I am so excited that I have been able to stay involved in the local Sex Worker Outreach Coalition as part of my work. It gives me something to stay motivated about when I am sitting at a desk for eight hours a day, perusing Facebook and Pinterest (aka doing Nothing).
Last night, though, I re-experienced a familiar and uncomfortable feeling: being back in the closet.
A woman from the place I volunteered all of last year, who helps with the coalition, and another person on the coalition both know about my dancing experience. But I am not out to my new employer, supervisor, or coworkers. And I don’t have any plans for coming out, although I would prefer to be out. I am not concerned that my colleagues would out me (they are sensitive and informed about the stigmatization of sex workers). In fact, if I could be out at the coalition and not out at my home work base, I would be. What got me last night was the fact that there are a couple of dancers who are working with the coalition, and one was at the meeting last night. I felt so weird sitting there, knowing that she and I share an experience (and she knows I dance as well) and yet feeling totally stifled. And I felt envious as she is an out sex worker doing community organizing and activism.
This also rubbed up against a bunch of class stuff: is it because I am middle class and educated that people would have a hard time with my simultaneous “professional” employment and stripping work? If I came from a lower class background and didn’t have higher education would people “understand” my experience differently and perhaps accept my experience stripping more readily? I think it’s that victim-blaming/sex negative/sex work negative/patriarchal/madonna-whore sentiment of “Well you have other options! Why on earth would you strip?!” that I assume would come up. (And yet I know many other college educated strippers who have various other jobs… Maybe this question causes me so much anxiety because I don’t have a pretty, wrapped-up answer for people that would actually satisfy the question.)
I left the meeting feeling like I was going to cry. I couldn’t place the sadness I felt until I realized that by taking this 9-5 job that I was putting pieces of myself away for 40 hours a week. It’s not something I have had to do (except for around family- which has been it’s own big struggle as you all know). And it’s especially difficult given I have a lot of insider knowledge to offer and yet cannot back it up with how I have it (I had a conversation with my coworker and supervisor today talking all about strippers and clubs and other kinds of sex workers and continued to offer details about those experiences, and they kept looking at me like “Wow, how do you know all that?”)
There are definite pros to keeping myself in the closet. I don’t need to worry about the organization I work for retaliating against me based on any “professionalism” clause in their handbook. I don’t need to worry about stigma from my coworkers or supervisor, and won’t need to scrutinize interactions for discrimination or exclusion. I won’t need to think about my stripping experience interfering with future employers or recommendations.
But the cons weighed on me last night, and while they are not paining me as much right now, I think I’ll be dealing with them all more than I initially thought.