Crip genderqueer genius wondering about doing sex work for the first time

Hey Shark Mom,

I am chronically sick and disabled and rapidly becoming more limited. Due to having a compromised immune system and MCS, I cannot be around most people and making money is becoming a huge stressor. I’m shy and I don’t feel up to asking my friends, so I was wondering if you could provide a road map or some tips on becoming a sex worker – specifically online work? I’m not sure there is a market for my trans, gender non-conforming body… but I’d love to see if it’s a viable option for me.

With gratitude,

making money from bed

Hey making money,

Thanks so much for writing this question!  I’m so glad you’re working on figuring out  a way of making a living that’s accessible for you.  You probably know this, but millions of sick and disabled queers have been right where you are.  A huge number of krips make money through sex work- whether its folks with chronic fatigue camming and phone sexing from our beds, folks who escort or domme/sub because its a good hourly rate on short hours, or the street sex worker with rheumatoid arthritis, being a krip who does sex work is incredibly common.  if you’re spiritual, you might want to take a minute to pray to and thank all the sex working disabled ancestors  out there. They’ll watch your back.

Second, I want to say that I have a very small amount of sex work experience, and that sex workers themselves are experts on safety and tricks of the trade. They are the authority I bow to, and they are gong to be your best sources of information.  What knowledge I have, I am passing on from my friends, lovers and comrades who work, and from organizations and tumblrs created by sex workers sharing information. I want to thank sex workers for laboring every fucking day to survive, thrive and help themselves and  everyone else get free.

Third, I feel you about your worries that there’s no market for you as a trans, gender non conforming person. Transphobia and the gender binary are big realities in the industry and in the world. But what’s also true is that there are tons of trans and non-binary folks navigating doing sex work in many ways. There is literally a market for almost any kind of gender presentation and body out there. It’s definitely not always a perfect or uncomplicated or un fucked up market, and it is true that white, skinny, cis, younger feminine or masculine bodies will always make the most money- but you can still figure out a niche for yourself. I don’t know from your letter where you are in the gender constellations- whether you are transfeminine or transmasculine, or neither, or other. But googling “FTM” on Xtube leads to thousands of hits.  There are many transfeminine people in the industry, with many experiences, including of navigating transmisogyny in the industry.  There are many nonbinary people interacting with the industry in lots of different ways. There’s  a million forms of mainstream sex work and queer weirdo little porn sites and tons of things in between.  I believe that you can probably figure out something that works for you.

Some things to think about: The number one thing I have heard from sex working friends is that in doing sex work, setting your own boundaries and deal breakers is key. Often non-sex working people assume that the client has all the power in any sex worker/ client exchange. But a lot of sex workers I know say that its important to shape the ways you work , as much as possible, as if the opposite is true, and to be fierce in figuring out your boundaries and limits. Make a list of what you feel comfortable or interested in doing, what you absolutely won’t tolerate, and what you might be open to during certain circumstances. By this I mean sexual activities, and also other things- like, are there slurs or words you won’t tolerate, or ways of being related to?  How many hours a week do you want to work,  and when? What kind of downtime do you need? It’s easy to let working from home bleed into everything, so figuring out times when you’re off is important. Sex work isn’t a utopia.  Some workers really love what they do, some like parts of it and dislike others, some really hate what they do or are in bad situations. Try and think about what might be the safest, funnest, most lucrative and most doable kinds of the biz for you.

There is an enormous amount to learn, from how to set up your lighting to how to protect your identity. Protecting your identity is  a big deal in all sex work, but in camming or online work, where your images can be screenshot easily, there are particular things to figure out.  Some cam sites allow geoblocking, so you can block anyone trying to hit you up from your city, state or hometown.  Some cam sites recommend altering your appearence- adopting a persona that is not you and does not physically look like you, covering tattoos, scars or other identifying marks, using wigs, or using makeup in a way you would not ordinarily- to protect your privacy.

Be aware that while you might want to reach out to other sex workers for advice online, many sex workers are both generous with tips and cautious about being documented online as “recruiting” a new sex worker- mentoring is sometimes targetted by the cops as pimping or trafficking under the current terrible laws.  That’s not to say don’t reach out, but a general ask for help on a public community may be met with caution if folks don’t know you.

SWOP http://www.swopusa.org/, has an incredible number of resources around legal stuff, safety stuff, burnout and wellness and much more.  Their community support line:(877)-776-2004  is staffed by volunteers, most of whom are current or former sex workers themselves, offering  “general support, advice, someone to talk to, crisis counseling, referrals, and information about safety and legal rights to folks currently or previously involved in the adult biz or sex trade.”  They don’t see your number and keep everything shared confidential. They also have a lot of webinars  and online articles on subjects from online safety to taxes: http://www.swopusa.org/resources/safety-resources/.  In Canada, a good equivelent is Maggies, maggiestoronto.ca  which is a sex worker run organization

Some other quick hits I found: http://queersexwork.tumblr.com/post/131851148786/cam-girl-tips-if-youre-looking-into-camming  has some good info for anyone considering camming  (not just folks who id as girls) about sites to use, how to do money transfers safely and how to get sex toys on the cheap.  http://sexworkerhelpfuls.tumblr.com/resources has some great advice, and you can search using  various job or subject tags, like  http://sexworkerhelpfuls.tumblr.com/tagged/webcam-model.   http://sexypassiveincome.com/  is a great blog made by the creator of the blog Hobo Stripper, and has great info about how to make short porn vids, upload them to Clips4 Sale sites, and wait for money to show up in your account when folks buy them- this might be a great option for you if you have low spoons.

Camming is a solo activity, and you might get isolated.  I know you’re shy, but try and reach out, online or at a local sex worker support group- or even asking one of your friends who works to have coffee once a month- so you have a place to go to talk about what’s going on, what your learning, what’s stressful or weird and what’s great. Because that’s the thing: I bet there’s going to be a lot that’s surprising about this journey, that you didn’t expect going into it. Leave yourself room and options when you need a break or a change, and room to learn about different kinds of work you can try. Maybe start slow and see if you like it, if you can, so you don’t have to bank all your expenses on sex work to start.

