porn world. They were just like “my scene partner canceled last minute, you wanna shoot with me?” And I jumped in head-first from there. I never played any roles that weren’t myself. I know some folks like to do that but I’m always fucking as myself. Part of the reason I liked porn was that it made me feel in control of how my sexuality was depicted. I really appreciated roles where I could show up as my whole self. Like I could be this horny non-gendered blob and that was seen as hot. It was very validating.
Jessi: I started cam work February 2020 as a joke and I did not think anyone would want to see me. I quickly found out how wrong I was. After logging in and over 400 people all watching me and saying the most wonderful things about me, I was hooked and could not wait to do it again and again! I was addicted to that level of acceptance. [Sex work] is a place where I found a community of other people just like me and where I found my confidence in myself. It cured my voice dysphoria!
Most importantly [sex work] has inspired me to be myself full time. As of January 2021, I came out to everyone. I can thank my modeling career for that. The confidence to be myself full time has been a long road and I hope to inspire others to take their own leaps of faith. My biggest regret is not jumping sooner. But it's not all sunshine and rainbows. When I came out I was terminated from my employer of 11 years.
What are some misconceptions about being in porn while trans? What should others know about your experiences?
Zander: I think a thing to know is that it’s not all fetish roles. I know a lot of trans folks worry about having to put themselves in stereotypical roles and you don't have to do that. There’s more out there for us. Finding it can be a little difficult though.
Jessi: This is a "real job". I pay taxes on it and frankly a regular 9 to 5 would be so much easier. I am always working on my content — like any TV personality, but worse because I do all my own marketing, sales, customer support, producing, directing, lights and audio, html coding and web design. Everything is on me on top of being the star of the show.
Also my parents support everything I do. I found that people seem to think my parents hate me. They in fact love and support me. Our relationship is something every parent and child should have. Unconditional love and support.
Is claiming the title of sex worker important to you?
Zander: Hmm, I’d honestly say the title never felt like a big deal to me. When I was working I was a sex worker and when I wasn’t I was no longer holding that title. I think for me, I never really had a judgment or value attached to it. I know that within the larger societal context, it’s not a title to be taken lightly. The stigma around sex work and the hate and violence that many sex workers experience is not something to overlook, I’m just sharing my internal process.
Jessi: It can be fun when someone asks what I do. If it's someone I read as conservative I just say I'm in marketing. I'm not wrong. I market myself constantly and being a brand ambassador shows I do this well enough for other companies to trust me— I'm forever advertising.
To others, I smile a little and tell them I do porn. Their eyes light up and then normally they ask questions.
Do you celebrate Trans Day of Visibility? What’s your relationship to your transness? Or to the erotic?
Zander: I’m a very private person so when I do celebrate, it’s typically by myself. I’ll do a ritual or spend the day in reflection and towards the end of the day, I’ll share a small bit of what came up for me that day. I try not to push myself to celebrate in ways that are inauthentic.
There was a time when I was more verbal and more outspoken without reflection but that was giving a lot of energy in ways that I didn’t necessarily want to give it. Educating strangers on the internet is exhausting. People seem to think that your existence is up for debate and therefore, entitled to your time. It’s not.
I think I have a loving relationship with my transness. Internally, I understand my identity. It doesn’t feel like this complex thing but moving through the world, things get muddled. People will always place identifiers on you that don’t fit or feel good. Even other queer and trans folk. That part is exhausting but I try to hold myself and make space for myself that don't leave me holding room for what others may think. It gets hard some days but it’s true to myself and I think that’s the most important thing. Every Trans Day of Visibility I ask myself, Am I being the most authentic version of myself? And I try to move closer towards alignment with that version of myself.
Jessi: Yes, in fact last year I painted a mannequin with a couple other broadcasters on my set as the trans flag. And we discussed our coming out stories and some of the trials we faced. It's not all sex. It's building that relationship with my audience. Also I attend all the local LGBT events I can and help with coordinating a non profit I’m part of.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Zander: I actually wanted to share why I left the porn world. After being in porn for a few years I started taking T.
This kinda put me in a space where people didn’t want to take me for lesbian roles but they also didn’t want to take me for and trans guy roles. I don’t actually identify as either of those things but I knew that there would be times when the title of the scene didn’t match who I identified as.
But once I became more comfortable in my tranness, I started applying to transmasc sites and the responses I got made me feel so icky inside. Things like “we like but please reapply further in your transition.” And in my head I was always like I’m not a trans guy, I'm just trans. Like, this is it. My transition is complete. And just to be told to push myself deeper into this very gendered boxes, from other queer and trans folk, that didn't feel good. I expect a certain level of shittiness from straight cis folks but to be face-to-face with the ways that as queer and trans folks we replicate those dynamics within our own communities… I just wasn’t down for it. I actually continued sex work and pro-domme work for a few more years.
Jessi: Don't let your fear hold you back from being happy. I'm not talking about being transgender. I'm talking about being you. Share that kink, wear that rainbow bracelet, be that person you hold back. This applies to nearly every situation. The more you think about it….. the more you realize how true this really is.
Sara Youngblood Gregory (she/they) is a lesbian writer and poet. She covers sex, kink, bdsm, disability, pleasure, and wellness for queer and trans folks. Sara serves on the board of the lesbian literary and arts journal Sinister Wisdom.
Sara’s debut chapbook RUN. comes out in Fall 2022 through Finishing Line Press.Her work has been featured in Vice, Bustle, Refinery29, HuffPost, Jezebel, and many others. You may also know Sara as sinister.spinster from Instagram, where they talk about kink and sex ed. Follow Sara on Instagram and Twitter here.