Mina Daia’s Secret

Dear Colette,

As a private person, I’ve been apprehensive to write you my story, but still feel compelled to because of what a profound impact sharing this secret has had in my life. As you know, it is the story of coming out to my mother as a sex worker.

It was after three years of working when I finally came out to her. We had just been on an epic journey all over Korea hiking mountains and visiting buddhist temples, we were closer than ever. It was finally time to tell my mom my “dirty secret.”

I am a sex worker.

Her response?

“You know, you’re not going to be young and beautiful forever.”

Ever since I started out, I thought about how the conversation would go. I didn’t want to make her worry and cause her stress. I was also not ready to have to defend my decisions and as always, my inner perpetual teenager didnt want to be told to stop. So, when she had such a casual reaction, I was astounded.

In her characteristic wisdom, she asked the essential questions. Do you work alone or with others? Is there a middle person? Do they come to you or do you go to them? How do you vet the clients to see you? How did she know so well what to ask? Her questions instinctively used the language of work. She understood the significant distinction between working independently or through an agency, as well as the inherent safety of incall versus outcall. She knew to ask how I screened clients. All solid questions about my business model you would only expect from an experienced sex worker. All discerning questions to ensure I was being safe.

It was NOT the way I had imagined our conversation would go.

Instead of any shaming or pleading for me to stop, she took a harm reduction approach.  She wasn’t so naive she told me. She had lived a long life. She then told me she was glad I told her. It was the right decision and I felt a world of relief flooding the space that was just previously reserved for holding my fear.

I went on to explain more about my work, what wonderful clients and friends I had made, the insight I offer, how someone can shift their perspective of themselves in a short interaction with a sex worker and what an impact that has. That I felt well respected by the people I worked with and most importantly, that I had a strong support network of other sex workers who were also thoughtful about and sincerely empowered by their profession.

But, there was a deeper layer to this I did not expect.

She had kept her own secret from me. She was devastated. She wanted to protect my feelings just as I had wanted to protect hers. It was almost a year afterwards that she told me it was the darkest time in her life. She described it as falling into Niagara Falls. She would ask aloud for help, calling to god, searching buddhism, she asked her dead friends, mother, father. “Brother,” she called in an empty room, “what do I do?”  

Her sense of loss gave way to surrender. And it was in this moment that everything changed.

She described it as being in a pitch dark room unable to see where she was. Here, it is easy to feel forever lost. Many people remain there their whole lives without ever realizing it. But it only took the tiniest crack, the slightest creak of an open door, for a razor of light to cut through the darkness enough for her to see where she was and how to move again. This one moment of clarity pulled her out. In that moment she realized how important it was for me to tell her about my secret life. That I risked everything, even the rejection of my mother to tell this truth. And so, she came to understand and accept me.

She tells me her secrets now.

She told me about her own curiously confused sexual experiences. We even laughed hilariously at her most embarrassing secret story. Our once philosophical conversations are now more nuanced, more emotionally honest and vulnerable. We reveal more, from our past, but also our internal narrative of thoughts, how we experienced something, the stories we tell ourselves.

We are equals now,she tells me. You are a woman now, and I can talk to you also.A humbling thing to hear.

Its as if through our choice to step off the cliff of shame into the open vulnerable air, weve released the heavy weight weve been carrying. Each person’s load made lighter with two extra hands to carry it. It allowed an empathy I hadnt felt as deeply before which is profound for me as an already highly empathic person.

It was freeing to let that inflated yet obsolete damn break. We all need this allowance to be our truest selves. We long to be seen as whole and then sincerely accepted by those closest to us. I was lucky to have cultivated this as a child and later in adulthood with friends and lovers, but underestimated the need to attain it from family as an adult.

A person we can confide in and trust is therefore invaluable. Someone to whom we can reveal our secret selves. The people who will hold space for us without shaming us.

When we dont find this in friends and family, we hire a therapist, sex worker or sometimes divulge to a current lover. We fall in love and immediately want to tell them our inner world because the drive is so deep.

Colette, I’m sorry you didn’t have the chance to make the decision yourself and instead your outing was so jeopardizing. In time, I hope for your mother to see herself as someone you can confide in and find yourselves on the same side of the vast space that’s been opened up, to move through it together rather than further apart.

Who do you consider to be your most trusted confidant? What else has been held back in your life, from the withholding of a secret? The big reveal can be terrifying, but as my mother expressed to me, through this experience your heart get’s bigger and then you’re not so scared of what may come next.


photo: Maria Basura’s session with Lady Daia by Mano Krach