Many qualitative studies about the exchange of sex for money, drugs, and less tangible outcomes (i.e., social status) contend that this activity contributes to high levels of internalized stigma among people in sex work. The cis (n = 33) and trans people (n = 5) who participated in our project about health, violence, and social services acknowledged the stigma associated with sex work but were not governed by the dominant discourse about its moral stain. They shared nuanced insights about the relationship between sex work and self-respect as people who use their earnings to mitigate the struggles of poverty and ongoing drug use, and care for themselves more broadly. This study sheds new light on the ways that cis and trans people negotiate issues of money, agency, and self-care, contributing to the literature on consensual sex work that examines different aspects of stigma, safety, and health with a nuanced, non-binary gender analysis.
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