Janet Mock Opens Up About Her Experiences As A Trans Sex Worker At Age 16

1. In anticipation of the debut of her first book Redefining Realness, Janet Mock has released a six-part video series about her journey as a sex worker and how it relates to pop culture, death, and the power of words.

Janet Mock / Via janetmock.com

2. First of all, each video starts with her fanning herself. And we fall in love each time.

Janet Mock / Via janetmock.com

3. Mock says she wrote her book to help other women not think that being trans is “bizarre.”

“Through my own story and emotional experience, I hope that it empowers other young girls who know that, first off, that they’re not alone, and it’s not bizarre, and that they’re not the first ones to have been there. That would be the biggest goal for me with Redefining Realness.”

4. It’s important to her that at the beginning of the book, she disclose that she’s trans, she was a sex worker, she was sexually abused, and that she grew up poor.

Janet Mock

 

Best quote from her “Disclosure” video: “We’re all frightened that if we tell the person that we love our truth or tell them who we really are, what we’ve been through that, then they will not love us any more. And I think that that’s what we’re all searching for. We’re all searching for someone to love us exactly as we are.”

5. Mock worked other jobs in fast food and retail, but she said, “Nothing would compare to the check that comes from being a sex worker—that money was quick.” Her body image issues were urgent matters for which she needed money quickly.

Janet Mock / Via janetmock.com

Best quote from her “Sex Work” video: From the other sex workers, she felt “a sense of community, sisterhood, resiliency, resources, strength. It was like our underground railroad of resources to navigate a system not built for us.”

6. She named herself after Janet Jackson, but it was Beyonce who instilled strength in her after she watched the “Bills, Bills, Bills” music video.

Janet Mock / Via janetmock.com

Best quote from her “Pop Culture” video: “When I started college, Aaliyah died, and I just remember how vital and immediate that was for me, and how it put this sense of urgency in me that death is real and that I didn’t want to die without being myself…”

7. She said people perceive her as a woman, but then, when she reveals that she’s trans, she becomes “objectified and gawked over.”

Aaron Tredwell / Via Facebook: janetmock

Best quote from her “Passing” video: “I am a woman. I live my life as a woman and that’s how I should be perceived. I’m not passing as anything. I’m being…being myself.”

8. She would sneak books like Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale from the library because, to her, “words are how I found out what I feel, what I think…”

Aaron Tredwell / Via Facebook: janetmock

Best quote from her “Power of Words” video: “I’ve always yearned for that sense of being able to create the book that I should have been able to read growing up. To be able to create and contribute to that story about the experience of growing up as a young trans girl, as a young trans girl of color. What does that look like?”

9. Today, Janet published the essay below about her life after she started being a trans sex worker at the age of 16.

At 16 years old, I began trading sex for money. The money I earned I used to pay for the vital medical care my family couldn’t afford. This essay is not a confession. Neither is my book Redefining Realness. I do not believe that having engaged in the sex trades or being a former sex worker is a confessional matter.

I do not believe using your body — often marginalized people’s only asset, especially in poor, low-income, communities of color — to care after yourself is shameful. What I find shameful is a culture that exiles, stigmatizes and criminalizes those engaged in underground economies like sex work as a means to move past struggle to survival.

***
I was 15 the first time I visited Merchant Street, what some would call “the stroll” for trans women involved in street-based sex work. At the time, I had just begun medically transitioning and it was where younger girls, like my friends and myself, would go to hang out, flirt and fool around with guys and socialize with older trans women, the legends of our community.

The majority of the women I idolized engaged in the sex trades at some time or another – some dabbled in video cam work and pornography, others chose street-based work and dancing at strip clubs (an option reserved for those most often perceived as cis). These women were the first trans women I met, and I quickly correlated trans womanhood and sex work.

I perceived the sex trades as a rite of passage, something a trans girl had to do in order to make the money necessary to support herself. I had also learned (from media, our laws and pop culture) that sex work is shameful and degrading.