And with regards to money: if you want some help   managing your self-employment money, check out http://www.ridefreefearlessmoney.com/, a sex work knowledgable money skills website and coaching class thing by a white, raised poor queer femme.

I hope you make lots of cash, feel great about your work and boundaries and get to rest!

In sex worker solidarity

Shark Mom

 

 

 

We broke up because my partner didn’t have the skills to be there for my mental health stuff. How do I get the care I need but also let my friends know I’m not trying to get them to hate my ex?

Dear SharkMom,

I am recently out of a serious relationship. In a large part because my mental health needs were too much for this person’s skill set. 

I thought our break up was going OK enough, but then they essentially told me that they weren’t going to talk to me anymore because they couldn’t vent to me about their life. After talking about the breakup to a few friends, they told me that my ex is fucked up and that they don’t feel comfortable being friends with them anymore.

But, I don’t think my ex is fucked up. I want them to have friends. But I am also bitter seeing our mutual friends continue to reach out to them and still, not me.

I am terrified that I am/gonna become the manipulative, isolating, ex. But then, as a survivor of relationship violence, I don’t know if I am just making excuses for people who treat me badly, again. How do I let myself be heartbroken, angry re:ableism, and upfront with my trauma without also isolating my ex from community?

Signed,

Crying Emoji

 

Dear Crying Emoji,

I mean, I think you let yourself be all those things. And you can do them in a journal, in prayer, to trees, and also to your friends. And you can say to your friends- hey, I am going through a time and I have a totally understandable need to sob and snot and rage on you about my breakup, and I also don’t want to isolate my ex from community. You don’t have to hate them to be there for me. How much of that can you hold? Can you hold that right now or no?

Because you can ask!  And they can think about it and answer! And they might have more or less time sometimes, and you can talk about it.

I’m wondering- do you have friends who aren’t all friends with your ex? Maybe can you go there/ to a counselor/ to nature/ to online communities to get what you need? Even some of what you need?

It’s really hard, kinda the 9 million dollar skill, for a lot of folks to know how to hear one person in a conflict’s pain, feels, sobs and anger and still be able to be there for the other person in the conflict. This is one of the many reasons why transformative justice is so fucking hard. People are protective of you. They also want to take a side, or make their be sides. We’re also all used to the model of “I have to hate the same people as you if we are friends.” It’s hard for folks to hear that someone is hurting someone/ causing pain/ fucking up and not villify them. It’s easy for people to just believe that if there is conflict, one person is fucked up and one is great. We’ve been taught that forever, it’s the prison industrial complex, etc.  And sometimes someone is just being fucked and that’s it.  But often, it’s more complex.  The idea that conflict is sometimes/ often a complicated that just emerges out of everyone’s ism that is a learning/ growth process is real new for a lot of folks. And new feels scary and unsafe, so they go back to, fuck that person!

Also: all you can really do is check in with your friends about how much venting they can hold and emphasize that you do not want your ex to lose friends and community. After that, it is out of your hands. People will make their own decisions about how much they wanna kick it with someone, and that’s not on you.  I think you said it really good up there: “I’m heartbroken, angry about ableism, and I have some trauma. I also don’t want my ex to be punished or isolated.”  Maybe you could say that to folks. That is the opposite of manipulation, ps- it’s being clear about who you are, what’s up and what you need.

Also!  Manipulation- not a dope thing!  But also- often, the only way many of us are taught to get what we need, especially femme folks who are taught by our famillies, communities, the world, etc, that when we say what we need directly we are too much.  Often manipulation is the only way we have been able to get what we need to survive. Unlearning it takes time.  Maybe this can be an opportunity to own it, have compassion for yourself and maybe make ammends if you’ve caused harm by being manipulative in the past, but also to see this whole sitch as a place where you can learn and grow new ways of saying and getting what you need.

So, back to you: It’s ok for you to feel a way that your ex broke up with you bc they didn’t feel like they had the skills to be there for you around your mental health stuff. I’m crazy, and it’s stigmatized, and I have had a lot of ashamed of my crazy/ broken/ too fucked up to love/ ableism is everywhere, now I’m single, awesome feels when a relationship has ended because someone has not been able to hang. Having said that, I’m not sure if your ex was like, hey, I love you and there is nothing wrong with you, but I am realizing I don’t have the spoons or bandwith or skills to be there for you in the way you deserve. Which sucks but is fair but can still ache. Or if they were like, fuck you crazypants, you are too much! Which is a different, more fuckeried story. Maybe it’s both. Maybe you don’t know which it is yet. That’s ok.

Back to you, again: what can you do for yourself right now to be real gentle and loving to yourself and your crazy? What can you do to affirm to yourself that your crazy is beautiful, that there are people out there who will have the skills to be there for you? What can you do to practice caring for yourself passionately? Can you find and hang out with some madness communities online and just rage and cry and talk about the things?  Here’s some places to start that center QTPOC and madness:

this Madness and Oppression Mad Maps tool (its a free PDF) http://www.pdf-archive.com/2015/11/06/madnessandoppressionguide/

Elliot Fukui’s zine Madness and Sexuality: Practicing Radical Consent as a Mad Person:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxhpCgBoXsGJVkViNFNjT2lha3c/view

QTPOC Mental Health Initiative: https://www.facebook.com/QTPOCsupport/

Monster Academy, a rad madness school started by Kai Cheng Thom and Kota!  https://monsteracademymtl.wordpress.com/

Some thoughts: I know the concept of “affirmations” can seem like a weird, New Age whitey thing and that’s because it often is. However, my friend Kyisha Ka Ackees introduced me to the idea that when you walk around saying “I suck, I’m a loser, I’m too much, I’m broken” it’s a way the WSCCCAP stays in your head and it eats away at you, and it can be cool to experiment with saying other things.   Here are the Badass Resilience Black and Brown Femme Survivor Love Affirmations we wrote together 3 years ago: http://www.brownstargirl.org/blog/badass-resilience-black-and-brown-femme-survivor-love-and-desire-affirmations

The All Ages Coloring Book of Worries and Reassurences  https://www.etsy.com/listing/235774424/the-all-ages-colouring-book-of-worries?ref=shop_home_feat_2 is really cool and has animals like on one side of the page saying things like “it’s too much!” and on the other side they’re saying ‘bit by bit by bit.” It has saved my ass a lot- honestly, I now find myself muttering, ‘but by bit by bit” when faced with an overwhelming situation like, the house is trashed and I’m sick, or, I have PTSD feelings or whatever. Plus, coloring. Check it out.

