7 min read

How Werk Works

Plus, the annual boobie-free sale.

Scroll down to skip to the special offer.

“DO YOU…work?” the grocery-store cashier asked. I looked up, confused—like how lazy did I look that day?—and then I saw: He was looking at my nails.

This is what walking around with my beard and these nails says to the patriarchy and rigid gender roles, all day long

In 2022, when I was conceiving this site but hadn’t published it yet, I was going for a walk in my neighborhood in Marin, California, trying to convince myself to take another magazine assignment. The exact fee was still under negotiation, but it would be around $15,000. Just one more, I told myself. Just this one last time, I repeated internally, over and over, basically begging, and I recognized how it sounded. It sounded like addiction.

To ample paychecks, sure. But also to the validity that came with national print publication, and frankly to the cycle of dehumanizing things that happened to me therein. I had told myself it was the last time many times. I’d been telling myself for years.

When I finally said no, I unlocked parts of my expression that somewhere down deep I must have known needed freeing. In my work—I published the story as the first feature on this site—as well as in my werk, the way I move through this world. My art starts in my head, and I quickly realized I wasn’t allowing myself to even think some of my own thoughts because they seemed too real or radical for my employers. I was terrified that if I quit, I would fail financially, but also that I’d become the thing I was most scared of: whoever I really was.

“1,000 SUBSCRIBERS AT $10/month,” I wrote on the mirror in my home office in dry-erase marker. That’s all I needed to comfortably pay my survival expenses: the Marin apartment, so many kinds of out-of-pocket therapy (close to $2,000/month alone), a car to get to therapy, utilities and groceries and superhigh self-employment tax…you know what expenses are, and that the Bay Area is expensive. Anyway, how hard should that be? My mainstream readership was often in the millions. Surely there were a thousand people in this world who’d pay for both the content and the concept of what I was offering.

I argued with myself over the price. Ten dollars is a lot, and also—to people who have an extra $10—is nothing, and the number came to me in the way my own name did, sudden and obvious, though I agonized that I couldn’t or shouldn’t assert my work was worth it. Some higher part of me recognized it as a gift not just to me but to others that I was requesting this offering, an opportunity to acknowledge that we were both worth it as they also learned and grew from what I was doing, which was something I was confident I could provide. Had been providing, people had long been telling me, even when I was under the yoke of establishment editing.

I failed spectacularly to meet my financial goal in time to not have to rearrange my entire life. Was I mad and sad about having to do that? Yes, I was. Was it one of the best things I ever did, and that I never would have done unless I was forced to? Just like transitioning: Yes.

This feels vulnerable to share, even for a person who is currently working on a piece about anal self-fisting. But:

It’s like that recurring message from Wikipedia that if everyone donated they’d be all set, brought to life in my own life

This is the dashboard I see every time I log in to write. It shows how much I will make this month as of today from subscriptions (some of the “paid members” in the top row are comped, mostly trans people who needed free access to dick pics). That’s before credit card fees (2.9% plus .$30 for each transaction) and the cost of running the site ($30ish a month). I also have a monthly donor (you know who you are, boo) who I don’t personally know but whose regular $50 cash infusions, plus a stunning $1,000 contribution one time, fill me with a new kind of hope for what is possible for me in this life. As does every single paid sub. Any dollars I make doing what I really want and love, uncensored and authentically, is emotionally and spiritually rewarding.

Monetarily, the dollars are currently below my material needs. Last week, I had to complete my annual review to stay on food stamps. The interviewer reminded me that I need to call them when I make $1,580 a month. And I told him: I can’t wait for that day.

My EBT renewal, which Thomas sat on as soon as I started taking a picture.

TODAY IS MY rebirthday. I have several; this one celebrates six years since I got my boobs removed. Today also starts, I’ve decided, the official season of putting myself further out there. This last year and a half (!) since I started The Faggot-Witch Whenever, I’ve been focusing on just (!!) getting the site up and my house together (still looking at you, cracked bathtub) and my entire-new-kind-of-living settled, as well as dealing with ongoing trauma about how much hate publishing has brought my way. Yes, I have still been working, and werking. Constantly. I’ve published more than 50 pieces, and I’m proud of them all. Believe me that I still give myself a hard time for not publishing more and faster. The way I work is a lot like psychedelics do: I write, and then even when I complete something have to be patient, because humans are sweet little onions and I can feel in my bones (if not my capitalist conditioning, which says I am never doing enough) that there is another layer to peel. And eventually, on a bike ride or at the store or brushing my teeth, I indeed grasp more depth and nuance to whatever I was writing about. And that’s what I want to share: As much insight as I can.

So here’s what I’m doing. I’m trying to honor the value of my work and werk and get off my own back about my human pace, and also setting a goal to get food-stamp rich—that is, make $1,580 a month. That money wouldn’t have lasted a week in my old life, but the way I live now, it’s plenty. It’s enough to give me day-to-day breathing room, as well as slowly save up for things I need—like a surgery, which (I learned after extremely draining exchanges) insurance covers but Washington doctors either won’t take, or will take but won’t do on a trans male. Someday, I’d love to have a little yoga deck built onto my roof so I can stretch, which I’m too tall to do inside. Also because it would be adorable, and this life requires adorable things. This winter, I spent some time in Crescent City with my favorite redwoods, and they told me that this is the year of asking. So when my pipes burst, I wrote to relatives I hadn’t spoken to since I came out and asked them for the money to fix it. And they sent it. After two months of fetching water from a well, I am back in running water as of yesterday. If anyone wants to fund a yoga deck—or a $2,000 surgery—please do. I will happily have you over for sunset cocktails on top of it (the deck, that is. My pelvis, where the surgery would happen, is a less comfy drinking spot for both of us).

This is my first piece of outreach. Additionally on the growth plan is advertising of the traditional sort (a podcast ad buy) and the not-so-traditional sort (passing out logo’d frisbees in a gay park in Seattle wearing sequined hotpants). I’ll be getting more involved in my local queer and trans support groups. Reaching out to my old colleagues with big readerships of their own. Making new, queerer colleagues along the way. I’m excited to see what happens! Also I am scared! But I remind myself that the hardest part has already happened—figuring out what I was born to do.

Going into top surgery, with jasmine, March 8 2018. And going out for trans joy, summer 2023.

So kicking off my renewed efforts, and in celebration of six years of booblessness, I’m introducing a $6 membership tier. It’s available for signup this month only, but the rate is locked in forever. If funds have been your hindrance to supporting my work, as well as my werk—terrorizing the straight patrons of men’s rooms, for example, who are confused and alarmed by my existence, or emboldening cis ladies at nail salons, who are also confused when I walk in but ultimately very pumped—I hope it helps. I’m also adding a $20 tier, with a 17% discounted annual rate, to the regular signup/account portal. I love working on the pieces I send through this site. It feeds my soul; it’s often the best I feel all day. I know it feeds others and changes their days, too. If you can, please contribute it. Full free access is still available, always, because there isn’t enough trans-owned and -run content on this earth, and I won’t put up moneyblocks to it.

I’m telling you all of this because whether you realized it or not, you’ve been a huge part of this journey. Whatever has happened and happens going forward, thank you, with my whole heart, for being on it with me. 🖤