• Illustration by Lily Padula
The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 11 percent of respondents reported having done sex work for income. For comparison, the rate for American women as a whole is estimated at around 1 percent.

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Wendy Williams worked in the sex industry, runs a successful adult website (, does PR for other trans porn performers, has a sex-toy line, and has worked as an escort.

What do you think about the controversy over what language people should use to describe trans people?

I think that my porn work over 13 years has done more to bring transgender individuals into homes than the people who are worried about being called words like "tranny." You get a heterosexual male who's having these feelings and doesn't know quite how to relate to them, what's he going to do? Go online and do some research. In my case, porn has opened up more conversations than—I mean, where are these guys going to find these [trans-rights] rallies? I can't tell you how many conversations I've had over the years about sexuality. I don't have a problem with being called "tranny." You can call me anything, just don't call me a "him."

What do you wish you'd hear from activists?

I've been told my whole life, "Oh, you can't be a role model for transsexual people because you do sex work and that's shameful." I would love for [activists] to come to me and say, "How can we work together?" But trying to shame me? That's not gonna work.