I also like these oldie but goodie breakup guides a lot.  http://queerfatfemme.com/2009/04/02/guest-post-zoes-break-up-survival-guide/

http://queerfatfemme.com/2010/09/20/heartbreak-mfa-additions-to-the-break-up-survival-guide/

Breakups bring up all our shit about whether or not we can be loved. About abandonment, desirability, the vulns, feeling like a loser, and feeling totally out of control and stupid for having trusted anyone.  This is especially compounded when someone was really there for you!  But then couldn’t hang because of reasons, reasons that are maybe probably political!

But maybe you can be sad and angry and crapped out, and also use this thing as a way to learn more about yourself, what you need, what you don’t need. You can do that thing where you write: this is what I am thankful for, this is what I regret, this is what I learned, this is what I never want to fucking happen again.  You can do it over and over and see how it changes. You can set the paper on fire and bury the ashes in the garden or a potted plant pot and plant some seeds.  The writer Adrienne Maree Brown once had me write every day off of the prompt: “what does someone need to do to earn my trust?”  Maybe you could do that too.

There’s some herbs that can hold your heart too.  I like this one a lot, and it’s carried me through a couple of heart rendering breakups with people I loved. http://www.goodfightherbco.com/new-products/self-love-potion-9

Also, you didn’t talk about this, but I just wanna say I believe you can love again, starting with deepening your love for yourself, and you can have other loving relationships that don’t end like this one did.

And: breakup grief time is a sacred place that is undervalued in this world. It’s sacred. It doesn’t last forever.  Remind yourself that this time is messy and holy and full of learning. You got this.  You, your mad, grieving, heartbroken self, are perfect. And if you don’t believe it right now that’s cool- I’ll just believe it for you til you can.

With  mad love and faith,

Shark Mom

PS: Also, you can tell your friends, “It hurts my feelings when you reach out to my ex and not me.  What’s up with that? I would love it if you could reach out to me too- do you have the capacity for that? Is there something in the way of that? What could make it happen?”

PPS: I am wildly imperfect and don’t have this shit all figured out and am not perfect at this either. Just FYI

 

PPPS: I’d be a crying emoji if I was facing all this shit too. Cry all you want.

Why do these white cis lesbians insist that femme must only be just like them? Where does this strange belief system come from, and what should I do about it, especially when it hits me upside the head and fucks with my life?

(Note: I had a virus that turned into bronchitis/ pneumonia for most of February and got behind on this column. #chronicillnesslife.  I also have been having some aphaisia and am hoping the words worked out with this post. Thanks for being patient and understanding with the pause this column took because of all this. If you sent in a question and have been waiting for an answer, keep watch  -it should be coming out over the next weeks.)

Dear Shark Mom,

Cis white lesbians keep telling me (a black cis queer femme)that femme is reserved only for lesbians and not to identify as a femme (and especially a femme 4 femme) if I don’t identify as a lesbian, meaning trans/non-binary agender people who do not claim lesbian identities cannot be femmes. Which obviously doesn’t make sense to me considering the multitude of expressions of femme with numerous genders, but because this person is in my social media networks, I feel like I’m being policed in my own space (especially bc there is no femme community where I live) which makes me feel even more alone. She also said that queer was “vague” and I honestly felt like this was another iteration of “you’re not radical enough or gay enough” but I didn’t know what else to say beyond “I’m cutting off the convo.”

I guess I’m just asking where this idea about femme being lesbian exclusive comes from, and what to say when someone tries to interrogate me about my “authenticity.” Every time this happens to me I feel myself regressing into loneliness and depression.

Signed,
Confused, upset, and bitter femme

Dear genius and awesome femme,

I don’t understand what the hell it is with people who stare right at someone and go “no, you’re not!”  about crucial pieces of their identity. It’s not just offensive and rude, it’s  like – well, for example, “femme is only for cis lesbians” is just  demonstratably untrue. It is really hard for me to understand how someone could just remain blatantly oblivious to the vast number of femmes who are not white, cis lesbians out there, especially because every one of us is changing and saving the world. But I guess she has some superpower of shitty, because she’s managing it. Unfortunately, she is not the only one.

I think there are three questions in your question: 1. What should you say to her, if anything, besides, “I’m ending this conversation now? 2. Where does this weird-ass idea  that femme = cis lesbians only come from?  and 3. Something you didn’t ask, but I am thinking about- how do you take care of yourself if folks like these are prevalent in your immediate, local community?

For 1., I think “I’m cutting off this convo” is a fine response.  She’s hurting you, and she doesn’t deserve you trying to explain to her why this is in the moment, if you don’t want to.  It’s fine for you to just move away from the convo to stop the harm and collect yourself.

The next step is on you.  You can  continue to not engage.  I think often our adrenal system and our amygdyla tells us, must do something!!!!  Must react to survive! But just not talking to her is something.  It makes all the sense that if she is interrogating you in this fucked up way that it would make you feel like shit, and it’s totally ok for you to be like, “My identity is not up for debate or subject to your approval! Bye!” I’m also a giant fan of restricted filters, close friends only filters and custom filters where you post to everyone but her on Facebook- especially if, as it sounds it’s true for you, she sucks but there is a little tiny femme community  where you are and you feel like you can’t just cut her off all the way. If you have filters she’s not on, you can keep being you and  not worry about her shitty response, and you can avoid investing spoons into a convo that probs will just exhaust you. This is not lying or being passive aggressive, it’s being protective of yourself.

