She asked a couple questions about my job. I answered them, still bewildered at her response. I was expecting some concern. I wondered if she was feeling worry or judgement but didn’t want to burden me with it. My sister has always been incredibly thoughtful like this. I remember coming out to her as queer and how excited and happy for me she had been about that too. I’m crying now, writing this, so grateful to have spent so much of my life knowing someone as accepting and sweet as her.I told her not to tell Mom.My mother has always done her best to love me and take care of me, and I know this. But I come from an extremely religious, conservative family—house full of kids and fire and brimstone. I’ve always lived my life in extreme and unusual ways and it scares her. She wants me to be safe. There’s so much I haven’t told her because whenever I try to, I freeze. I was worried if I came out to her while living with her that she and my father would have sent me to gay conversion camp or that they would kick me out of the house and I would be homeless, which had happened to some of my friends. I like to think that she would have accepted me, but I don’t know.
This tension has always been between us, all these unspoken things.
There’s a second closeting that we don’t talk about as much. As a sex worker, with a brand to maintain for my income and under threat of state violence, I’m closeted both ways.I don’t have the same fears, of shame or familial abandonment, but I do have serious anxieties that coming out about my personal life to my fans and the public would risk a loss of income and jeopardize my safety. Being a sex worker makes it hard to discuss certain issues; some of my fans complain if my Twitter timeline is anything but sexy pictures. As I become more of a public figure, however, using my visibility to advocate for others like me feels important.Should I be acting in solidarity with other trans folks by being out about my gender? I’m genderqueer. Until now I’ve used she/her pronouns in advertising as Liara Roux, but I use he/him/they/them in my personal life and changed my name to a stereotypically masculine one years ago. Should I talk publicly about my partners—including a spouse that I own a home with—to show that sex workers can find love, acceptance, and emotional and financial wellbeing? When I thought I had stability in the past, I’ve have the rug pulled out from me like so many others: my bank accounts closed and websites shut down, just because those companies found out who I was.Like the stalker I struggled to tell my sister about, some clients may turn toxic and possessive. Some fans who were reliable sources of income may turn out to be transphobes. And trolls are always happy to turn anything a sex worker is happy about into an excuse to harass them.
When I thought I had stability in the past, I’ve have the rug pulled out from me like so many others
I’m lucky that I’ve grown up in an era where there is more acceptance of my identity as queer, my existence as trans, even more understanding for the disabilities I deal with—but those don’t yet translate to a tolerable existence in the traditional workplace. At least, until I found sex work: A job I can work on my own schedule around chronic pain, a job where being queer is beneficial because it means more people I can work with, a job where I’m surrounded by other trans and queer people who understand me. A job where I could have my own workplace.There are people that are trying to take that option away from my community, using anti-sex worker legislation like FOSTA/SESTA to destroy the independence we’ve gained as sex workers by using the internet to build our own spaces, safety tools, and businesses. They deny the existence of consensual sex work. Forcing us into the closet makes it easier for prohibitionists to make up stories about our lives. Unlike my other identities, sex workers aren’t protected in any way. Quite the opposite, we seem equally reviled on all sides of the political spectrum. What we need most is to be treated as people, respected, allowed to survive, be seen, not hunted as criminals or dismissed as victims too damaged to speak for ourselves.While I have always yearned for love and acceptance, especially from my mother, I am completely dedicated to living my life the way I want to. I can’t help wanting to live earnestly. I do feel it’s my duty to speak out, even if it may make me a target, because so many don’t have the privilege to choose being political and public. Nothing can stop me from advocating for myself and my community, to do my best to make sure those I love are safe. My fear of rejection will always lose out to my pride and my courage.Liara Roux is a sex worker, indie porn producer, and organizer for human rights for sex workers and against criminalization of sex between consenting adults. They live bicoastally between NYC and San Francisco, where they have four black rescue cats. You can read more about Liara’s work on the worksafe press page at aboutliara.com or follow Liara on Twitter at @liararoux.
What we need most is to be treated as people, respected, allowed to survive, be seen, not hunted as criminals or dismissed as victims too damaged to speak for ourselves