Trans women sex workers
This page is geared towards transfeminine people. Info for transmasculine folks can be found on our Male Sex Workers info page.
[Caption: Trans Women Peer Educator Valerie chants for trans rights at Brisbane Labour Day]
Many sex workers are transgender, and trans women form the second largest demographic (after cis women) among Australian sex workers. Trans sex workers are as diverse and individual as any other group, but clients and other cisgender (non-trans) people often create their own narratives about our bodies and our genders, and imagine that we’re all the same.
Trans women have always been a part of the sex industry (just as we’ve always been a part of society as a whole), and sex work often provides alternative means of income when we face barriers and stigma around employment.
It’s important to remember that sex workers often use a persona at work, which for trans people can include presenting in a way that doesn’t match our true gender.
To get in contact with a trans woman peer educator from Respect Inc, email email@example.com
What does trans mean?
A person is trangender, or trans, when their gender and/or sex don’t align with what they were assigned at birth. For example, someone who was assigned male at birth but realised she’s female may refer to herself as a trans woman; people who are taking social, aesthetic and/or medical steps to affirm their gender are transitioning. Trans people exist across all cultures and ethnicities.
Every trans person has their own conception of gender and how it relates to them, so don’t make assumptions about a person just because you know they’re trans. Trans people are often asked invasive questions about our bodies and our ‘journeys’, especially by clients. Rather than asking specific personal questions about our bodies or our pre-transition selves, it’s more appropriate to ask open questions like “What are your pronouns?”, “What name can I call you?” and “How do you describe your gender?”. Most importantly, you must believe and accept what the person tells you about themselves, even if you don’t understand it at first.
Many trans people’s gender and/or sex are outside the traditional male–female binary and they may use unfamiliar words to describe themselves. You may hear people refer to themselves as non-binary, enby, gender-fluid, gender diverse, third-gender or any number of words. If you don’t understand a label that someone has used for themselves, Google is your friend!
[Caption: Trans sex worker and activist Elle speaks at an event]
How is sex work different for trans women?
Trans sex workers face some challenges that our cis peers don’t. Our bodies are often fetishised by clients (and others), which means that we are seen as an exotic oddity and are desired only because we’re trans. While all sex workers have to deal with objectification, the stigma and ignorance of clients who see trans workers can be a lot to deal with. Being fetishised and objectified can be very lucrative for trans workers, but it can also take a lot of emotional management.
The advertising restrictions that prohibit all sex workers in Queensland from describing our services affect trans workers in particular. When we are unable to explicitly state what we offer, we must often rely on transphobic slurs and ‘porn category’ language, which has a stigmatising effect on trans workers and often makes clients think they have permission to use those same insulting words to describe us.
Many trans workers also find it harder to be face-in (hiding/blurring your face in advertising photos) as clients often want to see our faces or want a trans woman with a certain look.
If you’re new to sex work, we offer a New Worker Workshop to get you up to speed on keeping safe and making money as a sex worker. If you want to find out more about sex work as a trans woman, get some support, do a New Worker Workshop, or have a chat with another trans sex worker, head to our contact form or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Where do trans sex workers work?
Most trans sex workers work independently providing in-calls, out-calls, porn content, or camming. Brothels are legal in Queensland but at the moment most licensed/legal brothels have no trans workers. It is also rare to find trans women working as strippers/dancers in Queensland.
Some popular advertising websites include Escorts and Babes, Locanto, and Scarlet Blue. Many trans workers also find clients on non-sw sites or apps such as Grindr, but be aware that this is usually against the app’s terms of service. You may have to try a few to see which work best for you. You can also take a look at our full list of advertising sites used by workers of all genders.
In some regional locations, the most effective place to advertise is in the local paper. You can ask other workers you know in the area or call Respect Inc to find out the best places for where you’re living or travelling.
You can contact Respect Inc for advice on worker-friendly hotels or other accommodation issues.
[Caption: Sylvia Rivera (U.S.) and Roberta Perkins (Aus.), two pioneering trans sex worker activists]
Laws and police
You can be fined if you break any sex-work–related laws, including advertising restrictions, working with another worker, sharing overheads, referring clients to another worker, or providing or offering condomless services including uncovered blowjobs. Note that offering to perform an illegal service is a crime, regardless of whether the service takes place. Police can pose undercover as clients to gain evidence. Find out more about the laws in Queensland.
Your advertising photos can include any part of your body except for genitals and anus, and photos of real or simulated sex acts are not allowed. Describing your body and measurements is fine.
You need to avoid describing the services you offer, including euphemisms or abbreviations. For example, you can’t mention doing BJ or anal.
Some wording is allowed that does not directly describe your service. You can say general things like whether you’re on PrEP, if you’re a top or bottom or versatile, or describing your body. You can also say what you don’t do, such as “no condomless sex” or “no anal”.
Any reference to “massage” is against the advertising laws. If you offer massage, you can use other terms like “erotic relaxation” or “body rub”.
Individual advertisers and platforms have their own rules in addition to the law. For example, most dating apps don’t allow soliciting as a sex worker, even though your work is legal. PayPal, Amazon, Airbnb, and many other services also have terms and conditions that allow them to cancel your account if you are reported as a sex worker.
It’s best not to give unnecessary information to the police until you have a support person with you — remember your right to remain silent. Respect Inc can give you advice and refer you to a free legal service. Please take a photo of any paperwork you receive and record any officer details, then contact us as soon as possible. We recommend you don’t attend a police station without a support person. Our advice is to always have a witness with you when you engage with police. Someone from Respect Inc can come with you to speak with police regardless of whether you are a defendant, victim or witness.
Gender transition support
The Trans Women Peer Educator at Respect Inc can help support you through your gender transition process. Whether you’re questioning your identity, trying to find a new clothing style, or prepping for surgery, we can support you with referrals, a buddy to come to appointments, and fellow trans folks to discuss and debrief with.
You can contact the Trans Women Peer Educator at email@example.com
Worker-friendly and LGBTIQ-friendly clinics
All of these South-East Queensland clinics are confirmed sex worker-friendly and LGBTIQ-friendly. All specialise in sexual health, and some offer general GP services.
Counsellors, accountants, and more
If you would like to speak to a counsellor, accountant, lawyer, or other service, we can help you get in touch with someone who’s sex-worker–friendly. Please contact us for assistance.
Online Sexual Health resources
The Scarlet Alliance’s online Red Book provides comprehensive and up-to-date STI and other sexual health information. It’s a great resource to learn about spotting sexually transmitted infections and other ways to keep yourself and your clients sexually healthy.
Respect Inc and trans sex workers
Respect Inc provides information and support for sex workers.
- All Respect Inc staff and volunteers are sex workers who can talk about work with you.
- We have three offices with hangout spaces where you can meet other workers, use our computers and free wifi, chat over a coffee, or take time out and relax.
- Membership to Respect Inc is free.
- We sell cheap bulk condom and lube supplies, with freebies whenever you need them.
- We can give you information and advice on any topic you can think of, from legal help to mental wellbeing.
We’re run by sex workers for sex workers. We’re not associated with the government or the police.