You don’t have to communicate with a jerk  who is denying your existence if you don’t want to/ it’s too painful. But, if, after some thought, you decide that you want to say, “Hey, there are many, many femmes  who are not cis lesbians, that is a cissexist argument that destroys movements and people and is just wrong, here are some pretty key articles and writers and folks whose work you might want to consider that can break down why that is,” you can do that.  A helpful primer you could point her at is here: http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/02/queer-femme-assumptions/., it talks about all the ways there are to be femme.  You could point her to the writing of Cyree Jarelle Johnson, who identifies as Black, nonbinary, disabled and femme and whose writings on femme  are always gorgeous and incisive and advocate a vision of femmeness that is very definitely revolutionary and *not*  centered around white cis lesbians- their essays Femme Privilege Does Not Exist and Femmeinism might be particularly illuminating. You might point her at Julia Serrano‘s latest book, Excluded, which is about, well, exactly what folks like the person you’re talking to are doing when they create a feminism and queerness that excludes bisexuals, femmes into femmes, AMAB  folks and transgender women.

You can also just tell her, God didn’t die and give her  the rights to define what femme is, and there is a whole gorgeous genius multiverse out here that will lead to liberation. Maybe ask her why she thinks she can deny your and other people’s existence and that that will somehow free her, and does it feel good when someone does that to her? Maybe tell her that there is so much she stands to gain by learning about and supporting the multiverse of queer femmeness, but that it’s her choice, and you’re going with or without her. People can be in a learning process, but you don’t have to do it from a place of leaving yourself vulnerable to hurt.

The thing is, though, that just giving someone The Truth is, unfortunately, not enough to make them change their mind.  When Shark Mom was first in college, they had a brilliant 18 year old idea that they wanted to study all the ways change occurred – in plants, animals and the environment, in social movements and in people – as an independent design-your-own-major type of thing.  The college administrators didn’t ok it, but I feel like I’ve been studying it ever since.  The thing is, people a) have agency b) do what they think makes the most sense for their survival at any given time,  even if it’s shitty and fucks over other people.  You might give her all kinds of links  and articles and talk about your life and your vision for movement and community and femme and talk about how what she said impacted you in a really fucked up way,  and she might be like, damn, let me think about that, or, I’m sorry.  Or she might continue to be ALL CAPS NOPE about it…. forever. You can’t control her and whether she decides to change her mind.  You can just control you.

Which leads me to question #2: Where did this idea that femme is only reserved for cisgender lesbians come from?  First of all, I don’t know this person and I can’t tell you 1000% what she is thinking. However,  I can speak to where I believe this kind of thinking comes from in general, in terms of what I’ve observed in queer communities.  And what I think is that it comes from a) cissexism  and transmisogyny b)  some ways some AFAB femmes tried to defend femme from allegations that it was a tool of the patriarchy during the feminist sex wars b2) but also how in doing so, they may have done the thing where people facing a certain oppression, who also hold certain privileges, will decide that their best strategy for survival is in saying, “I want to be free! But I’m going to stay in this little corner!  And, I just want freedom for folks who are in this little corner with me – not those other people!  They are too much!  That is asking for too much!”

In the 1970s and 1980s in second wave feminism in North America, many cis queer women  believed in a feminism that  saw trans women in particular,  trans people in general, bisexuals, femmes and butches and sex workers as interlopers and oppressors. They also saw elements of life that were gendered- makeup, strap ons, penetrative sex, femme, butch, BDSM practices, sex work, porn- as both part of the patriarchy and things that were helping sexist oppression and violence continue. Folks in this part of the movement were  explicitly transphobic and whorephobic and you can see much of what today we refer to as SWERF  (sex worker exclusionary radical feminism) and TERF  (trans exclusionary  radical feminism) feminism evident in their writings and politics.  You can see this video of Sylvia Rivera being booed and having  white cis lesbian Jean O’Leary try to push her off the stage at a 1973 Lesbian Feminist Liberation rally, as Sylvia is talking about trans women of color being raped in prison, for a prime example of this.

However, Black and Brown/ trans / poor/ sex working/ femme and gender non conforming  feminists and people continued to live, exist, write, speak and organize.  In the middle of this time, in what was known as the Feminist Sex Wars, femme and butch folks started writing and advocating about their lives and genders, talking back to those narratives, making zines and anthologies and essays saying that butch and femme were queer genders with radical pasts and futures.

So, there’s a lot of writing by cis femme women in the 70s and 80s and 90s, where a lot of femmes tried to explain how their genders were indeed revolutionary, against all the forces that were telling them that their gender was backwards and sexist and they were a tool of the patriarchy.   A lot of this is some of the most accessible writing about femme that’s out there: if you look up “femme” in the library it’s a lot of what pops up.  Many femmes wrote with a ton of dignity and brilliance about how complex and powerful femme genders are as a force for liberation against the WSCCCAP.  As important as so much of that writing was, the writings I’m thinking were populated mainly by AFAB folks and cis women, and often, it assumed that that was who femmes were. So from jump, there was cissexism embedded in there – in the ideas of what femme is, what femme community is, and who is there. And you can see those very same ideas in many majority AFAB queer/ femme community spaces today, where there is still be an overall assumption that femme = queer cis woman. Transmisogyny and cissexism made it so there were really huge gaps between the kinds of organizing trans women of color were doing and what you see in a lot of ‘classic’ second wave feminist books.  Like, you don’t see stuff about STAR House or the trans of color community on the NYC piers in academic pro-sex feminist books like Powers of Desire.

And in some of those writings also, you see this idea – that the writers think if they draw a little boundary, where femme is a liberated gender, but just for cis lesbians- it will make being femme ok.  You see writers being like, “I’m a queer femme, but its ok because I’d never touch a cis man!  I only sleep with butches, and it’s sacred! I’m not like those other dumb girls!”  And in doing so, they set up a fucked up dynamic that really screwed over tons of bisexual people, trans women, agender or nonbinary folks, and sex workers who are femme, who may indeed touch cis men, or AMAB folks, or folks other than cis women, for our own really good reasons that are 100% our own.

