“We’ve been leading revolutions”
Updated: Apr 25, 2022
On The Whorizon Interviews Ember Fiéira
Blog Post Written By: MelRose Michaels
Ember Fiéira is a sex worker, dancer and video performance artist living in Los Angeles, California. As an Asian transgender woman, she has always found people to be fascinated at her body as a site of desire, intrigue and possibilities.
She’s recently done her first studio scene with the queer porn studio CrashPad, and sells content on ManyVids.
Ember Fiéira: I just recently started getting into porn. I feel like the whole pandemic, I was like, “I should do OnlyFans. I’m going to only do OnlyFans.” And then they were like, “No! Don’t do sex work on OnlyFans!” So right now I’m on ManyVids…
I've been involved in sex work for a long time… I had a YouTube channel, and I was like, “Hi! I’m trans.” And this was before there were a lot of trans people [online]. Not that there’s a lot of trans people online now, but I was really one of the first on YouTube… And then, people started giving money. And then I was like, oh, I guess this is like sugaring … And I started dancing… I was a stripper, and I loved that.
And I've done different types of sex work. It's allowed me to travel, it's allowed me to be independent. Honestly, I keep trying to like, get like a nice "civvy job". And I try it, and I'm like, "Oh, this is horrible." [laughs]
I mean, I would love stability in my life… But it’s, like, civvy jobs can be so soul crushing. Also, being trans, being Asian — sometimes I’m just, like, so mad and you can’t say anything…
You have these issues of race and gender or, like, marginalized identities in terms of both race and gender. So you're coming at this work — not just sex work, but all your work — as an Asian trans woman. How does that impact your experiences?
EF: When we look at our movements, you know, I think we see, like, “Oh, this is the sex worker movement,” “Oh, this is the trans movement,” right? Intersectionality gave us a really good opportunity to look inside of our own movements, and to be like, “How are we reproducing systems of oppressions within our own movements?” A lot of the time the most privileged people at the top of these movements are not in community with the people at the bottom. I am not in community with Caitlyn Jenner. Like, she's literally out here calling people like me gutter whores.
When it comes to my own life, my own experiences, it’s like, Am I having an intersectional experience right now? Am I facing oppression right now because this person knows I’m trans or knows I’m Asian? Do they know I’m a sex worker? It’s really hard to know. And I live a very complicated life, and I'm navigating a lot of things that I don't understand, you know?...
A lot of times, I don't like to tell people I'm trans until they've gotten to know me first because people have a lot of preconceived notions about trans women. If you get to know me a little bit as a person and you laugh at a couple of my jokes first then it's a little bit easier in the process. And same thing with sex work. If it’s one thing of many things, it’s not as hard for people to come around.
We've talked a lot about, you know, the trans identity, but I also want to talk about your Asian identity. Asian women, especially in porn, are so fetishized.
EF: I was raised in a mostly white town…I was always very confused about my own racial identity, and I feel like it’s so interesting that I’m kind of permanently exotic. I was born in the US, I only speak English, I’ve only left the country, like, twice, but I bring this exotic energy or mystique. Specifically with being trans and Asian, Asians are seen as feminine already and that's a long history of colonialism, right? So when I was having a lot of insecurities about my trans identity and being feminine, being Asian definitely helped me. In my early dating experiences, trying to be a gay boy, being Asian — so hard. I could not find anyone to date. So now it's like, Oh, we've flipped. Asian trans girls are the thing that everybody wants… You just get put into a fetish category.
I feel like people want me to be more Asian than I am … And when it comes to being trans and Asian, I think people want me to be very submissive and that's kind of a stereotype. But I am a sub, so it’s like, Oh no, I’m just fulfilling stereotypes. [laughs]...
The trans women of color who are sex workers — I see us forming community in such strong ways. And it’s not like, “Oh, I learned about intersectionality so I’m going to do this.” It comes naturally. And I like to remind people that we've been leading revolutions. We always forget that Stonewall was started not just by trans women of color, but they were also sex workers. They were also fighting anti-prostitution laws — that's what was being specifically used to target them. We're still fighting those same laws today…
[Don’t] just be like “Oh, I have to be intersectional.” Really build a community, form a community. Don't just invite people to be on your panels, but invite them into your homes, have dinner, give money. Because if you are doing that kind of community work or mutual aid, the intersectionality just comes with that. It’s not something that you add on top. It’s your existing work.
Some parts of the above interview have been condensed or edited for clarity. To hear the full interview with Ember Fiéira, listen to On The Whorizon, Episode 10: Race and Gender.
Follow Ember Fiéira on Twitter @EmberFiera.
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