CLEVELAND — The city of Cleveland has seen an increase in the number of people seeking sex work and the number wanting to meet other people in the sex industry.
More and more, Clevelanders are getting a peek into what it’s like to be a sex worker, as well as the unique challenges they face, says Kristin B. Schieffer, director of communications for Cleveland’s Downtown Women’s Center.
Bridget B. Brown, an escort who has been working for more than 20 years, says that people are willing to pay the bills and take risks in the city.
“We have a large population of LGBT people, and I have had clients come in for sexual health care, sexual health screenings and things like that,” she said.
“I would say the numbers are increasing.”
Brown said that while there is no specific age for the workers to start work, they have to be 16 to be legally able to work.
“When you have a younger client, they can come in with a younger age.
We can’t have them come in on their own,” she added.
Brown said she has seen clients of all ages and backgrounds, and that there is a wide range of experiences in Cleveland.
“There are many different kinds of people,” she explained.
Brown said many people are interested in escorts for more social reasons than the money.
She said she sees clients wanting to connect with other people.
In addition to the escorts’ unique social and professional challenges, the people who work in the industry are working to make Cleveland more welcoming for gay and lesbian residents.
“I think it’s been a lot more visible and a lot easier for people to go about things that they are not used to seeing, like the LGBT community in the workplace,” Brown said.
Schieffer said Clevelanders have been a part of the LGBTQ community for more years than they would like to admit.
“In the past, the city of Columbus would have been seen as kind of a big queer town, and then the last two decades, the LGBTQ population has gone up and the city has become a place where everybody is able to get together and be comfortable,” she continued.
A lot of people are coming out to their families, and they have been in a lot of relationships, she said, adding that Clevelanders see this as part of what it means to be “in love.”
The Cleveland Women’s Sexual Health Center was formed by the City Council in 2006 to serve the LGBT and sexual health needs of the city, and is now home to more than 60 employees, including nurses, social workers, counselors, and health care providers.
Brown and other escorts said that as the city grows in size, more and more of its residents are coming to them for help.
Brown, who is in her early 40s, said she hopes that the city’s focus on LGBTQ issues will help to ease the transition for people who are still coming out as LGBT.
“The community is growing and changing and getting more acceptance, and we need to help those who are transitioning, to help them understand that they can have their lives change, and be a part the community,” she concluded.