By Kendra Holliday | November 9, 2013
Eric Barry’s essay on Huffington Post starts off with a visceral bang:
Right now I’m scared. I’m terrified. I have not had steady employment in over three years. I’ve burnt through my entire 401(k). I’m on food stamps. I’ve paid my last two months’ rent on a credit card, and have no means to pay this month’s.
Eric is a man living in San Francisco struggling to survive because of his past sex work and for being out about sexuality.
As a bisexual mother in the Midwest who is out about her sexuality, I have been in his position. Three years ago, I was in the depths of despair. With no steady employment for three years, I was running out of options. I was at risk of losing my home, my daughter, and my life.
I was fired from a job for having this sex blog. My boss was outraged and disgusted with me. It was an ugly and traumatic scene.
I was desperate. I hustled. I begged. I signed up for food pantry services. It was humiliating and debasing.
My ex-husband sued me for full custody of our daughter – since I was out about my sexuality, he declared me an unfit mother. At a meeting with him, I pleaded for him to drop the lawsuit against me. He responded with a cold stare across the table and stated, “You don’t belong here. Why don’t you move away to somewhere where they accept your kind of behavior?”
It’s so crazy – you can have a sex life in this society, as long as you are private about it. If you are open and talk about it – if there is public evidence of your sexuality – you are persecuted and shunned.
People sympathized with me and donated to my legal battle, but they were getting tired of me whining about my troubles. My fear was turning them off. Still, they suggested all kinds of helpful ideas, most of which I tried, but I was growing numb.
While keeping an eye out for something full-time with benefits, I took on as many odd jobs as I could – cleaning basements, figure modeling, medical experiments, helping out an old man neighbor who didn’t have internet so he couldn’t google me and find out what a sex freak I was…
I started brainstorming living options for if I lost my house – move into my partner’s basement? stay with friends? live in my car?
I decided I would rather die than do that. I secretly started planning my suicide for when I got to that point of homelessness.
But dammit, I COULDN’T kill myself – I had a daughter! I knew she’d rather me be a “loser” than dead.
I was trapped.
The phrase, “I can’t go on, I go on,” echoed in my mind.
My partner stayed with me during the entire ordeal. He was a positive force in my life – he believed in me. He shared this song with me:
Finally, I got a break. A friend in my network told me about a job opening. I looked up the company, and was skeptical. I wasn’t sure I wanted to work at a place like that, but I always applied to every job I learned about, because you never know…
They called me in for an interview! I checked the place out, and it was better than I thought it would be.
They saw the potential in me, and holy shit!!! They offered me the job. My sex-positive activism was a non-issue for them.
I started out at $10/hr, and am now in management. I was allowed to prove myself. They trusted me to keep my personal life separate from my professional life. They don’t care that there are naked pictures of me all over this blog – they’re mature enough to realize I’ll wear clothes to work and do a good job.
Before, I was suffering from lack of opportunity. These days, I’m dealing with TOO MUCH opportunity. In addition to my day job, I’m also in demand as a sex and relationship consultant, and a sex surrogate. Plus, there’s leading Sex Positive St Louis, being in an amazing open relationship, dating awesome people, raising my amazing daughter, getting along with my ex… my cup runneth over.
I feel empowered, respected, confident. I’m making a difference in our community. I’m repaying my debts. I’m achieving my goals.
I was given a chance.
I’m a living example of being an out sex worker who is successfully living life on my own terms. I walked through fire and got to the other side. There were times when I wondered if I would make it.
Here is my advice to those who are struggling to survive:
– Keep your wits about you. Take care of your duties and obligations.
– Turn negative into positive. Is society making you feel ashamed of something? Well, society is ignorant and needs to be educated.
– Be a survivor, not a victim. Let your past be a solid foundation to grow off of and become stronger because of it.
– Own your story. Don’t be ashamed of your past. Don’t be ashamed of who you are. The truth will set you free.
– Figure out multiple ways to make money.
– Read David Wong’s article “6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person.”
In order to be successful, you need three things:
1. Hard work
3. Know the right people.
Always keep your network and options open. Eric Barry is reaching out – will his HuffPo essay score him a job? Will his needless suffering ease soon? I sure as hell hope so. I know a lot of us are rooting for him. He is smart. He is capable. And WHEN he succeeds, he’ll be another good example of how living authentically can pay off.
We can’t allow society to bully us into hiding. As the line in “Hustle and Flow” goes, WE IN CHARGE.
DON’T GIVE UP.
Don’t allow despair to take over. Remember that there is always reason for hope. We’re in this together – we all take turns with shitty times and good times – be as strong as you can during your shitty time so that you can enjoy the good time waiting for you around the corner.
You’ve been through a lot. You deserve it.