I’ve never been able to fit neatly into a box: I’m bisexual, polyamorous, disabled, a sex worker — and recently I came out as nonbinary, after realizing that the negative feelings I had been having toward my body were gender dysphoria.
For most of my life, I was thin ― which fit the androgynous style I had been subconsciously expressing. During my late 20s, I started to gain weight, and for the last couple of years my new curves had been making me feel incredibly uncomfortable in my skin. I no longer knew what to wear because of my large breasts.
When I was naked they seemed like foreign objects I needed to get rid of, not a beautiful part of me. But as a sex worker, it was easy to use my breasts as part of a uniform that men found attractive. I covered them with lingerie just like the other sex workers I saw.
As an escort, I had been using femininity as a way to attract clients for years ― and before that, I had been using it to attract partners.
Growing up, I was a tomboy who tried to play tackle snow soccer with the boys, who refused to play with me. But as society put pressure on me to dress and behave in a more feminine way, I did. Whenever I had a date with a man or met a partner’s mother, I would put on a dress and speak in a higher pitch.
These are stereotypes of course ― you don’t have to do anything to be a woman. But I guess I knew that I was different at an early age, and to survive I told myself that I needed to blend in.
However, not being yourself takes a toll. Slowly, over the years, I’ve been experimenting with things that made me feel more comfortable and authentic. In all my relationships, I’ve borrowed my boyfriends’ T-shirts. But in my last one, I started borrowing my boyfriend’s boxers. He would comment that he preferred women’s underwear and that maybe I was trans ― and although he ended up being right, it goes to show just how gendered our society is when a woman can’t even wear comfortable underwear without being interrogated.
When I realized I was nonbinary, I was isolating during the pandemic. I was taking a break from sex work, was long-distance from my partner and was beginning to question everything I had been doing under the male gaze.
How did I want to express my gender now that it was just me in the room? I stopped wearing makeup and started shopping in the men’s section. Immediately I was angry that I had missed out on pockets my whole life.
I watched men like Machine Gun Kelly rock out on YouTube, having gender envy and wishing I could look and behave like him.
As I got vaccinated and prepared to go back to escorting, I started to feel this looming dread. I was a different person now. I couldn’t go back to dresses, heels and lingerie.
As I was reunited with my partner, I struggled to have sex with him. It wasn’t that I wasn’t attracted to him ― it was that I didn’t know how to have sex with him without performing femininity. I didn’t want to perform femininity for anyone again ― even if it meant I was going to have to retire from sex work and be broke.
Recently I’ve been taking some time to explore my gender. I chopped off my long hair and immediately felt like I could breathe again. I went to a gender-neutral hair salon and specifically asked for a “men’s haircut.” When I went to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror, I finally understood what gender euphoria felt like.
Later that day, I bought large sweaters to hide my chest and men’s joggers to hide my hips. I stopped shaving my legs for the first time since I was a child, and to my surprise I actually love it. Every day when I put on my clothes and run my hands through my hair I feel a sigh of relief that I am finally becoming the person I knew I was as a child.
Authenticity is the most important thing. As I’ve grown older, the idea of pretending to be someone I’m not in order to feed myself makes me increasingly unhappy. I know that a lot of trans people can’t transition, and that it’s a privilege to be able to be yourself ― especially when you don’t fit within the binary.
Earlier this year, I was terrified to wear a baseball cap over my long hair because I feared someone would think I looked too masculine. Even though it sounds irrational, that’s how scared I was to be myself. Now, I’m welcoming a journey of self discovery, playing around with my appearance and looking for a gender therapist.
And even though I’m not doing sex work right now, I’m still using my sex work Twitter to explore who I am. I even changed my name to something that feels more like me: Forrest.
Every so often, when I scroll through Twitter, I find more and more nonbinary and trans masculine sex workers I didn’t know existed. I became a sex worker because it was the best option for me as a disabled person at the time. It made me feel good that people found me attractive, despite the fact that I was disabled. It’s nice to know that if I wanted to go back to sex work, there would still be clients for me.
Even though I don’t feel comfortable going back to work right now, it gives me hope ― that maybe I can be myself in a job I loved, and learn to love it again.