What It’s Like to Be a Gender-Fluid Sex Worker
Jane Way tells us about being cast in cis female porn roles, how they deal with misgendering from clients, and the frustration of fluidity.
Photo by NW Studios
It's always kind of been an afterthought because I've always felt this way. It's always been my identity whether I had the language to describe it or not. Before I came out, I was not necessarily fully aware of the oppression I was experiencing. I was being forced into a binary gender I didn't identify with, but I didn't know you could just not be the gender your parents decided on. I grew up in a pretty conservative, Catholic household. Because of the correlation between sex and gender and how it pertains to porn and sex work, it's definitely been more in the forefront for me. It's been something that gives me community, and that motivates me and gives me direction in my career in this journey that I am on.
I just turned 22. I came out when I was 17. It was when I was in college the first time: I've studied mortuary sciences and pharmacology. I play the banjo, and I was doing a show, my mom was in the audience. I was playing an original song and said, "Oh, by the way, I'm one of those they/them people." So I came out to my mom and a bunch of people in the crowd.
I've been doing sex work for three to four years. I've been escorting for about two, and I started doing porn before that. I've gotten a lot of slack from other escorts and clients for being open about my gender identity in my career, especially in escorting. A lot of the time to make my living, I've had to play a gender I don't identify with. In porn, I've gotten cast for a lot of cis female roles. In escorting, a lot of people call me "she." Some escorts in the scene hate my guts for correcting them on my pronouns. A lot of people have something to say about my gender identity and don't necessarily understand what I lose by being out as gender-fluid. I definitely lose a lot of clientele; there's a lot of confusion. Especially in escorting specifically, and sex work in general, when you say "trans," it's assumed you're a trans woman. A lot of clients—older generation, those who are ignorant, people who are just not politically correct, or a mix of the three—assume that when you say you're trans, that you have tits and a dick. Trans is not binary either. Especially in porn, though, it's all very binary.
I just did a shoot this weekend in Montreal with TSNaturals.xxx, which is one of the first trans porn sites I know of that is showcasing non-binary performers as trans porn—encompassing me, whose body is naturally how it developed (I haven't had any plastic surgery to date). So to be shot and showcased, especially in solo scenes, as a trans body is really revolutionary. I'm trying to do more work like that. Even if I've worked sometimes as cis to get by, or if I've been cast in cis roles, it's important to be able to showcase that my body is a gender-fluid body even though I'm feminine in my presentation. Me jerking off in a solo video is still trans porn because I'm a trans person. It doesn't matter that I'm not a binary trans person because there's a lot of non-binary erasure, especially in sex work. I want to spearhead change for that.
The porn industry has a long way to go. I want to spearhead some change in that aspect. I turn down a lot of work sometimes if the role I'm cast in is super-cis—like if the dialogue is saying "I'm a naughty girl." I started to do a custom video like that recently, and I started to feel dysphoric and I'm like, Actually, I can't do this. It's not me. I am in a privileged position right now where I'm able to turn down work, whereas I haven't been able to previously. I've done porn shoots before where I've hated it the entire time, but sex work is work. Just like my partner is not always stoked to go do a 12-hour shift at his job, I can be not stoked to go shoot a scene. I love my job, but everyone has bad days at work.
I have my pronouns on my website. I don't correct people because when I'm hired by a client or if we're doing a specific scene. I'm still me, but a client paying me $350 an hour is not paying to get a crash-course on non-binary identities 101. They're paying for my time and our chemistry and connection. If that's a conversation they want to have, I'm happy to have it with them. But I'm not going to push it on them. Especially in a discreet, private one-on-one session, that's not the best place to have a dialogue. But I will take the opportunity to education anyone when I can. My best clients, when they write me reviews, they ask me what pronouns I would like to use and are really respectful and want to talk about it. If I want to educate a client, I would do it on my time as opposed to their time. That's the way the business goes. You want to pay someone to have a wild, crazy, and passionate time. Especially because a lot of my clients are older and I advertise my real age, you don't want to sit down on the couch and feel like you're getting a lecture from someone who is 30 years younger than you.
Porn is different because there are lines, there's storyboarding; porn is an act. It's hard work, and I enjoy it. But in-person sessions are a lot different for me. I like to be as real as I can with people. It definitely turns some people off how personal I get on social media and how personal I get with people when I meet them for sessions. A lot of people have a persona they put on… But I just like to be my authentic self with people as much as I can. The people who appreciate that authenticity will keep coming back; the people who don't, there's a million other escorts out there who fit the criteria they're looking for.
Right now, I'm in ripped jeans and I really never wear undergarments. Even in a lot of my sessions, I tend to not wear a lot of lingerie. I am pretty femme, but I do appreciate my masculinity. Some days, I practice BDSM with my partner, so he'll say, "I want you to wear a dress with no panties to dinner," and I have to safeword out because I can't and if I put on a dress, I just won't feel like myself. Having autism, I am very sensitive to the texture of fabrics too, so having my gender identity and expression be affected by what clothes I wear plus my sensory issues that I have for being on the spectrum, I am very particular about things that I wear. There are times where I'm doing a photoshoot and don't feel like myself; I wear mascara sometimes, but I'm not a huge makeup person. I have a manicure right now, and if I'm having a super masculine day or feeling very male that day, I rip off my nails. I can't have my long nails, and other days I enjoy it. The fluidity is so frustrating because it's always changing and fluctuating on the spectrum—not necessarily every day, but week to week.
In the expectations of being assigned female at birth, people who are non-binary, the expectation is that if we have surgeries, it's to look more masculine or androgynous. I want to fight that misconception. I am getting breast augmentation in November: I'm getting saline implants and going up to triple Ds, but that's my top surgery. People expect if I'm getting top surgery as someone with breasts that you're supposed to get them cut off. I'm going bigger, and I don't think that's any less valid than getting my breasts removed. It's just as validating for my gender. It doesn't matter if I look super-feminine and I have my big breasts and I'm in a tight-fitting dress. I'm still not a woman because that is how I feel.
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