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I shouldn’t have worn heels.

I hobbled my way down a steep staircase toward the backyard, where a sizable crowd of hideous scenesters sat smoking and sipping on PBRs and bottles of tequila they’d brought from home. But before I could even sit down to rest my princess toes, I heard the music, from inside shift to sick rump-shaking beats to vintage hurly-burly circus music.

I jolted up, traversing the steep, rocky terrain in my 4-inch, red patent leather pumps once more. Arriving at the lip of the runway stage just in time, I saw my protégé, Max, flexing and hamming it up for the crowd in the shiny blue leotard I had lent them — a leftover costume from a high-school dance recital, in which I had played The Wind. (Oh, how things shift!)

As the crowd cheered, Max teased off the shiny spandex to reveal their adorable naked frame.

Max eventually ended up spread-eagled at the top of the stage, laying back in a lawn chair and squirting a strong, sparking stream of ejaculate high in the air, showcasing the strength and power of the pussy. The audience lost its mind, and in turn showered Max in paper.

Later, Max appeared from backstage, wrapped in a cozy towel, giddy with adrenaline and glowing.

“Thank you so much for coming, ho mama,” Max said as we embraced amid the smell of sex and sweat.

Max had worked as a production assistant on dozens of adult film sets before deciding to take the plunge into doing sex work.

Max asked for my help in crafting a brand, choosing a name, and figuring out which types of work they were comfortable participating in — underground live-sex shows being high on the list.

Drag queens often have “drag mothers” who teach them the tricks of the trade. Sex workers, too, have created informal ways of mentoring each other, because there is no handbook on how to be a ho, and learning how to screen clients, advertise services, and trust your gut can be crucial to survival in this industry.

My sex industry mentor, Cinnamon — who I lovingly refer to as my “Ho Uncle” — gave me my first job at the Lusty Lady. I had seen Cinnamon in a number of queer porn films, in which they channeled their fierce femininity into a marketable package of solid-gold warrior diva. Behind the scenes, however, Cinnamon prefers gender-neutral pronouns and a somewhat androgynous presentation.

In the spring of 2009, I hiked up Kearny Street in the bright afternoon sun, and reported to the front desk of the peep show where Cinnamon — clad in wide-legged jeans and a purple polo with a popped collar — took my ID and told me to come backstage and get naked.

Inside the peep show, I gave my audition everything I had — including a number of fan kicks and kick ball changes I had taken from my background in musical theater. I must have looked ridiculous, but Cinnamon saw how much I loved dancing naked and hired me on the spot.

Cinnamon taught me how to hustle clients, clean my sex toys, and deal with the bullshit that was flung our way as sex workers. To this day, Cinnamon is the one I turn to when I need guidance, support, and solace about my career or my personal life — because at the end of the day, this job isn’t like other jobs.

In California, a conviction of aiding and abetting prostitution — something as minor as driving someone to see a client — can result in a misdemeanor conviction with up to six months in state prison and fines of up to $1,000. However, pandering, which refers to the act of recruiting or encouraging someone to become a prostitute or remain a prostitute, can lead to a felony conviction and up to six years in state prison.

As sex workers, our very existence is under fire, and separating the spheres of the personal and the professional can be a moot point when state and federal laws take the ways we share resources and information about how to survive and categorize them as crimes.

When our work is criminalized, our bodies, lives, and relationships are also made illegal, and that has to stop. Family, friendship, and mentoring aren’t a crime for other industries. They shouldn’t be for ours, either.

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Siouxsie Q

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Siouxsie Q

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