Photo credit: Trish Kelly
Amber Dawn is a writer, filmmaker, and performance artist. Her first novel, Sub Rosa, was published in 2010. She edited the Lambda award-nominated collection Fist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer Desire (2009) and co-edited (with Trish Kelly) With a Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn (2005). Amber Dawn has toured the US several times with the Sex Workers’ Art Show, her short films have screened internationally, and she’s the director of programming for the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. Basically, she’s amazing.
Her piece for Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme is called “To All the Butches I Loved Between 1995 and 2005: An Open Letter about Selling Sex, Selling Out, and Soldiering On.” Amber Dawn describes it as “an open letter to the butch lovers I had during the years I was most actively working in the sex trade.”
What made you want to be part of this anthology?
When this anthology hits the bookstores, I’ll be six years out of the sex trade. It seems each year since my “retirement” I face some new hope and challenge in terms of processing my experiences. Year one was all about finding a “square job.” Year two, I was ready to return to the sex worker community as a volunteer and activist. More recently, love has been on my mind. To say the least, I had some wild, passionate, drama-fuelled, tender, and tumultuous relationships back in my day - mainly with butch women and trans men. I wanted to honour the role these relationships played in my life, overall, and as a femme sex worker.
What’s one of your favourite lines from your piece?
“Ours was an elbow-grease, adult-children-of-alcoholics, there-ain’t-no-such-thing-as-a-free-lunch butch-femme. That’s right, let’s say it again. Ours was a damaged-goods, bitter-pill, better-luck-next-time butch-femme.”
In many ways my piece is about being poor, and all the humility and also pride that comes with taking class politics on as a personal identity, alongside queer, butch, femme, etc. I like this line because I believe it sums up who my kin are.
If you could give your younger self one book to read, what would it be?
Well, I was lucky enough to discover Dorothy Allison when I was in my late teens. No other writer has influenced and inspired me like Allison. I didn’t discover Skin: Talking About Sex, Class And Literature until I was in my late twenties. I could have used that book a lot earlier!