I’ve been reading Janet Mock’s “Redefining Realness” and over all it is an emotional, powerful and touching story of her life, as a poor, trans woman of color. While I can only relate on part of these (hint I’m poor and trans), her story has been giving me a sense of connection that I have been needing. She’s a woman who understands me and my journey, as well as giving me some hope for my own future. While Ms. Mock and I share a few aspects of our lives, we also have gone down some very different paths as well. For example I didn’t get to start my transition as a teenager before puberty set in while she did. I was also never in a position to feel sex work and pornography are my only options to achieve the goal of transition (though at the point I currently am in terms of money and transition costs, I get why so many girls feel that it’s their only option.)
I bring up Ms. Mock’s story because it highlights what I’ve seen to be one of the biggest fights within the trans community itself, that being pornography. I find it interesting that a group fighting so hard for acceptance has some very vocal members who actively shame others for using sexuality to make a living. Now I’m not so naive that I don’t understand that the world of porn isn’t problematic. It most definitely does, but often instead of talking about a complex issue and the benefits and draw backs, it’s treated as an entirely negative concept by those critical of it.
As I said, I know pornography has issues, especially the levels it allows the viewer to see the subject as objects. Not everyone does this, probably not even the majority. Most people in my experience treat porn as a tool. It’s also allowed many young women, cis and trans, to take some level of control over their lives. One such woman is Bailey Jay, a trans adult performer. She deals other trans people trying to shame her for her porn work. In turn she says porn was the first job that accepted her as herself. She is unapologetic for her decision, and I think that’s great. But it highlights my own personal biggest issue dealing with the porn and sex work industry.
Let me say that I’m pro-pornography. Western society, especially American society has some serious repression issues with sexuality, which is why the fight for LGBTQI rights is so difficult. The more we feel shame for our sexuality and anything dealing with non-conformity to arcane gender ideas, more it will be used as a way inhibit and separate people. Shaming people for things like sexuality and fetishes only marginalizes them and leads to them having to meet in secret and dark places, and that only leads to bad things.
I also believe in legalizing prostitution. With legalization, prostitutes will have access to things like legal protections, medical care, and hopefully acceptance in society. What an adult does with their body is their business. You can remove things like pimps and help those who want to earn a living that way so much safer.
The other part of accepting and legalizing these things is that you make it so that a woman never feels like that’s her only option. Instead of saying these aren’t things you should ever do, you can talk open and honestly about their complexity, and make it clear there are lots of options, these included. This should hopefully make it much harder to prey upon young women to a life they can’t fully understand yet.
What it comes down to is the fact that like very other part of humanity and human life, these are complex issues. Pretending they’re not, that porn and prostitution are just bad things, you’re getting in the way of making things better for everyone. Complex issues and conversations aren’t easy, but they’re important and need to be had to actually progress as a people.