More exciting than being Superman: What it's like living as a closeted, trans, sex worker

December 26 | Guest post by Sullie Seeburg
More exciting than being Superman
By: tom_bullock — CC BY 2.0

I keep trying to come up with a snappy way to describe the experience of living a triple life, and I keep failing. I'm determined not to fall back on any references to multiple personality disorder or dissociative personality disorder, because that's not what I have or who I am.

For a while, I was telling new people that I was like a really boring version of Superman but that doesn't feel true either.

Arguably, I am Legal Name most of the time

Legal Name — the name I was given when I was a squalling little blob, 29 years ago. Everyone I ever went to school with knows me as Legal Name. Everyone I've ever dated or had sex with, everyone who I shared a particular hobby and social space with, everyone who reads my blog (which is far fewer people than the number of people who read Offbeat Home & Life, for sure, but it's more people than I actually know in real life so that means I'm a Real Blogger, right?). That's all Legal Name.

Then there's Sullie

Sullie is the name I made for myself shortly after I came to terms with the fact that I am agender. I briefly considered making my new middle name "Internet" or "Tumblr" or "Captain Awkward" because without those three sources, I probably would have just continued to feel vaguely bad about my body and the way I moved through the world without ever being able to name the source of my discomfort, let alone be able to do anything about it. But now I have a word for this weird, twitchy, subtle not-rightness (I don't want to call it wrong-ness, it feels mean) that I've felt for so long, I just thought it was a normal part of life that everyone with my particular arrangement of body parts experienced from time to time.

As soon as I made a Twitter account under Sullie, and started putting my trans-ness first, I felt more at ease. I was able to seek out other people like me, or at least adjacent to me. I had something in common with all these new people. Other people knew what it felt like to try so hard to live up to this role only to fail over and over again. I figured, yeah, I'll have to come out eventually, but this is good for now. As long as I have an outlet and a few internet-friends, I'll be okay.

Until I got back into sex work…

But now I was keeping a third secret

At first, I didn't think I could even go back to sex work after I realized I was agender. I had been making a living off my particular arrangement of body parts for nearly a decade. Using those body parts, accepting praise for them, getting paid for allowing other people to enjoy them briefly from a distance, was the closest peace I ever had with my body. It was the closest I ever got to feeling real. And then I realized I was agender. Wouldn't customers figure me out? Wouldn't they notice that my feelings about my body had changed? Wouldn't I be oozing some scent, some neon glow, some sort of palpable signal that I wasn't what I claimed to be?

Nope. Nobody could tell. Nobody cared. I needed the money, and the customers were just as happy to give it to me as they ever were.

I had tried to be open about sex work in the past — all it had gotten me was a lot of very insulting accusations of being on drugs and/or being a victim of child molestation. And not to disparage any of my sex worker peers who do use drugs or who were the victims of child molestation, but I always did the work because I enjoyed it and because it kept the lights on. I was treated worse as a greeter at a family diner than I ever was as a sex worker, but no one thinks people who work in family diners are damaged.

I think even Superman would get a little tired trying to live my life

So, Legal Name, Sullie, and Sex Worker… In a single day, I might check five different emails, four Twitter accounts, two Tumblrs, and two Facebooks before I even get out of bed. I only have one cell phone, and I give out my number fairly freely, so if somebody texts me, I have to remember who they think I am. I help myself out here by saving their names with the one I used when I met them. So I have "Wonder Woman – Sullie" and "Hal Jordan – Legal Name." It works, until I end up at a party with both of them.

I am lucky enough to have a handful of true friends, my chosen family, who know the whole story. I am extremely fortunate to have the love and loyalty of one truly exceptional human being, who met me before I started questioning my gender and elected to stick around, one revelation after another. And of course, I have all the internet friends I've made as Sullie, many of whom are trans and/or queer and/or from other marginalized communities, and who know that I'm still closeted, as many of them once were or still are.

I'm not that worried about tying Sex Work back to Sullie. Sure, some people won't get it, but on the whole I've found the internet-dwelling sex worker community to be very inclusive and diverse. And most sex workers also know the necessity of maintaining separation between one's legal name and one's stage name, so I don't think that's going to be an issue either.

It all comes down to Legal Name, to all the people who are going to get one hell of a surprise one day. I'm tired of keeping up all these accounts. I'm tired of pretending that the things I care about as Legal Name aren't influenced by things I've learned as Sullie, or things I've learned from Sex Work. I'm tired of keeping my mouth shut when people around me are whorephobic or transphobic. Mostly, I'm just tired of suspecting, but not really knowing for sure, that some of the people in my life are probably clueless jerks, and a three-for-one coming out special will clear up any confusion very quickly, I'm quite positive.

For what it's worth, I decided a few months ago that Superman is trans. Come on, what do we really know about Kryptonian biology? I prefer to believe that Kal'el would use ke/kem/ker pronouns if ke wasn't too gosh-darned polite to correct all the binarist people ke runs into all day. I like to imagine that if Krypton hadn't exploded, Kal'el would be a perfectly average representation of ker gender, just one among maybe a dozen or more possible genders they used to have on Krypton.

I like to think that we could be friends, Kal'el and I, two non-binary people who are getting tired of keeping so many secrets.

  1. Identities are complicated – whether they involve gender, sexuality, race, class, culture, etc . . . we all have so many different versions of ourselves. I like how this post brings that out.

    12 agree
    • Thank you for understanding. The longer I occupy this space, the more overlaps and intersections I uncover.

      4 agree
    • Thank you for being here to share it with. This is one of the safest and most intelligent spaces on the internet.

      14 agree
  2. While a completely different set of who knows what, or who sees me as who goes on in my life; thank you. People often assume that if you aren't 100% you 100% of the time, you are somehow not being true to yourself/them/society/the great pumpkin/whatever. I have rent to pay. I don't have the spoons to open the whole puzzlebox for everyone.
    Again, thank you.

    8 agree
    • I feel you on this one. And while I know my coming out day is approaching, I am still clinging to the little pockets of safety I've made for myself. They're constricting and yet comforting. I'm glad this resonated with you.

  3. That sounds really, really tiring. I wish you all the best however you go forward in blending, or keeping separate, each of your identities.

    1 agrees
    • Thank you very much. My coming out day is approaching – I go back and forth between nervous, ready, terrified, thrilled, and finally exhausted every single time I think about it. There is a non-zero chance that I'll just abandon all 3 identities to be a full time blanket-monster, oozing around on the floor and eating peanut butter with a spoon.

      6 agree

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