I don’t agree with it, but I get that place where you feel like you’re under attack, and maybe if you make things real small and abandon other people, the people attacking you will back off and concede. But the thing is, it doesn’t work. And in the process, it erases and causes violence to all folks who don’t fit in that little corner.   I wonder- how would movements be different if more cis women femmes of that era had made different choices? (It’s kinda like the question of what would it have been like if the disability rights movement hadn’t been so white and single issue and the prison justice movement had gotten it about ableism in more places in the 80s and they both had united to smash all walls. Shark Mom can dream. )

So this is the past.  But I think it continues today.  There’s more femme communities where femme is understood as belonging to a lot of different bodies and genders.  But there are still a ton of queer identified spaces where femme is thought of as meaning cis lesbians only. It’s not uncommon at all for femme spaces to be dominated by cis women or AFAB folks, where there are a lot of assumptions about what femme issues are that can play out in everything from folks addressing the group as “Ladies” to assuming that everyone is dealing with issues of parenting and childbirth from the same perspective. (When was the last time you saw a queer pregnancy workshop that didn’t assume everyone was AFAB?) One thing I can offer- can you find the other folks who don’t fit in to the white cis lesbian’s idea of who femme is and band together to support each other?  Can you take care of yourself but also see that this moment is part of a bigger struggle to challenge transmisogyny and cissexism?

This may be controversial, but also, I don’t actually believe the popular idea that queer femmes are TOTALLY DIFFERENT than straight femmes. I think there’s overlap, and our movements  and communities grow when we acknowledge that. My grandmother may or may not have been queer, but her sexualized, struggling for independences and autonomy, shut-shamed mixed Sri Lankan femme life is  in the bones of my own queer, nonbinary, femme gender.  I know a lot of ‘straight’ femmes who are Black or Brown or working class  or poor or sex workers and/ or disabled, who actually have a lot in common with my  and others’ queer femme genders,  in their fierceness and vulnerability, their tough pawn shop diamonds. Also, some trans women I know have shared that their sexual desires are fluid, but they have found than some cis men are more open to dating them than AFAB queers- so they date them because they’d like to have a dating experience not rife with transmisogyny, but that doesn’t neceasarily mean they are ‘straight.’

I also think that straight is a funny word. Part of being neurodivergent where part of me is pre/non verbal is that I can see how people’s relationship with words and language is complicated.  Words aren’t fixed and don’t mean the same thing to everyone. They arrangements of lines and ink that become names that hold the shape of folks’ feelings and desires, that change with context and space and time. There are folks out there who might call themselves ‘straight’ today, who are actually still figuring out a word house that can hold what their gender and sexuality is. There’s so much in there- folks who feel like they’re not queer enough, that their sexuality doesn’t fit into folks ideas of what queer is, folks ability to claim the word queer safely or not- that affects what word a person might choose.

Edited to add: My friend Chanelle Gallant has this smart thing to say about the word “straight”: “Of potential interest re: defining what is queer & straight, originally the term straight was used in mixed queer & sex work spaces and communities to mean someone who wasn’t outside one of us–a sexual/gender outsider. It did not mean heterosexual. It more meant “square” becaUe sex working women who slept with or had personal romantic relationships with men were way outside of heterosexually. They were never straight. You can still hear it in sex worker culture today–how non sex work jobs are called “straight jobs” and some still use “straight” to mean “non sex worker”. Queers have *no* claim to defining what is straight actually. They just took over the meaning.”

I don’t think queer femmes are unilaterally  better than those poor oppressed straight cis women. As much as we’d like to believe that the queer world is some utopic island where we can all frolic free of sexism- femmephobia, the venerations of masculinity, relationship violence and sexism live in queer communities too, like do they ever.  Just like when bell hooks said “feminism is for everybody,I think femme is  a liberatory gender universe that everyone can learn from.

That person you were talking to said queer was ‘vague’?  More like uncontainable, complicated, nuanced, evolving, messy. Femme is uncontrollable, and it smashes the boundaries placed on us by those who try and make our genders neat and comprehendable.  Femme can not be contained. FEMMES ARE SLUTS  AND SPINSTERS AND PEOPLE WHO FUCK WHO WE ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO, WHO WE WANT, OR NO ONE AT ALL, AND DEFINE OUR GENDERS FOR OURSELVES. FEMME IS A GENDER UNIVERSE THAT DESTROYS BOUNDARIES, THAT DOES WHAT IT WANTS (ACCOUNTABLY) WITH ITS HUNGER.  WE ARE FOR OURSELVES, AND WE ARE UNCONTROLLABLE.  THAT IS THE POINT.

Third: You  didn’t ask this question. But I gotta say, I’m less concerned about her and more concerned about you.  I am wondering how you can get the reminders, in your place of isolation, that your gender is genius and real and fuck all those people! I remember hearing queer Black femme Kim Katrin Millan  saying one time that every day she wakes up she thinks “how hard can I love myself today?”because the WSSCCAP is constantly telling her negative bullshit about herself as a Black femme. So, maybe you need to try and figure out how to  travel to queer Black non cis woman only femme or femme positive gatherings, or paste up a million images of Black queer femmes and their writings and art around your bed, or put quotes on your phone that remind you of the validity of who you are, or make a Black femme for femme amulet, or look at Black  multiply gendered femme Instagram feeds, like,  a lot?

Also, I know what it’s like to live in a place where it just feels like the community that exists is busted or nonexistent.  But I also know that many communities have been made by one person feeling isolated and shitty and inviting the two people they knew who they shared some identities or beliefs with to have dinner.  Folks I know now say, wow, Seattle is such a disabled queer mecca!  but a) it’s still ableist as fuck here b) I remember when friends started a thing called “crip your hangout” that was just a bunch of disabled folks hanging out once a month in a cross-acccessible space to eat and talk, because folks felt like there was no disabled community, that a lot of different queer disabled spaces and community then grew out of. Can you make a low key femme brunch or tea gathering in your community that creates the kind of femme community you want to see?.

Sorry you had to deal with this crap. I hope this helps and you get to hang with her less and other femmes who believe in an expansive femme vision more.

With love and respect,

Shark Mom

 

 

 

How To Be QTPOC, Have Hot, Nasty Hookup Sex Without Awkward or Racism, And Eat a Burrito, AKA The Three Million Dollar Question

Hi!