Sex work is heavily stigmatized, whether one goes into it by choice, coercion or circumstance. Sex workers are often dismissed, causing even the most liberal folk, to dehumanize, devalue and demean women who are engaged in the sex trades. This pervasive dehumanization of women in the sex trades leads many to ignore the silencing, brutality, policing, criminalization and violence sex workers face, even blaming them for being utterly damaged, promiscuous, and unworthy.

So because I learned that sex work is shameful, and I correlated trans womanhood and sex work, I was taught that trans womanhood is shameful. This belief system served as the base of my understanding of self as a trans girl, and I couldn’t separate it from my own body image issues, my sense of self, my internalized shame about being trans, brown, poor, young, woman.

Though I yearned to be among women like myself, I also judged them for doing work that I swore at 15 I could never do. The work and those women didn’t fit my pedestal perched Clair Huxtable portrait of womanhood.

Yet my economic hurdles were real and urgent, and I couldn’t deny that witnessing the women of Merchant Street take their lives into their own hands, empowered me. Watching these women every weekend gathered in sisterhood and community, I learned firsthand about body autonomy, about resilience and agency, about learning to do for yourself in a world that is hostile about your existence.

These women taught me that nothing was wrong with me or my body and that if I wanted they would show me the way, and it was this underground railroad of resources created by low-income, marginalized women, that enabled me when I was 16 to jump in a car with my first regular and choose a pathway to my survival and liberation.

Fifty percent of black, 34% of Latin@, and 16% of Asian trans people have made a living in underground economies, including sex work, compared to 11% of white trans people, according to Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.

A leading factor that makes young trans women of color, like myself, more likely to engage in survival sex work is economic hardship. Family rejection and hostile, unwelcoming school environments can push a trans girl to leave these spaces, and anti-trans bias coupled with racism and misogyny and a lack of education heightens joblessness.

When you’re 16 years old, dreaming of being yourself and you come from a family that is already struggling economically (not to mention dealing with accepting your identity) and you’re faced with the high cost of gender affirmative healthcare, the hurdles are high and overwhelming, and sex work becomes the most appealing, viable, efficient option. At least it was for me.

Multilayered systemic oppressions are stacked up against trans women from low-income and/or communities of color so the sex trade becomes a road well traveled, helping trans women alleviate financial woes while also making many of us feel desired as women (through an objectifying male gaze), women who are taught that we are undesirable and illegitimate.

There’s no denying that sex work is dangerous work. Engaging in the sex trades increases a person’s risk for criminalization, acquiring HIV or other STIs, sexual abuse and violence. It can also, for myself at least, complicate and conflate your image of self, of love, of sex, of value, not to mention the stigma that is internalized about the work you do, work that often leads others to define you and your character.

My hope is that being open about my experience as a teenage sex worker helps further conversations about how we can better serve folk engaged in sex work as a means of survival, and particularly vital to my community, how we can develop programs that create more appealing and viable options for young trans women, so sex work isn’t their only option for support and survival. We need programs that help trans girls and women find affirming, affordable healthcare and housing options, that shepherd them towards completing their education and that instills in them a sense of possibility.

For many years I thought being trans, that being brown, that being a former sex worker, that being a different kind of woman made me less than and undeserving of being heard. So I silenced those parts of myself that I felt would lead me to further marginalization. I hope now to stand more fully in my truth, and that my decision to be authentic about my experiences gives young women like me, who feel they may not have and didn’t have other choices, the strength to step more fully into who they are.

This essay and my memoir are pivotal steps in my continual process of revealing myself to myself, to those I love and to the world. I believe that sharing our experiences – specifically the ones that we’re told to keep silent, secret and shameful – are the ones that gives us greater access to power.

I am choosing now to step further into my power.

