Canada·First Person

After coming out as trans, my return to sex work has been unexpectedly rewarding

Eviah Shimshon Obadia-Wong got into sex work because it’s helped them make ends meet during times of financial hardship. However, her newfound confidence in her transgender body and queer sexuality has made her realize she might finally be ready to leave the profession.

I’ve come to see my body’s value as more than transactional

A trans person texts on her smartphone. Two emojis — one for a kissing face and the other for money — pop up on their phone. The palette is the pink, white and blue colours of the trans flag.
Eviah Shimshon Obadia-Wong got into sex work because it’s helped them make ends meet during times of financial hardship. However, her newfound confidence in their transgender body and queer sexuality has made her realize they might finally be ready to leave the profession. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

This is a First Person column by Eviah S. Obadia-Wong, who lives in B.C.'s Interior. For more information about CBC's First Person stories, see the FAQ.

He gave me one last pat on my butt, upwards with his palm as all the kinky sex books tell you to, though gentler than he'd been laying it on for the previous hour. More precisely, the last hour and 20 minutes. My smartwatch had given me little silent taps since our time ran out, but he wanted to cuddle afterwards.

My money was already safely stowed away in the inner zip pocket of my jacket, and I didn't mind throwing in the extra minutes for free because it's Business 101, right? Give a little unexpected extra and increase the customer's potential lifetime value to your bottom line. Or, in my case, just my bottom.

Returning to sex work at 30 wasn't exactly part of my 10-year plan.  

The first time I did sex work, I was a desperate teenager hoping to save enough money during the 2008 financial crisis to leave my home and attend university. I was ashamed of the work, the stigma of the profession and of doing it in a body that sent me into waves of dysphoria. I got out as fast as I could.

This time, I was recently divorced, suddenly paying twice as much for a downtown apartment in Kelowna — one of Canada's most expensive cities — and at the tail end of a pandemic that had inflated the cost of living higher and faster than anything I could have ever imagined. I'd also recently returned to school to get my master's degree. Despite earning scholarships and finding part-time work that could accommodate a student's schedule, I wasn't able to make ends meet.

A pre-transition teenage transgender woman wearing a black-and-white dress, headband and red lipstick looks down at the floor.
Eviah Shimshon Obadia-Wong did under-the-table sex work in 2009 in a body they said gave them waves of dysphoria. (Submitted by Eviah Shimshon Obadia-Wong)

My body had also changed in the decade since I had last done sex work.

After coming out as a non-binary trans woman and the more visible effects of hormone replacement therapy made themselves known, I realized I suddenly had a lot in common with nearly all my female-identifying friends. The development of my breasts, the softening of my skin and the gradual changes to my face shape and hairline were getting me noticed in a way I hadn't since I was a teenager.

But there was a substantial difference between how I was treated in my first puberty coming of age in a body assigned male at birth and embracing myself as a woman in my second puberty.

As soon as I crossed the threshold into femininity, my body became an object in the eyes of the world.

While there was the obvious matter of my safety and more than my fair share of creeps and transphobes to consider, I've found more people than not to be genuinely kind and good-natured at their core. The interest in my new body felt affirming.

Unlike the last time I took up this trade, I wasn't doing it secretly in the aura of shame I'd felt posting nude photos of my "boy mode" body. I was still hiding my face in photos as I sought out prospective clients, but only as a general precaution taken across the industry and not due to any discomfort with my body or who I've become.

It's a confidence I feel I have been rewarded for by most of my clients since starting this last foray into sex work. The more I've trusted myself to be true to who I am, the more I've found myself to be treated with respect and acceptance, both in the bedroom and outside.

Obviously, I've also had some unpleasant experiences as an escort, but who hasn't had a nightmare customer or a terrible day at work where nothing seems to be going the way it should? Sex is simply a human need, and sex work is work at the end of the day. I would be lying if I said I had no reservations about acquiescing my body to market demands. I was, after all, finally in a body I felt comfortable in. Accepting my authentic self took a long time and much work to achieve. Turning around to make a profit from such a profoundly personal journey of transformation as this felt like a painfully crass next step in contrast to everything I'd gone through to get where I was.

A trans-feminine person with red hair smiles and looks over their shoulder.
Obadia-Wong has found sex work to be unexpectedly rewarding after coming out as a non-binary trans woman and doing hormone replacement therapy. (Submitted by Eviah Shimshon Obadia-Wong)

In my case, though, it's been a job that allowed me to finish the demanding coursework portion of my degree and get me back on my feet.

About a year has passed since I resumed sex work, and I've trimmed down my client list with the intention of leaving the industry for a second time. I've settled into a more affordable city in B.C. and begun searching for a job that will hopefully give me the flexibility I need to finish working on my degree. I also plan to sell erotic photos and video content on subscription "fan" sites to keep me afloat in the interim.

Though I started writing this piece thinking I was ready to move on from sex work, the more I dive into it, the more I realize how fulfilling it is. Sex work is a part of me and, for better or worse, it's made me the bold, radical, weird and wild queer person I'm so proud to be. I'm not at all sure what my future will look like, but I'm grateful for everything sex work has taught me about appreciating myself, and for the many people who've been so kind in appreciating the whole of me, body and all, along the way.

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Eviah Shimshon Obadia-Wong

Freelance contributor

Eviah Shimshon Obadia-Wong (she/they) is a B.C.-based writer using the principles of soft activism to advocate for the communities that they are connected to by her intersectional identity as a queer, neurodiverse and mixed-race person. They have published creative works in collaboration with organizations ranging from UBC, Inspired Word Café Society, CBC and more. Most days Obadia-Wong can be found writing, reading, falling off her skateboard and generally causing — mostly — good trouble in the world.