At the age of 19, I found myself hospitalized in critical condition from a severe flare-up of Ulcerative Colitis, a colon-specific autoimmune disorder. I was temporarily blinded and unable to use my hands due to acute anemia. Between blood transfusions, steroids and painkillers, I was determined to make it to my community college courses. Much to the surprise of my anthropology professor, I rode public transit to attend lectures with an IV still attached to my arm.
I was diagnosed with UC during early childhood, meaning that much of my elementary and high school education was completed via distance education, or from a hospital bed. In adulthood I have lost jobs, missed opportunities for promotions and often been regarded as someone with a poor work ethic.
Through the openness of sharing the intimate details of my life I found an unprecedented network of support. When I peeled back the layers of secrecy and spoke honestly about what I was dealing with, I realized that I was not alone.
This could not be further from the truth; I am all-consumed by the work that I love. Unfortunately, the majority of jobs I have pursued were unable to provide the flexibility that someone with my condition requires. Because of this, pursuing a career through MyFreeCams has been a blessing.
I am finally able to set my own hours, choose which projects I take on and work comfortably from home. As I began to network in the sex worker community, I was surprised to find that many of the people I met in our corner of the internet were living with conditions like mine. I began to realize that our industry is populated with many individuals who have chronic health issues, mental illness and disabilities. Why?
For most, the answer is accessibility. My point is not to say that this industry is the “only choice” for me, or for anyone experiencing barriers. We all choose this industry for different reasons; some of us are drawn to sex work out of a passion to explore a high sex drive, or a preference for self-employment — others are motivated financially. Whatever your reason for entering this industry, it is valid.
For me, a significant factor in my decision to invest in my sex work career is my ability to determine my own hours. In the event that my chronic illness requires long-term hospitalization, I now have boundless flexibility in my schedule. In 2017, this was put to test. An acute flare-up of my UC challenged my ability to work, and left me bedridden for almost a year. The support I received from this community not only helped to finance my medical bills, but also allowed me to achieve my highest MFC ranking to date.
One of the greatest concerns that I have observed from fellow chronically ill sex workers is our need to take an extended period of time away from work — especially since this can seem impossible to plan for.
In many ways, the same freedoms of self-employment that liberate us also hinder us by not providing sick days, vacation pay or (in most cases) benefits.
How can we ensure that, when confronted with unplanned time away from work, we have a safety net? My recommendation is to invest in opportunities for passive income, which is defined as a cash flow from your business that does not require your direct participation. The most effective method I have discovered for generating passive income is through video sales.
On my preferred clip sites, I manually opt to store my earnings. By doing this, I am able to plan for a future when I may be required to take time off. This effectively works as my sick pay.
Another way that I generate an alternative income is via Patreon, where I promote my artistic endeavors. This is an excellent creative outlet for times when I am not able to perform. Since Patreon has the option for automatic monthly contributions, this is a superlative way to supplement my income when I am not well enough to broadcast (keep in mind, Patreon has strict rules regarding adult content, so be sure to read their TOS). For me, returning home after a medical procedure knowing that I have passively acquired income alleviates both emotional and financial stresses.
For three years, I hid my disease from my friends and fans. I worried that if I showed any side of myself other than the cheerful persona I assumed on cam, I would lose viewership. The reality couldn’t have been further from the truth. Through the openness of sharing the intimate details of my life I found an unprecedented network of support. When I peeled back the layers of secrecy and spoke honestly about what I was dealing with, I realized that I was not alone.
I had anticipated judgment where there was none. What I had not anticipated was the endless compassion, empathy and support that this community would come to offer. Never feel obligated to share more than you are comfortable with, but I guarantee that if you choose to be open about your experience — and if you are passionate about what you create — this community will rise up to support you. To every person who has supported me along this journey, thank you — and to every sex worker who feels isolated by the burden of illness — I see you. I love you. You are not alone.
GoAskAlex can be followed @GoAskAlexMFC on Twitter.