What is it like to have a sex worker as a parent?
My sister Ramona looks a lot like I did when I was sixteen. We are compared to each other frequently. Despite the mere six years between us, she feels to me as if she is decades removed. When I ask her why she thinks this is, she reminds me that I used to put her to bed every night with a bedtime story. I left when she was twelve, and she had never conceptualized me as anything but a responsible grown-up. In turn, I had never conceptualized her as anything but a child that I had to leave behind. This dynamic made it easy to slip into a role as a parent when she, too, had to leave the house we grew up in, two years younger than I had managed it.
In a strange way, both of us are both young and old. When I first started organising in sex worker movements, people were taken aback to find out that I was only nineteen. I had grown up in a neglectful household and taken on caring responsibilities for my younger sisters from a very young age, shielding them from our abusive father and stepping in where our mother — who was abusing alcohol to cope with the domestic violence — was falling short of her responsibilities as a parent. This, and my experiences as a sex worker, aged me considerably and I continue to find it difficult to relate to people my own age. Ramona, on the other hand, has experienced far too much for a sixteen year old and is strangely wise as a result. Yet the emotional and physical neglect that she grew up with have left her with many complex issues and in need of far more care than most sixteen year olds.
When Ramona and I sat on my bed with hot chocolate last night while I tried to get some writing done, I hadn’t intended to write anything about her. However, everything I started kept coming back to my life today: caring for her full time. Recently, I have been obsessed with second-guessing every decision I made and whether or not I was a ‘good’ parent as a result of it. A lot of this insecurity stemmed from the popular idea that it is inappropriate for sex workers to care for children.
So, with Ramona’s permission, I turned on my voice recorder and we began to talk about it.
Lydia: Do you remember when you first became aware that sex work existed?