by David-Elijah Nahmod
On Jan. 4, a lively crowd of about 100 attended the Magnet SF opening of Escort: The Classic Beauty of Male Sex Workers in San Francisco. The show serves as a month-long exhibition of photographs taken by Tom Schmidt, and as a launch party for Schmidt's new book featuring many of the photos. Schmidt, a member of the Radical Faeries, is also known by his Faery name, Dot. The event raised funds for St. James Infirmary, a South of Market medical clinic that provides health services for sex workers and their partners.
According to director Steve Gibson, Magnet is the perfect venue for the Escort opening. "Magnet promotes the health and well-being of gay men in San Francisco," Gibson told the B.A.R. during the party. "We believe that the health of the community means creating opportunities for gay men to come together to share their common experiences." Magnet services includes providing STD and HIV testing.
The men in Schmidt's photos debunk the stereotype of the sleazy, burnt-out gay male street hustler. These men are vibrant and healthy in appearance. Some of the models are nude in the photos, while others could be posing for a fashion magazine. One photo features gay porn star Antonio Biaggi elegantly draped in a long, flowing cape. In another photo, two lovely young men, possibly a couple, stand together nude. One has his hand wrapped around the other, while the second touches his partner's cheek. They're kissing each other gently.
Cyd Nova, an FTM transgender, poses in a pair of shorts with his fists displayed. An activist for sex workers' rights and health care, Nova looks more like a prizefighter than an escort. Nova currently serves as the Harm Reduction Coordinator at St. James Infirmary.
"My intent was not to sexualize them," Schmidt said at the event. "I wanted to show escorts who were real people. They can be sexy and beautiful. They're not what you expect. They're not completely defined by escorting. They're students, activists, software engineers, artists, uncles, and brothers."
For Starchild, a longtime bisexual-identified escort and occasional political candidate, participating in Escort was a chance to break down barriers. "We're still socially marginalized by law," he said to the B.A.R. as he sipped a glass of wine. "It's good to see positive representation of us in the community."
Escort: The Classic Beauty of Male Sex Workers in San Francisco is on display through Jan. at Magnet SF, 4122 18th St., SF. The Escort book is available at Blurb.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.