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Can Civvie friends ever really get it?

I reached out to a friend who I have known for 30+ years, over several provinces and so much life. I had a weird dream about her so I had reached out to see how she was doing, since my dreams are usually quite telling for communication needs. Turns out she was fine but was good to connect. She asked how I was and I said alright, she acknowledged alright is not good and not a common response from me. She asked if it was just a random word, or Covid burn out or on purpose.

I said “The world extra hates sex workers right now.* Gets exhausting being treated like less than human sometimes. So I'm alright. Its ok I adjust, just a bit heavy at the moment.”

She responded “It’s not ok. And the world extra hates everything right now. Not that that makes it better or easier But I agree. The world seems to have an extra dose of hate right now. I’m sorry you’re having to go through that. You’re more than human. You’re an amazing human.”

I thanked her for her words and she said “I mean it. You’re one of the most kind, loyal, passionate women I know. You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Period.”

I thanked her again and casually moved the conversation to holiday plans. 

Seems good, supportive, well intentioned right? Having known her for so long I know she absolutely meant the amazing words she wrote to and about me. It was meant to boost my spirits and have me feeling good about myself.

Something about this conversation stuck with me and left me feeling off and uncomfortable. I thought about it for a few days and realized what the things were that didn’t sit right. I thought about the intentions of the conversation, I thought about how she has reacted to my work in sex work in the past, I thought about how much my job is interwoven in my personal identity, and started to realize the things that were leaving me unsettled. 

I realized that this is yet another example of no matter how amazing your civvie friends are, no matter how much they want to understand and support, they are limited. They can empathize, they can sympathize, but they will never really get it. It’s another example of how much our society is uncomfortable with really sitting and acknowledging any “negative” or not fluffy feelings. Trying to write off my experience as just another of a shitty time in the world, without being able to understand the intersectionality of a job that has so many layers of stigma and fear and hurt.

I shared my feelings and while she acknowledged that they were not good, and not “normal” for me, I felt like they were being blown off by her saying that the world extra hates everyone right now. Yes, the world is super negative right now, yes the world is divisive and hateful, yes these are shitty things to deal with, now imagine that while also being seen as a less than human and having payment options being fucked at every turn.

It’s an example of just how much the civilian world doesn’t understand sex work. How it doesn’t understand the connection you make with clients, the amount you give of yourself in ways that just cannot compare with many regular jobs no matter how much you enjoy your work. Imagine the incredible healing work you do with your regular clients, the fantasies and experiences you weave into people’s lives in ways that no one else possibly can, being written off as yeah work sucks, yeah the world sucks.

The other part of the conversation that didn’t sit right with me will sound strange if you only have that conversation. “You’re one of the most kind, loyal, passionate women I know. You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Period.” An amazing compliment on it’s own and, again, I know she meant it that way. The thing is, it doesn’t line up all the way. In the past when I told her about my work she hasn’t always loved it. She will respect and love me no matter what I do, but it causes her pause in a few ways. As a strong Christian woman who believes in the sanctity of marriage, she struggles with me being a source/outlet for men who are being “unfaithful” to their partners. This is something we have discussed a few times in the past. I have tried to get her to see it like I do, I am like a therapist, a chiropractor, a barber-you have a need in life that you can’t get from your partner so you pay a professional.

Another conversation we have had in the past that doesn’t line up with her amazing compliment is that she thinks it’s fine what I do, but she won’t follow my work accounts on social media-because people could see that. The unspoken part of that conversation is that people could see, and judge her for befriending a sex worker, a person they may deem a less than human. So while the words are beautiful, the actions leave me and my job as a dirty little secret not to be shared with the world.

So our friendship will be fine, it has survived so much life, and we don’t have to fully agree with everything our friends like or do in their lives. We will always view others with our own experiences and therefore, biases. It absolutely sucks that this will always be something between us because of our different views of religion and the world, but a good experience for me to remember the world is a variety of shades, never black and white. It’s a good reminder of the importance of compassion in a world so deeply mired in hate and division. Find your own pot of compassion and draw from it as often as needed while standing up for yourself and being treated the way you deserve.

*Was around yet another round of Mastercard placing new rules making it harder to do my job online.

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