You can watch her six-part video series here.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/clairepires/janet-mock-opens-up-about-life-as-a-trans-sex-worker-at-age

Most Popular Dating Profile Headlines Across 50 States

On any dating website, choosing your profile headline takes some finesse and creativity. It’s the first thing viewers will see, and judge, on your profile. The situation is no different for the “world’s biggest gay hookup site,” Manhunt. The website decided to have their tech team pull data for the most popular headlines in the United States of America.

2. The results:

Forty-nine of fifty states had some variation of “hey guys” at the top of their list. Connecticut was the only state that had some creativity with, “looking for a top.” Can you feel the romance blossoming?

3. How can you resist a line like that?

4. The site gave examples of popular headlines by state:

9. Tip: Stating you are a “regular guy” does not come off as normal.

Head on over to Manhunt Daily to check out the list in full.

H/T:Queerty

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/skarlan/most-popular-dating-profile-headlines-across-50-states

“Rizzoli And Isles” Is The Gayest Non-Gay Show On Television

1. Thanks to the blatant on-screen chemistry between Sasha Alexander and Angie Harmon, Rizzoli and Isles has become a need-to-watch lesbian show…with no lesbians in sight.

2. And the creators of the show are completely aware of this.

3. Writer Janet Tamaro told TV Guide:

“The lesbian theory endlessly amuses me, and it amuses the cast. Rizzoli and Isles have been heterosexual from the first episode, though there is no way I would want to interfere with my viewers’ fantasy lives.”

4. We see you Janet, feeding the fire of the great ship that is “Rizzles”.

5. With this new promo for Season 4, Rizzoli and Isles has truly outdone itself.

Subtext EXPLOSION.

8. Don’t think we don’t know what you’re doing here. We see the excessive touching.

9. Subtle guys, really subtle.

10. Who spends this much time “just talking” on a bed?

11. Nobody.

*Bonus for some bra-strap action.

12. Did Rizzoli really have to get that close while teaching Maura how to shoot a gun? DID SHE!?

13. Then you had them pose as a couple!? What are you trying to do to us?

L-biffs =“Life-Long Best Friends Forever.” Sure it does.

14. I…um…what are we talking about?

15. Then you have the NERVE to dangle moments like this in front of us:

16. I mean, for goodness sake you entitled an episode “I Kissed A Girl” and let THIS happen:

17. Okay. Nice recovery, but we saw that.

18. We all know there is a reason this speed dating promo ended with them both striking out.

Cough*They went home together?*cough

19. You don’t think we notice all the loving stares?

20. Seriously. No more staring, it’s too much.

21. Are you guys even TRYING to pretend they’re straight anymore?

22. Even the character’s twitter accounts are playing it up.

23. And when the actual actresses themselves start using the couple nickname…game over.

24. They made it to the elite 8 of a “TV Couples” March Madness….COUPLES!?

25. Give the people what they WANT!

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/skarlan/rizzoli-and-isles-is-the-gayest-non-gay-show-on-television

Boy Scout Camp Counselor Fired After Coming Out, Caught It On Tape

1. Eric Jones, an Eagle Scout and camp counselor for the Boy Scouts in Missouri, came out to his camp director last July. He was fired on the spot.

2. Eric told The NY Daily News at the time:

“I’d been working on coming out, I thought it was time to have my life of scouting and my other life come together […] He said I was deserving to be there, but he had to follow the policy of BSA.”

3. Jones’ conversation with the camp director was filmed by Ryan James Yezak:

4. In the video you hear the Boy Scout Official Say:

“I understand, and quite honestly your lifestyle is your lifestyle. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the way I look at an individual or the way I judge them. However, by telling me what you just told me, it automatically takes you out of the program. I wish you hadn’t done that.”

5. Listen:

6. Eric was trying to set a good example for other scouts, as he told FOX4KC:

7. The filmed segment will appear in Ryan’s work-in-progress documentary Second Class Citizen.

8. The Boy Scouts of America will be voting today on a proposal to lift the ban on gay scouts..

Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press / MCT

H/T:Towleroad

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/skarlan/boy-scout-camp-counselor-fired-after-coming-out-caught-it-on

Community Post: Disney Same-Sex Series: Love Is The Answer

Rodolfo doesn’t just paint Disney couples. His work also includes references to pop culture, horror films and our obsession with the excessive lives of celebrities as exampled below.

