I am thirty one years old today. I've been stripping for eight years, out to my friends and (some) family for seven of them, and out as fuck on the internet and beyond for four.
I'm proud of who I am and what I do, but that doesn't mean I haven't been met with some resistance by the ones I love.
When my first book, The Beaver Show, came out, my mum told my paternal grandma about it. My mum didn't mean to out me, but she did. It happens. I braced for awkwardness, but instead I received an email from my grandma detailing her stoke on how exciting my life must be as a 'traveling showgirl.' She mused about how we could somehow put together a double act; that it sounded like a real adventure.
I couldn't believe it. I was expecting a very different reaction. So, I packed up a fresh copy of my book, and sent it to her.
Several months later, I received this letter:
Needless to say, we didn't speak for a few years. We're WASPs, so like, talking about real shit is rationed to once every decade.
I guess I just want you all to know that I have brought shame to my family. And I don't feel an ounce of shame about it.
I feel pride in the work that I do, and after re-reading this letter today, my mission to make other women in my community feel proud for the hard work they do is reaffirmed. We have a lot work to do, and we cannot change every heart along the way.
After a nearly two-year radio silence, I recently emailed my grandma, giving her an update on Danielle and I, sent some candid snaps of our recent travels to New Mexico, and shared our plans for the future. I finished the email with:
"I am still proud of who I am and the life I have built for myself. I bring joy to people around me, and couldn't be happier making art, telling stories and learning from others."
She responded with family news and wished me a happy birthday, like nothing had ever happened. The book, the shame, all of it. It's still there, I'm sure, but we're not going to talk about it. And I'm ok with that.
So, my fellow strippers/sex workers: you can't change every heart. Not everyone is going to come around. But that doesn't mean the work you do isn't valid, that you don't work hard; that you shouldn't feel pride in your hustle.
It's my birthday today, so I have a favor to ask you: take a moment to celebrate and take pride in your sex work. I know some days are easier than others. I know rent is due soon and you might not have it yet. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't feel proud of the work you do to support yourself and your family.
If you're in a position to share, I would love to hear from you. If you're not out, I hope you take a moment to celebrate #stripperpride #sexworkerpride on your own terms.
I'm so fucking proud of my community and the work you do. I love you all.