So here is my not-so-serious, but occasionally vexing dilemma:

I am weirdly attached to this fantasy of what gay and queer sex should be like, probably because of too much Queer As Folk brainwashing, with super hot spontaneous NSA action. How can this happen for me and other QTPOC sluts in a way that is actually safe emotionally and physically?  My forays into dating and/or playing mostly involve dodging  Asiaphiles or being startlingly forward (which doesn’t seem to go over well in Seattle). Where are the slutty QTPOC with good boundaries that want to do sinful things to each other and then grab a burrito afterwards?

Sincerely,
Always Hungry

Hi brave hungry shark!!!

Welp, here you go. This is the queer $3 million dollar question. And I think it’s very serious!

I don’t know why- ok, maybe I do – but it seems like queers of my generation, and maybe of the generation right before and right after me too, were raised with the idea that our birthright was a lot of Zipless Fuck (yes, I am referencing Fear of Flying), queer style, anonymous, effortless, super hot banging. OK, it’s probably some combination of stuff like Queer as Folk and rich, legit queer histories where we have created public sex cultures aplenty. And our own desires. Our desires for, as Patrick Califia wrote, whoring in utopia. We want it to be all like Black pervert polymath sci fi daddy Samuel Delany‘s visions of the afterfuture in Dhalgren, hot sex freaks running around tunnels in the apocalypse boning each other. Queers dream big, and sometimes we want smoking hot sex with an intimate partner or partners, and sometimes we dream of all the creative ways there are to go fuck beyond Thunderdome.

But then there’s the stuff that didn’t make it into Queer as Folk. The QTPOC stuff. The tiny preciousness of QTPOC communities, where everyone knows everyone and we want the least amount of weird possible. (Also, I need to say, I hear you when you say your city is so small and weird about the direct flirtations, but I get around, and I have to say, Oakland and Brooklyn and Toronto get really small too.)  Where we really don’t want to fuck things up or make things more awkward  than they already are, where everyone is negative zero degrees away from each other. Queers have stories aplenty about seeing our therapists or people who are on our board of directors butt fucking at the play party. (This is why some QTPOC I know (including yours truly) may have at one point turned to banging white people because at least they won’t know EVERY FUCKING THING ABOUT US. And this is true. But sometimes, they also know not a damn thing about us. And complexity ensues. Etc.)

And then there’s the trauma thing.  Those white bois on QAF, they don’t have transracial adoptee trauma or Black fat femme mental health stuff or my-fuckboy-abusive-ex- partner-who-is-also-a-survivor-but-femme-what-an-asshole-works-at-the-hot-QTPOC-club trauma. We have so much trust we need to build. And most of the time, we don’t even know we can ask for it without being “demanding” or “too much.”  We don’t even let ourself say what we need to bone down. So we stay stuck, in either imagining ourselves in a future of effortless sexbot fucking, or too shy and scared for good reasons to bust any kind of move.

People process their trauma all kinds of ways so I want to be clear: there is no one good way to bone as a trauma survivor. Someone who likes casual sex isn’t automatically broken, monogamy or marriage isnt the only healthy way to fly. But six years ago, I was part of a group called ASS, Always a Safe Space. We came together over some Miller High Life on the porch of a legendary East Bay QTPOC collective house that has since been evicted to be gutted with bros. Our mission was to bring community accountability to the queer club. We noticed: so many queers either knew how to negotiate sex by asking excruciatingly, uh, is it ok if I touch your elbow? Oh, ok, I’m so sorry, never mind, I’m a terrible person! Or knew how to get drunk and grind on someone from behind without asking first. So many of us weren’t having sex, or were having sex only when we used substances enough to overcome trauma and shyness- for good, ill or in between.

Sometimes the stuff that looked so cool and sex radical on the outside, it actually felt numb, or weird, or it felt good at first but then we couldn’t feel it or we couldn’t find the words to say, I can do this but not that, or that smell makes me feel weird, or that way you gender me feels creepy. And that plus pretty politics- where certain kinds of attractiveness,white or light skin, body size, monied, young and abled bodies are privileged over others- means that some of us get a million dates, but some of us have dry spells for years. Some of us know only a vision of topping that conflates power with grabbing without asking. Some of us only know a vision of bottoming where our submission and powerful reception is less than a gift of power. And then there’s all the million funky ways race and class and gender and sex work and disability and cis or trans or agender or intersex or Two Spirit and how those ids are culturally see, dance with it all.

So the short version is: I don’t think we can fuck as QTPOC in our tender, resilient, complex bodies the way the white bois in Queer As Folk do. I think we can have all kinds of public and non committed kinky sex, but not if we try and fit ourselves inside their model of anonymous sex. I think we’d all be dreaming our way closer to the decolonial rebellious sex our hearts want if we located ourselves here, in these miraculous scarred bodies. As not burden or broken, but as the gifts we have. That we have to figure out how to work with.  As Heather Acs says, This Is What We Have.

I think the kind of QTPOC queer sex you want might mean making awkward the new hot. That it might mean conversations, and again, about the ways we’ve been hurt, and the ways we want to fuck anyway. That it might mean holding some workshops or doing some education first. Preparing the ground for the seed to bear the fruit.

One of the first places I groped my way towards sexual home was at the groundbreaking sex parties genderqueer Black Boriqua educator and performance artist Ignacio Rivera held at their Bed Stuy apartment. Every month, Ignacio would put their cats in a locked bedroom, put sheets and puppy pads and air mattresses out, ask for a sliding scale donation and create a sexual space that centered QTPOC and happened basically almost nowhere else.

Ignacio always started the parties by saying, “I know for most folks here, either it’s your first time at a sex party, or you went to a white dominated sex party before and were traumatized.” They always made everyone pair off and role play practicing a negotiation,because they knew those skills were ones so many of us had never been taught. There were couches where folks could just watch porn, or watch other people having se, or jerk off, or massage each other. I had awkward sex there, and sex that changed my life. I went home alone and I went home with lovers. I learned about myself, and so did hundreds of queer Black and Brown folks who came though those doors.  And I did it by practicing public sex skills that no one had taught me before, that there are very few places to learn.

