I'm here to let you know that we do. She teaches creative writing at Gotham Writers Workshop and for The Red Umbrella Project , an organization that empowers sex workers to represent themselves. One day at a grocery store, the credit card I had been living on was denied, having hit its limit. Share via Email Melissa Petro was forced to quit the job she loved as a teacher in New York, when it emerged that she had worked as a call girl to pay her way through college Photograph: I wrote without pseudonym or apology, feeling it my Constitutional as well as human right to not have to hide my identity or suppress my opinion. Despite all it had afforded me, sex work was a far from perfect occupation. Yes, I was a prostitute before I was a teacher. Early , I quit sex work for good and went back to school, earning a second Masters - this time in Childhood Education - and becoming a certified elementary school teacher.
Eventually, for me, it proved to be too much. The stigma associated with the profession only exacerbated the rigors of the work. My so-called advocates will tell you that we don't exist. Sex work defines the people who do it like no other occupation. I worked as a teacher in New York City's South Bronx, teaching the visual arts and creative writing to kids in Kindergarten through to fifth grade for just over three years. I would work in the sex industry as a stripper and, for a brief stint, as a call girl on Craig's List, on and off for nearly a decade, conducting ethnographic research on the industry and, eventually, writing in the first-person. One day at a grocery store, the credit card I had been living on was denied, having hit its limit. She is a regular contributor at xoJane and was a guest blogger at Bitch Magazine , where she authored a column critically analyzing representations of sex work in the media. No matter the realities of our experiences, we are thought of as victims and as inherently damaged, either before or as a result of our profession. Associated with deviance, drug use, mental illness and disease, to be labelled a "prostitute" is to be cast as the lowest of the low. As an undergraduate, I worked at two domestic violence shelters and as a rape crisis counselor. From the beginning, writing and speaking about my experiences was my way of making sense of my chosen profession. In the Huffington Post article that cost me my career as a public school teacher, I described my lifestyle as a prostitute as "physically demanding, emotionally taxing and spiritually bankrupting" and went on to say that "I hope to never again make the choice to trade sex for cash even as I risk my current job and social standing to speak out for an individual's right to do so. I became a sex worker at 19 while living in Mexico. Despite all it had afforded me, sex work was a far from perfect occupation. Early , I quit sex work for good and went back to school, earning a second Masters - this time in Childhood Education - and becoming a certified elementary school teacher. It was my first time out of the States. At the same time, I continued to write and began publishing stories and articles about my former occupation. I went on to work in nonprofit development, grant-writing for a Somali women's health organization in London, UK and, later, for a nonprofit that ran after-school programs for disadvantaged girls here in New York City, where I eventually made my home. Share via Email Melissa Petro was forced to quit the job she loved as a teacher in New York, when it emerged that she had worked as a call girl to pay her way through college Photograph: I could travel, live and work all over the world, participating in unpaid internships taken for granted as part of the undergraduate experience. I wrote without pseudonym or apology, feeling it my Constitutional as well as human right to not have to hide my identity or suppress my opinion. I've had many jobs in my lifetime. Melissa Petro is a freelance writer living in New York. Still, the former occupation that concerns some potential employers most is the one not on my resume. Going home did not seem like an option. In graduate school, I worked as a consultant for a high-profile feminist organization while also working as a research assistant in the Pediatrics Department of a public hospital.
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