Trans incidentals

Trans women are not forced by any publication or website to show their faces; this is a decision they make on their own. My understanding is that trans women do this because they want to flaunt as many assets as possible that ensure their passability — a contentious subject in itself.

Dear Sasha,
By reading your column off and on over the years — I try to read it as much as I can — I’ve noticed something that intrigues me. As you know, next to your column, there are ads for female and transsexual escorts. My questions regarding this are the following: Why are the faces of the women blurred out when those of the trans women aren’t? Is this some kind of discrimination against the trans population? I ask because I’ve seen some of these trans escorts before in bars (not naming where, of course). I assume that the reason the women’s faces are blocked off is to shield their identities and protect them from overzealous men in everyday life. Why isn’t the same courtesy extended to trans women? I mean, I’m sure trans women, even escorts, don’t want to be bothered when they go to the store or restaurants or whatnot.

—Curious Transvestite

Dear Curious,
To blur or not to blur — this is a choice that all escorts make when they ply their wares in public forums. Trans women are not forced by any publication or website to show their faces; this is a decision they make on their own. My understanding is that trans women do this because they want to flaunt as many assets as possible that ensure their passability — a contentious subject in itself. Biological women who do escorting never really have to prove that their face is feminine; they may be asked to prove it is not alarmingly unattractive, but femininity is a generally a given with cisgendered female escorts. Still, many women are proud to be paid companions and find it is primarily social stigma and legal repercussions that make public visibility problematic.

As a side note, my column no longer appears beside escort ads. The Montreal Mirror was the last of my publications where I shared this hallowed space, and just over a month ago, after 27 years in business, it closed its doors. The Mirror was the first weekly that ran my column.

Positive stigma

Dear Sasha,
I decided to write to and ask if you have any suggestions for people with HIV who want to have a normal, healthy sex life, other than telling them to use a condom — the obvious. I am also writing to you in the hope that you can help bring awareness to this problem. With the fear and stigma that exists today, people are now posting on dating sites that they are looking for someone who is “clean,” “not dirty” and “safe.” These terms tend to place a divide between us and them, and the terminology is discriminatory. Clean is how my laundry should look, not my status.

The obvious answer to this in an ideal world would be to ask someone their HIV status, or for an HIV-positive person to be able to disclose their status in a risk-free way. The reality is when people disclose their HIV status, the reactions range from outright rejection, to verbal abuse, to rejection that is more insidious and, sometimes, to violence. What need to take place, and what most organizations and HIV legal networks are working on, are public service announcements and educational programs that better inform the public of the risks around HIV.

Disclosing one’s status is a legal obligation, for now. However, stigma and fear make this almost impossible, and some choose not to disclose. Most straight HIV-positive women isolate themselves and live with no intimacy and sex, which, as you know, can be very stressful. The only way to address HIV disclosure and the misinformed public is to have people become more educated, tolerant and accepting.

I think it is a problem with societal attitudes, not with the HIV-positive person. Every HIV-positive person I know would not think of intentionally infecting other people, except for the crazy, sensational stories picked up by the media for shock value and to sell news, which reinforce the general belief that all HIV-positive people do this and are highly contagious.

Do you have any other advice or information for disclosing one’s status without risking rejection and also the risk of the person who is given the information rushing off to tell everyone they know about the HIV-positive person’s status?

I am hoping you can address some myths about HIV transmission and support the cause, as it will lead to decreased transmission rates and an overall healthier life for HIV-positive people and society in general. You have an audience that would gladly listen to your advice. They sure as hell are not listening to ours.

Thank you for letting me vent and reach out to you as a person who can help set the record straight on sex with an HIV-positive person.


Dear Gracie,

I feel that what you are asking is: How does one live with sexual pariah status in a culture that venerates and dismisses sex in equal measures and often at the same time? As as HIV-positive, person you live in criminalized standing both literally and metaphorically.

We simply have to keep fighting. We have to put ourselves out there fearlessly (while considering our comfort levels and safety), proudly and with accurate information. We need to tell our truths without shame. Is it easy? Fuck no. Did you ask for your intimate life to be burdened with such an obstacle? No, you did not, but neither did trans people, whose lives have also been criminalized. Neither did queer people, whose lives have been criminalized, too. Neither did sex workers, who live with similar stigma. Let’s not even get into the sex lives of so many disabled people, who are often identified as having no sexual profile at all. All of us who live with some obstruction to perceived sexual viability go through comparable struggles.

My feeling is that, to help find your peace in the world, you can’t rely on other people to embrace ideas that scare them. The only person that controls this is you. Only you can be clear with your partners, careful about who you choose to allow in and clear in setting the tone of your life.

People have access to tons of accurate information on risk rates regarding HIV, as well as tons of information on sex worker rights, queer rights, trans rights and the rights of disabled people. But, as Nietzsche said, “Fear is the mother of morality.” As long as everyone is running around scared shitless just to be here, you are first going to have to find some peace and satisfaction being your own champion.

And speaking of stigma…

Dear Sasha,
Can I have sex with stripper without a condom? Is it safe if I know she is normal and healthy? She only dances, as far as I know. I like mostly anal sex.

—Best Wishes

Dear Best,
As I was saying to Gracie above, many people live with stigma around their health and social status. Does the stripper you’re about to sleep with know you’re a giant idiot? I think you should tell her that before you have sex. In fact, I think you should ask her this question and see how she reacts.

Email Sasha at

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