It is not our fault we are not taught how to fuck. And it is one of the most beautiful parts of beng queer, that we can choose to always be learning and practicing and stumbling towards these best practices that will set us on a path towards freedom.

Now I live in Seattle, the city that created Raw Sugar, a public play party for QTPOC that I never experienced but i heard was legendary. What does this particular time and place you inhabit need to have hookups that have zero racism, where you can fly free and be transformed? Do you need to find the QTPOC kink elders where you are and ask them about their lives, or find out if there’s a really hot play party they’re throwing already? Do you need to have a cute afternoon hangout with snacks and tea for folks to talk about their wildest sex dreams and challenges? Do you need to do a sex spell? Do you ned to fuck yourself with a red candle, imagining the sex and love of your dreams, and call it to you, lighting it on fire? (After you pull out, to be clear.)  Connect with QTPOC already doing slut work, like the creators of Black Pervert, many, many sex workers in y(our) communities, and the Chicago QTPOC kink collective I know exists but I can’t find links to online 😉  Check this article out: http://elixher.com/the-play-party-survival-guide-and-kink-toolkit-for-queer-people-of-color/

Our queer sexual utopias are not always out there, ready made.  The best things I’ve ever made have come from my intimate knowledge of what was lacking in my community and what was needed. Go make the container, build the skills, relationships and communities to have those jack off parties, hot hookups and makeouts and needles of your dreams.  I believe in you, and I believe in us.  I believe we do slut just fine, we just do slut different.

 

And: you can always just ask.  Facebook status update, tweet, Snapchat: where are the hot, nasty QTPOC who wanna bone and eat a burrito after? Direct communication will never fail you.

 

with infinite love, lube and burritos,

Shark Mom

 

 

Getting Your Krip Genius Artwork Paid For When You Can’t Leave the House

poetry4_grande

hi shark mom!

I have a passion project that I’m trying to get funded. I know I can’t produce it myself. I want to direct it. it’s a script about a mixed race survivor of child sexual abuse. this isn’t my first trip around the block, I’ve directed two feature films already. I’m good at what I do. but I’m not connected. I need money and talent, and I’m looking for an awesome producer and funders who want to support queer disabled mixed race feminist directors. I have no idea how to do this. any wisdom for me?

sincerely,
disabled diva director with a dilemma

Dear Disabled Diva Director with a Dilemma,

First, I give you Angel Haze, everyone’s (ok, mine and maybe yours) favorite Black/Cherokee agender queer cult survivor battle MC, with a new song about doing the impossible and not letting anything hold you down: https://www.youtube.com/embed/ebySFDUPbRk“>

 I think we all need this about now, in MERCURY RETROGRADE MARS CONJUNCT SCORPIO HELL PAIN DEATH MONTH. “I GOT MY MIDDLE FINGER UP TO WHITE AMERICA/ FUCK YOU COULD NEVER BREAK ME.”  For folks who are Deaf, HOH or otherwise audio is inaccessible, here’s the lyrics:  http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/angelhaze/impossible.html  You might need to listen to/ be with this song a LOT as you make your next genius artwork.

OK, now that we’ve listened to Angel, here’s what I’ve got:

I don’t know shit about film, but I do know shit about hustling, being a Taurus about money, and crip genius. And a queer  crip of color genius, Amber Vora, just said on Facebook the other day, “Sometimes I feel like the reason disability justice activists haven’t transformed the entire world yet is because we’re so busy organizing fundraisers for each other to stay alive (have enough food, afford medicine, doctors, wheelchairs, keep from being homeless, etc.) Seriously. We’re awesome in the way we come together to support each other, and that in and of itself is revolutionary. It really is. And yet… imagine how much we could do if our community had its needs met and we could focus that love, creativity and power to the next level.”

Yeah. As you probably know, crips know how to do everything! On no money! That’s why we get so fucking pissed when the normies whine, “Oh access is sooooooooo expensive!” Like, FUCK YOU I LIVE ON SSI AND I CAN STILL MANAGE TO GET IN MY INACCESSIBLE HOUSE ON A RAMP I MADE OUT OF TINFOIL OUT THE RECYCLING BIN, WHY CAN’T YOUR ABLE BODIED ASS FIGURE IT OUT?  (I give you the amazing Building Radical Accessible Communities Everyone blog for more on that: https://radicalaccessiblecommunities.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/accessibility-feature-defensiveness-inaccessible/)

However. Some shit is actually expensive. Like, more expensive than we know how to hustle. Like more expensive than basic survival. Like, at this point in my life, I sort of know that I can crowdsource enough $20 donations to make a $500 rent, or part of it, once in a while, even if it still makes me throw up to do it. But shit like filmmaking equipment, or a root canal, or a house, that shit is harder. We have so much shit around asking for help, always being the one to ask for help, having to ask for help yet again as disabled people, asking for help for shit the normies have no idea about, and we stress out knowing our communities have limited if brilliant financial resources, esp. when we are poor or working class. we’re crips. Everyone is always sick, dying, Seriously Mentally Interesting or about to be evicted. Or all of it. And we know that we are the only ones who care. The norms don’t give a shit about us. They barely know we exist, and often when they do know we exist, they just think of us as a pain in the ass. Given all that, raising 50k can just feel like, let’s get back under the covers. Not because we can’t “imagine abundence” but also bc ABLEISM AND MONEY, FUCK. 

HOWEVER. I want you to remember you got crip resiliance and brilliance. I’ve seen crowdsourcing fund a friend’s wheelchair accessible live/work van, Sins Invalid’ whole feature film, and my friend’s grandma’s house from being sold at auction. You can do this!!  You already are doing a great job- you recognized that you don’t have the spoons to produce the damn film (yay!)  Let’s take it a little father and break it down into steps.

So first:  I didn’t know what a producer or a director were when I started working on Mangos with Chili with Cherry. I didn’t know what those words mean. Someone had to explain to me, the producer handles all the money and promotion, the director makes the artwork happen.

