Trans girl OnlyFans economics
We often hear about the poverty that comes hand in hand with transition and coming out. Over lock down I have seen an increasing number of young trans women on Reddit and Twitter using their profiles to promote OnlyFans accounts, Patron, and other image based social media. Indeed, especially on Reddit, you can pretty much guess which trans girl profiles are promoting more adult content from the type of vanilla content they post on non-adult sub-Reddits. My main observation is not that this content is becoming more prolific, but that Covid-19 appears to be actively pushing increasing numbers of trans women into this type of work.
I want to place a caveat on this, namely that I am sex-work positive, especially when adult content work can be done in a relatively safe manner online. The OnlyFans contents has hidden issues, the biggest of which is the biggest part of all sex work: namely, it objectifies bodies, and that most visible trans women on OnlyFans are white, young, fit within a traditional aesthetic, and appear externally as close to the feminine ideal as possible. Any form of social media invariably requires content creators to post daily content, respond to fans, and promote a version of themselves that could damage their long-term mental health.
This all begs the equation as to what impact the pandemic and new technologies will have on the trans community in the coming years. If the historic poverty and precarity are further entrenched, especially with the exclusion of trans women of colour and those who cannot access the necessary technology, what does this mean for those pushed further to the margins? In theory the technologies used, such as smart phones, OnlyFans, Youtube and other apps, should allow any trans person wanting to engage in adult content to put themselves out there. Yet, the truth is unless you can find your personal niche and audience you will always struggle to make ends meet. Alongside this, adult content is notorious for burning out performers, and even in the online space where you are your own boss there is an intrinsic pressure from your audience for the new.
Is it health for the trans community to be so dependent on technologies such as OnlyFans to make rent? This is probably the wrong question to ask, for this assumes that the social status quo of trans exclusion and inequality are normative. In an ideal world sex work would simply be part of the tapestry with a clear entry into and out of the profession, with unions, safe working conditions, and other state protections. While there are plenty of women and men who actively choose to do adult content, often for trans women it is because they have few viable alternatives due to discrimination and economic circumstances. The pandemic has compounded existing economic disparities, seemingly entrenching what came before.
Of course, none of this matters without the voices of trans women themselves. There is surely a bigger piece of research to be done examining the economic and social factors. Once the pandemic recedes, what will the long-term impact on these trans women? Will they still wish to continue their adult content, will there still be an audience, and what will the long-term mental health impact? Alongside this, there is the ever-present fact that technology evolves, laws changes, and audiences move on. One of the key issues facing all adult performers is that global governments are shunting adult content into increasingly small spaces through legislation and regulation.
The truth is that when trans women are marginalised then they will always be pushed into sex work. OnlyFans appears to offer some trans women a relatively safe space to produce content and find a way to make a living on their own terms. Adult content, sex work, and all associated conversations are mixed up with the societal realities we have placed trans women in. If we want to empower trans women to have free economic choices platforms like OnlyFans will always be in the mix. The question then becomes: how do we provide a choice free from desperation caused by societal exclusion without demonising those who actively want to go into sex work and adult content?