I never expected that sex work would be so helpful in exploring my own identity (Picture: Jay Stark)
In German – my first language – the word ‘dear’ is either masculine or feminine: ‘lieber’ or ‘liebe’.
This poses a particular problem when it comes to addressing me in letters or emails as a non-binary person (who happens to be a part-time escort).
So when a client of mine – George* – stumbled over this hurdle when he wrote an email after our first session together, I felt apprehensive.
He started the correspondence with a gendered greeting – ‘Liebe Jay’ (Dear Jay) – but then corrected himself and said: ‘Oh no, that’s not right. How do I address you? Let me think.’
Finally, George suggested: ‘How about I call you “my favourite Jay”?’ I immediately felt my heart expand as I read this.
As a child and teenager, I never felt at home in my own flesh (Picture: Caro_Dirscherl)
When I started my escorting career about three years ago, I never expected my non-binary identity would play such a central role in this side job. Or, for that matter, that sex work would be so helpful in exploring my own identity.
Gender is intertwined with the body and mine has always been an issue for me, as someone who was assigned female at birth.
As a child and teenager, I never felt at home in my own flesh. Something was wrong, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
Since it was the 90s and all I had seen up to that point was my conservative Bavarian village near Regensburg, my world contained only two genders. I knew that having a penis wouldn’t make me feel better.
My conclusion: If I’m not a man, I must be a woman by default.
Do I feel like a woman? No. Do I feel like a man? No (Picture: Jay Stark)
This thinking changed when I moved to Berlin in 2012 to study anthropology and film. The former in particular opened my mind to a much more complex and nuanced world, as I lost myself in online platforms and internet fandoms to lighten the darkness of depression that had taken over my mind.
This is where I first encountered the concept of gender as a spectrum. The idea that a person’s identity is different from their biology – that ‘male’ and ‘female’ are merely social constructs – and it struck a chord.
Do I feel like a woman? No. Do I feel like a man? No. What is the ‘male’ and ‘female’ dichotomy anyway?
To me, these constructs are static categories that do us more harm than good. Gender is not an either/or, rather a space in between and personalities spilling over the edges. It’s a three-dimensional matrix in which some of us move fluidly.
So I came out as non-binary in 2018.
I finally felt comfortable in my own skin (Picture: Jay Stark)
My friends celebrated this, but trying to explain it to my family was more difficult.
My parents and my aunt in particular grew up in a world where biology equals identity when it comes to gender. It took time for them to understand what I had realised during my process of self-discovery – time I’m grateful they’ve taken.
Over the years, they have shifted their thinking and language. Now I’m their child and sibling, not their daughter or sister.
I finally felt comfortable in my own skin and that’s when an idea I’d had for years and first toyed with almost a decade ago resurfaced: escorting.
I enjoy sex and I love giving pleasure, as well as finding fulfilment in making a positive difference to another person. Combining these things was incredibly appealing to me. Now that I felt more confident and had managed my depression, I felt courageous enough to try it.
I never expected it to be so empowering (Picture: Koppen)
In 2020, I signed up to Kaufmich – a social network for sex workers – to connect with like-minded people and see if I would really enjoy escorting.
Within two weeks, I booked my first client and we had an amazing time. We met at his place and fell into inspired conversation, which culminated in a passionate kiss – and more, obviously. My non-binary identity never came up, but I always felt respected as an individual in his company or never objectified as a ‘female body’.
After such a positive experience, I knew I was going to keep going. Realising that I – in my biologically-female body with my tomboy looks and non-binary attitude – could arouse strangers thrilled me.
I never expected it to be so empowering.
I gained confidence and started to be more vocal about my identity, including on my escorting profile. Among other things, it currently says: ‘Ich bin Jay, 32, divers, Dorfkind und Wahlberliner*in.’ This translates to: ‘I’m Jay, 32, non-binary, village kid and Berlin-dweller of choice’ (though the dweller is gender-inclusive).
I gained confidence and started to be more vocal about my identity (Picture: Marcel Wagner)
It’s subtle enough that not all clients catch it, but those who do ask respectful questions most of the time. Sometimes they’re concerned about genitalia – they have their preferences – but mostly they’re genuinely curious about what non-binary means.
I get to educate as well as excite, how great is that?
Personally, I have no problem with female pronouns and words like ‘lady’, especially in roleplay. Outside of that, I ask clients to use ‘person’ (or similar) if they are open to adjusting their language.
When they do or when someone asks if it’s OK to call me a woman in our dynamic, it warms my heart. People are much more accepting than we give them credit for, especially when they have the space to ask questions.
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I remember several occasions where my guests brought up the topic near the end of our time together, usually while cuddling on the bed and enjoying the bliss of the moment.
One client even mentioned a podcast episode they heard where I was a guest and thanked me for explaining what non-binary means in such clear, simple language. I was elated – finding the right words has been a struggle and it’s great to hear I might have found a way to explain this to others.
Another client on the older side of the age spectrum had read my blog and had questions.
‘How come you wear dresses?’ He asked with such sincere curiosity that I couldn’t help but feel touched. I explained that a dress has no gender. It’s our society that has made it a feminine piece of clothing, but wearing one doesn’t make me less non-binary.
Being non-binary in sex work isn’t always easy though. It can be a very binary business.
There seems to be no non-binary category on platforms, even in the spheres of trans sex work. On top of that, German media still only speaks of ‘Sexarbeiterinnen’ (i.e. sex workers) in the feminine form and clients are always men.
My experience has shown me that – from body shape to sexual orientation and gender – any type of person can have an empowering career as an escort.
The combination of a non-binary gender identity and escorting has inspired an immense sense of freedom of sensual expression in me. My clients and I shun stereotypical scripts of how sex ‘should’ be and embrace the opportunity to find our own dynamic.
I wish more people in the world would allow their sexual experiences to be a little less binary. Life is more colourful that way.
Pride and Joy
Pride and Joy is a weekly series spotlighting the first-person positive, affirming and joyful stories of transgender, non-binary, gender fluid and gender non-conforming people. Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]
People are much more accepting than we give them credit for, especially when they have the space to ask questions.