So, maybe you need a producer who has produced films before. But  I feel like some of your friends may hear producer and be like ahhhh thats some rich white boi, I’m not a  producer, what’s that! But if you break it down and go, I need someone to handle money and production, there will be some bitch out there who knows how to fundraise and promote.  Also, I googled, and I found this article: http://filmmakermagazine.com/76650-how-to-find-a-producer/#.VqA6tsArL5Y which basically says that most most indie films today- even big ones, like Lee Daniels’ The Bulter- there are like 41 producers listed on the credits because there’s no one big money person anymore!  So maybe you don’t need to find the one, big money person. Maybe crip interdependence and grassroots fundraising is actually the way to go here. Maybe small, interdependent systems are more resilient. Maybe you already know how to do that.

Second, it’s all about relationships. Ableism and lack of access may prevent you from going to Hollywood to mingle with the money people, but do you have friends who makes films? Friends of friends who do? Somebody who works at some queer or feminist filmmaking thing? Email them.  Tell them you have a script and you are looking for a producer/ fundraiser. if they can’t do it, they might have a friend or an idea of someone who would be interested. Work those networks. Email Sins, fuck! 

Third. I’m going to get real Taurus on you: How much money do you need, specifically? To start? To finish? Is there like a baseline? A lot of film Kickstarters I saw that raised 5 figures had a trailer. How much do you need to make this first? Can you shoot it on an IPhone 6 the ways those annoying new ads I see on Hulu maintain you can do?  Can you borrow one from somebody?  And also- what is your vision for this film? Do you want it to hit the big time? Hit the indie time? Be screened on college campuses and crip community centers and CSA orgs?  Different levels of film will require different money, and it probs won’t require it all up front.  Are there other films about childhood sexual abuse- like Secret Survivors  or Precious– who you could hit up their people on Twitter or email? I know Lee Daniels is busy making Empire, but the second season sucked, and maybe he will read your email and be like, hey, I have money now, let me help this person? You’ve directed two feature films. That ain’t nothing.

Speaking of Kickstarter, I know you may have run many a Kickstarter in your sick and disabled life already and want to scream at the word, and I don’t blame you, but I looked up some sucessful Kickstarters where multiply marginalized femme of color filmmakers have funded their films. Look at these:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1889777212/shakedown, ( 29k)

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/alice-walker-beauty-in-truth 55k

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/brown-girl-in-the-ring-the-prequel–2#/ 34k Canadian

Can you get arts council funding?  Here’s some Seattle links and a North American one. http://www.seattle.gov/arts/cityartist-projects

https://www.pridefoundation.org/what-we-do/grants/guidelines/

http://www.astraeafoundation.org/apply-for-a-grant/international-fund  (specifically the Global Art Fund.)

Fifth, make a list of every rich, Resource Generation kid you know. Maybe you just know one trust fund kid (and if you don’t know any, that is just fine too) but rich people know rich people- that’s how money works- so you have one rich friend, your producer or you can ask them to tell their other rich people about your project.  Once you and your producer have a budget, you can target those folks to give you donations that are bigger than $20. Like matching donations. Like $1000.

Robert Rodriguez: read his book He made his first film, El Mariachi, for $7000 funded by medical testing and credit card debt, and that was in the 90s. He’s a cis dude of color who grew up poor and I think he’s able bodied so some shit he did may not work for you, but some shit may be helpful 

Also, think of some filmmakers you love, put their photos on your altar, light a candle and ask them to make it rain. They want your work in the world. You might not have capitalism in your side, but you have magic and ancestors. When I had no idea how my partner and I were going to afford to move across the country this summer, while having a stress induced fight on my cell phone in the laundromat about that very subject, I looked out and there was literaly a clump of money on the curb.  When I grabbed it, it was $340, which was the exact cost of the two one way tickets I had just maxed my credit card buying.  I waited to see if some person looking freaked out bc they’d just cashed their check and lost it was gonna run back and grab it, but when they didn’t, I realized it was probably some trust fund kid riding a fixed gear to buy drugs in my neighborhood, because nobody else shoves that much cash in a back pocket.  That money literally got pushed out of the Shark Pussy Goddess’s hole onto Bedford and Jefferson. I know magic doesn’t always happen like that because a lot of people pray to win the lottery and it doesn’t happen, but fuck it, why not do some magic to get paid or meet a producer? It can’t hurt.

And after you pray, do the prayer of researching- how did they find their producers? Who was Marlon Riggs’ producer, for example?

Finally, I founds this: http://www.sundance.org/programs/feature-film

And finally finally, I want to say that it can be real hard to bust out way beyond survival in an ableist bullshit world.  It can feel like, I don’t know how to do this and I can’t access it bc ableism, and also like, this is more money and at a bigger level of blowing up than I’ve been at before. But if you have evolved and survived and figured out everything you have in this life, you got those skills already. They’re real. They’re the Mentor of Bones. Lean back on them. Know you already know more than you think, crip mixed survivor blessing. 

Love and respect,

Cane Using IBS Having Fibro’d Out CPTSD Shark Mom Who Wants Your Films to be in the World

Ask a question, make a donation?

Hey all,

 

This blog is not even a month old and I’m bowled over at the response it’s gotten!  Thank you so much for being appreciative of and supporting this  disabled, femme of color, working class advice work and intellectual labor.

 

Two things:

 

  1. If you want to ask a question, please email asksharkmom@gmail.com.  It can be about you, but it can also be about an issue of community concern!  Just make sure you think about anonymysing yourself and protecting other folks’ privacy.
  2. Working on this takes about 10-12 hours a month, all of which I’m doing for free. I’m happy to provide free advice, but if any of you like what you read and use it, and can do so, please feel free to drop from $5-500 in my paypal, which is brownstargirl @ gmail.  com, marked as “to family and friends.”

Next radio show and blog post up next week! Tuesday, January 19th, 7 PST is when  the radio show, LuLu Nation and Crew, lead by the amazing Luzvimindia Carpenter, happens: https://www.facebook.com/events/429440993926070/.  The written posts go up here a day or two later.

 

Thanks and love,

Shark Mom