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The Mister Cee Scandal Symbolizes What It Means to Be Trans in America

Earlier this month, internet personality and occasional crossdresser Bimbo Winehouse released a video of Hot 97 DJ Mister Cee soliciting him for sex. This story isn’t an isolated incident—it’s merely an example of a crossdresser or trans* woman being...

A screenshot of Bimbo Winehouse's YouTube video about Mister Cee soliciting him

Earlier this month, internet personality and occasional crossdresser Bimbo Winehouse released a recording of Hot 97 DJ Mister Cee soliciting him for sex. Amidst homophobic attacks, Mister Cee resigned from his post. Several trans* activists defended Mister Cee’s sexuality, and Hot 97 program director Ebro Darden brought Mister Cee back for an interview, where Ebro encouraged Mister Cee to continue working at Hot 97. He returned and promised to seek therapy. A happy ending?


Not entirely.

Mister Cee’s story isn’t an isolated incident—it’s merely an example of a crossdresser or trans* woman being mistaken for a sex worker because of his or her gender identity. There is a rampant cultural association between trans* women and sex work seen in Hollywood's depiction of trans* women, police profiling, and employment and housing discrimination. This affects how trans* women and cross dressers interact with public spaces.

The first time I stepped out in public presenting myself as a woman, a burly man wearing a flannel shirt and a white baseball cap came up to me as I was opening my car door.

“Are you working?” he asked. (These were the first words anyone had ever said to me as a woman.) “Are you working?” He was panting, as if he’d sprinted here. “$30?” He motioned with his hand for me to blow him.



And then he was gone. I don’t remember him leaving; I imagine he sprinted off to find someone else. Of course, this wasn’t the first time I had been mistaken for a sex worker. Years earlier, when I used my role in a band as an excuse to wear a corset and makeup, I experienced the same thing. Men came beside me, on foot or in nice cars, to invite me to a “party” at such and such hotel, offering money and drugs (but mostly drugs) if I came with them.

These stories are a common occurrence for trans* women. Sit down with any trans* woman, and you’ll hear stories about being mistaken as a sex worker by cops, businesses, and actual prostitutes' clients. It’s part of being visibly trans* or gender non-conforming in public. Cis women rarely experience this phenomenon. I don’t know a single cis woman who has been mistaken for a sex worker. In fact, I knew I’d started passing for a woman when men started hitting on me and stopped offering me money in exchange for sex. Wow! I thought. So this is how society treats you when they see you as a woman instead of as a man in a dress.


Of course, not all cases of mistaken identity are equal. Many trans* women are in the sex trade, and the men who solicit me pay for those trans* women’s livelihood. (Cops and businesses, on the other hand, harass trans* sex workers.)

But, together, this treatment affects how trans* women view themselves. You see it when we fall on hard times. No matter what, the first thing we think of is sex work. It makes sense—we’re turned down for legal work, but constantly solicited. Why not say yes the next time a guy offers us money to blow him? Once when I was solicited by the person I was flirting with, part of me wanted to grab him and say, “No. This isn’t business. I actually like you!” But another part of me thought, Why not take the money? (In the end, I just went home and cried.) I'm not saying there's something wrong with sex work—it’s stigmatized, but it shouldn’t be considering it’s not more exploitative than any other job. I simply wish there were no stereotypes about trans* people.

It’s easy to blame people like Mister Cee for these issues. Clients and solicitation are the most salient forms of the trans* sex worker stereotype. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bimbo Winehouse was angry with Mister Cee, and I wouldn’t blame Bimbo either—it’s hard to sympathize with Mister Cee, a multimillionaire radio personality, especially when he’s soliciting you. But guess what: Insidious 2, the latest in cross-dressing serial killer movies, was released while the Mister Cee scandal played out on the news. So far, it’s grossed about ten times as much as Mister Cee’s net worth.


There’s a bigger picture to this story. It isn’t just about hip hop and a DJ’s career. It’s an incident emblematic of the way our society views trans* women, and it raises questions about sex work, stereotyping, discrimination, and the rights of sex workers and trans* women.

I’m still waiting for a discussion about those issues to happen.

More about trans* issues in America: 

Hey Conservatives, There's Nothing Delusional About Being Trans

They Still Call Me Daddy

Lesbians No Longer: A Transgender Trip into Heteronormality