His 2012 gallery, Disasterland, will be on display in L.A. in August and September. All of his prints, including ones not pictured, are for sale on his website!

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/donnad/disney-same-sex-series-love-is-the-answer

34 Couples To Marry At The Grammys During Macklemore’s “Same Love”

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

An on-air wedding of 34 couples — gay, straight, of various ages, races and colors — will take place Sunday night during the Grammy Awards. The ceremony will be part of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ performance of their Grammy-nominated hit “Same Love.”

The duo’s producer, Ryan Lewis, told The New York Times that the ceremony “will be in our minds the ultimate statement of equality, that all the couples are entitled to the same exact thing.”

Queen Latifah will officiate the ceremony and Madonna will join the number with Macklemore, Lewis, and the song’s featured vocalist, Mary Lambert. Lewis is particularly excited because his sister, Laura, will marry her fiancee, Alex, during the ceremony, according to the paper.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are nominated for seven Grammys, including song of the year for “Same Love.” The show will be broadcast live on CBS at 8 p.m. ET.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/clairepires/34-couples-to-marry-at-the-grammys-during-gay-rights-anthem

This Video Is The Latest Front For Illinois Advocates Demanding A Vote On Marriage Equality

A coalition of advocates in Illinois are holding the chief sponsor of marriage equality legislation — himself a gay man — and the state’s House lawmakers to a promise they made in May to take a final vote on the bill next week.

In a new video released Thursday, the Illinois Unites for Marriage coalition indicates that time is almost up on lawmakers to make up their mind on the issue of marriage equality for same-sex couples, the intent of a measure on the table since January.

“I would say to the Illinois legislature, if not now, then when?” asked Kevin James, standing with his partner, Ryan Green. Marriage equality is in the hands of state lawmakers, who have the opportunity to make it right, another couple said in the video.

Currently, there are only three days of session scheduled before lawmakers adjourn for the year, leaving little time for an extensive debate on the measure, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. And advocates in the coalition are mounting pressure on Chicago’s Democratic Rep. Greg Harris, who is gay, and his colleagues to get the job done out of fear that it might be stalled until January.

Tepid support from some Democrats in the House fearing difficult primary election challenges next spring has stalled the bill since May.

On the final day of the spring session on May 31, Harris tearfully announced that his colleagues were unwilling to cast a vote on the bill until they return for the annual “veto session” this November because they needed more time to hear from their constituents on the matter.

“They have asked for time to go back to districts, talk to their constituents, and reach out to their minds and hearts and have told me they will return in November with their word that they’re prepared to support this legislation,” Harris said at the time. “We will be back and we will be voting on this bill, in this legislature, in this room.”

On Tuesday, the advocates delivered a petition to Harris with over 4,000 handwritten signatures, demanding he call the bill next week.

“I hope that my colleagues are paying attention, and I urge my colleagues to be ready to come back to Springfield next week ready to be on the right side of history,” Harris told BuzzFeed in the exclusive report. “… It’s just the right thing and Illinois needs to get this done.”

If amended to take effect June 1 of next year, the bill needs at least a 60-vote simple majority to pass in the Democratic-controlled House. The Senate already approved the bill on Valentine’s Day.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/tonymerevick/this-video-is-the-latest-front-for-illinois-advocates-demand

5 Times LGBT Students Totally Owned Homecoming This Year

Earning the title of Homecoming King or Queen is a big achievement for any student, but for LGBT youth it’s an extra special moment of support and acceptance from their peers.

This year, many LGBT students were able to proudly celebrate their own identity as they took home the crown.

