Salespeople do it; so do musicians. So do travelling t-girl (trans girl) escorts: they spend much of their working lives on the road.
Demand for t-girls to travel has increased in recent years, as once-local escorts become widely known through sites such as Shemale Canada, TGirlForums and Backpage.
Admirers surf these pages where they can find photos, phone numbers and websites of t-girls who post their travelling schedules online.
Calgary’s TS Sunshine (t-girl escorts often prefix their names with TS to communicate their transsexual orientation to clients) has lived in cities across Canada. She now calls Calgary home. “Being an escort is not for everyone, but a girl has to do what a girl has to do,” says Sunshine. “Transitioning is very expensive, and for many t-girls, escorting is a way to make ends meet.”
She says t-girls travel for the same reason any escorts travel.
“First, I want to connect with clients who have expressed an interest in seeing me but who live in other cities . . . Second, clients enjoy seeing new girls. Being a ‘new face’ brings with it the opportunity to meet new clients.”
When Toronto-based TS Dita began escorting, she saw no reason to travel. “I thought, What was the point?” she recalls. “I was living in Ottawa at the time and thought, ‘I have a good enough clientele here; why move around and make things complicated?”
But she was soon looking for ways to make more money, so she headed to Montreal to try her luck. “Before I even knew it, I was hardly home anymore,” she says.
Today, both Dita and Sunshine divide their time between their home cities and occasional forays across the country.
“I visit a few nearby cities fairly regularly because it is so easy to organize local trips,” says Sunshine, who is adding an international tour this year. “I advertise my stays ahead of time and I usually keep my visits to a few days in each city so as not to overstay my welcome.”
Dita has cut back on travel. Even though the road is profitable, “it’s just too much of a hassle,” she says. But after a while, requests from out of town start to accumulate, and so she packs her bags and goes out again.
She mainly spends time in Ontario, balancing her visits against perceived market potential. “How long I stay depends on which city I go to,” Dita explains. “For example, I will stay a week in Toronto, Niagara Falls or Kingston.”
As for the romance of the road?
“What romance? Life on the road sucks,” says Sunshine. “Ask anyone who travels for a living and they will tell you the same thing.”
Travel brings with it the stress of living out of a suitcase, surviving on hotel food, and missing lovers, friends and family.
There are also the physical dangers of being in a strange place, even for a well-dressed TS escort living in a decent hotel. “An escort is at risk of being the target of violent crimes,” Sunshine says. “This is true at home and perhaps a little more on the road, where she may not have a support network around her.”
Surviving on the road takes brains and constant vigilance: “Being careful and screening clients a little more than usual helps to mitigate the risk,” says Sunshine, “but this is a dangerous business and a girl must have her wits about her.”
Dita agrees, noting the importance of not being too flashy. “Dress normally. You can sparkle a little, but you don’t want to stand out.”
Even when escorts take all possible precautions, things can still go terribly wrong.
“I have been attacked, stolen from, threatened and harassed by clients,” Dita says, noting that hotels often kick out travelling t-girls.
Local escorts also don’t take kindly to competition on their turf. Sunshine is sympathetic to their feelings: “I don’t want to travel to other cities and take too much business away from local t-girls,” she says. “That’s just rude.”
Ironically, Sunshine says police are not a major problem for travelling t-girls. In fact, “on the road, legal issues are virtually non-existent,” she says, noting she struggles more in Calgary, where escorts have to pay for licences and follow bylaws.
The possible decriminalization of sex work, now before the Supreme Court of Canada, could see this kind of regulation extended to other cities says Ruby, another travelling escort.
“Right now, travelling escorts can only be charged with keeping a common bawdyhouse,” she explains. “However, the law states that the location might be ‘habitually’ used for prostitution. So a hotel room might not qualify for that particular violation. Because of this ambiguity, local police departments are often hesitant to lay charges when informed that a travelling escort is working in a hotel.”
She says that if sex work is decriminalized, municipalities might choose to restrict licences for escorts. “Calgary and Edmonton already do this, so it’s not unreasonable to assume other municipalities will follow suit.”
Under these decriminalized rules, a travelling escort could be charged with a bylaw infraction rather than a criminal charge. This means a sex worker caught with a single client can be busted for “escorting without a valid licence.”
As benign as this infraction sounds, the up-to-$10,000 fine attached to it is not. As a result, Ruby warns that the “police, as part of bylaw enforcement, might actually be more inclined to target travelling escorts, because they can do so while using fewer resources, with a lower burden of proof, and they can line the city’s pockets in the meantime.”
In the meantime, t-girls will continue to ply their trade across the country and beyond. When it comes to profit, there’s no better way to make money.
“A thousand a city is the smallest amount I like to make,” says Dita. “Some days are a hit and some days are a miss.”
“Sometimes people think that escorts make a fortune,” Sunshine says. “That isn’t the normal case. There are a limited number of clients, and many escorts want a piece of that pie. It can be a pretty thin slice when everybody gets their share.”
So is the effort worth it? Yes, says Dita, considering there are limited opportunities for “out” t-girls. Apart from the adult industry, where their “marketable assets” have commercial value, t-girls have a hard time finding work.
“Canada is a really good place to live and most people are very accepting of t-girls, but finding a good job is still difficult,” says Sunshine.
For now, the best job for Sunshine is her current travelling gig. Her next tour stops in Red Deer, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon and Regina.
“Go ahead, take the plunge – give me a call,” reads her current profile on Shemale Canada. “You’ll be glad you did.”