February was hard. Don’t get me wrong. There were many highlights during the shortest month of the year. It was my birthday at the beginning of the month and I had such meaningful happy moments with family and friends (including lots of aunt + niece time), but the month was also filled with a fair amount of travel, some illness (woo! gastro!) and a few interactions with toxic people (woo! emotional gastro!). There was also a walk down memory lane (woo! high school!) which had me feeling so disconnected. I was unsure of how to be myself as I am now among people who knew me when. I behaved in such an awkward way and I didn’t feel like myself at all. I felt way more like how I felt in high school.
This is the deal. I have my tribe now. I can share all facets of my life with them. The fact that my work revolves around sexuality does not phase them. Remembering a time when I did not have that kind of openness and acceptance in my life is low on the enjoyable experience scale. Even lower is having to talk about myself with people who knew me as a child or adolescent, but not knowing how to express myself – my truth – without alienating those I care about.
I feel trapped in the sex work ghetto. I don’t want to feel like that forever.
This theme of what to reveal and how to reveal has been coming up quite a bit in my mind recently, but it is not a new thing. When I began my porn work it was easy. I would be super vague. I create websites, is what I told people. Never told them what kind of websites or that I was the star of the content – except with my nearest and dearest friends. Then there were those people from my hometown and who I went to high school – some lovely person outed me in a big dramatic way and it spread like wicked stomach flu (woo! 3rd gastro reference in one post!). Most people who found my website usually didn’t say anything to my face. Nope. They talked behind my back. It made (and still makes for) this disconnect between us. The elephant in the room. I hate it.
I kept doing my thing – making porn with friends, sharing so much of myself to a nameless (often demanding and insensitive public – the bad apples ruining in for the good ones), travelling to industry conferences, doing hour long webcam shows 5 days a week, more sharing, HTML coding and writing about sex. I started to feel like the only thing that I had in my life was my site and the only way I interacted with people was through porn. I was feeling cloistered in the XXX world. I was ready for different experiences.
So, I became a sex worker rights activist. I joined a community group and went to conferences and organized workshops for other sex workers. I got sick with an auto-immune disease and realized how fragile my life was because if my body wasn’t working I would lose my livelihood. I began running with a group of women my age. The kind that follow mommy blogs and drive minivans (didn’t out myself to them – we mostly talked running). I set running goals and met them. I did a 21K. I began doing burlesque and vaudeville. I created and produced shows and plays.
My world expanded and so did I.
Still, I kept a big part of me and my life away from these new experiences. I even thought after my separation that I could change my life all together and start a totally new career. Lots of trial and error and a bunch of reflection has led me to see that I don’t want to do that. I am passionate about sexuality and want to continue my work in the field AND I want to stop having such a major part of my life, a major part of who I am, hidden away. I have had enough of it.
It is funny because when it comes to my porn work I did my best to share so much more than sex with my fans and the members of my site. I wanted them to see me as more than a sex object. By talking about other aspects of my life – family, friends, my struggles, my dreams, etc – I think I accomplished that. But when it came to my non-porn life I didn’t know how to include sex work into the conversation. And I know why.
Fear of judgement and rejection. Experience has taught me that these fears are valid. It happened numerous times and put a huge burden on my relationships with my immediate family. The judgement, I know, says more about the person doing the judging than it does about me. Doesn’t mean I am not hurt by it. Oh, this sex negative, sex work stigmatized world, you don’t make things easy for anyone.
Note: I am fairly comfortable talking to new people about my work – blogging, sex education and even porn. I can even speak with confidence and clarity in these situations. This is not the case with family or connections from my past. In these situations I am bumbling mess filled with fears and angst.
Over the past three years therapy has helped me come to terms with all of this. It has helped me bring the issues to the forefront. Before they were mixed up with all my other uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. Like a tangled mess of yarn.
Therapy has helped me get to know myself beyond the stories I had in my head and the more I accept myself the stronger I feel. I am now ready to bring all the areas of my life, all aspects of who I am and what I do, together. I am ready to stop saying I am a webmaster when people ask me what I do. I no longer need to be super vague – even lie – when they ask what sites I work on. I am ready to say the truth as it stands right now…
I am a writer.
If they ask what I write about I will say the truth – that I write about sexuality and relationships. If they want to know more I can say more. I am curious and passionate about the issues of body image, gender dynamics, sex entertainment and sex worker activism. I also am an educator and speak at universities, seminars and conferences. I am developing a series of sex-ed for adults workshops and working on an e-book.
I am ready to use the appropriate title and description for me – all of me as I am right now.
* When writing this blog post I took some inspiration from this training video from Marie Forleo about reinventing yourself. I really dig her and her work. You might too.