1. Steven Sanchez, a transgender student, became Iowa University’s first LGBT Homecoming Queen.

 

21-year-old Steven Sanchez identifies as “transgender queer” and as both male and female. Steven used to hide who he was due to bullying from other classmates. “There was a long while where I tried so hard to hide who I am, and to be what other people expected,” explained Sanchez. He later decided the only way to be happy was to be completely himself. What did he get? A spot on University of Northern Iowa’s homecoming court and later the title of Homecoming Queen.

A video was created documenting Sanchez’s journey towards homecoming queen.

2. Members of the Gay Straight Alliance, Jennifer Mijares and Eileen Hernandez were the first “Homecoming Queens” to win in San Antonio, TX.

 

Although they aren’t a couple, the Mijares and Hernandez decided to run together as representatives of their C.C. Winn High School’s GSA. Hernandez is openly gay, while she refers to Mijares as her straight ally. The entire student body stood and cheered as the girls were announced as winners.

3. Ray Ramsey, a transgender high school student, ran for and won the title of Homecoming King by a “landslide” at his New Hampshire High School.

 

17-year-old Ramsey made history by becoming the very first transgender student to be elected onto the homecoming court, and win, at Concord High School. “I just lost it,” said Ramsey of the moment his dad congratulated him on the victory. Ray has the full support of his family in his transition and began talking with doctors about surgical options last fall.

4. Eric Irizarry and Ariana Reiff, best friends who are both openly gay, took home Homecoming King and Queen this month at Waukegan High School in Illinois.

Irizarry and Reiff were happy to become an unconventional power couple and take home the royal title of King and Queen. “There are some people saying we shouldn’t have won,” stated Reiff,” or that we won because we are gay, but I think our classmates chose us because they know us, and they chose us just as people.” Eric spends his time on the cheerleading team at the school while Ariana hopes of going to Veterinary school one day.

5. Transgender student Cassidy Lynn Campbell was crowned Homecoming Queen at her California high school.

 

“I instantly just dropped to the ground and started crying,” said 18-year-old Cassidy of her surprise win this September. She was the first trans Homecoming Queen at Marina High School and hopes that her victory inspires others to live their lives openly and proudly. “If this could help one child or more, or hundreds or thousands or millions, then it was more than worth it,” she said.

Watch her take the crown:

View this embed ›

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/skarlan/5-times-lgbt-students-totally-owned-homecoming-this-year

Butch Women Are Tired Of Hearing This Question

1. The question: “If you love women so much, how come you don’t dress like one? Why you dressing like something you don’t like?”

2. There are two important things to keep in mind here:

Image Created by Heben Nigatu / Via youtube.com
Image Created by Heben Nigatu / Via youtube.com

5. Now watch for yourself.

A+ choice of music.
A+ dancing.
A+.

6. So in case you missed that:

Image created by Heben Nigatu / Via youtube.com

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/hnigatu/butch-women-are-tired-of-hearing-this-question

A Complete List Of All Things Gay At The VMAs

1. When Lance Bass returned and got felt up by JC Chasez:

2. Lady Gaga’s entire presence:

3. When Richard Simmons showed up like this:

Andrew Kelly / Reuters

4. When Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift experienced The Lesbian Merge:

5. When A$AP Rocky wildly gestured to Jason Collins while saying “homosexuality.”

6. When Louis and Harry cuddled during “Same Love”:

7. When Naya Rivera was there and briefly walked away from Big Sean for long enough for us to pretend she really was Santana.

Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images

8. When Miley Cyrus legitimately shoved her face into some woman’s ass:

9. When Jennifer Hudson and Mary Lambert sang to each other:

BONUS: Jennifer Hudson had an undercut, I kid you not.

10. When “Same Love” won Best Video with a Social Message:

(Points off for the only gay person on stage during that time not giving an acceptance speech.)

But seriously, watch this performance:

Over and over and over and over again.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/lilyhiottmillis/a-complete-list-of-all-things-gay-at-the-vmas