Friday, February 1, 2008

The Story of TNT

In 2001, I’d been toying with the idea of learning to build a website. I recognized a need in my community for a resource and support network for exotic dancers. I believed that a website could meet those needs because exotic dancers travel a lot, and the work can be very isolating.

Also, it is very common to show up at an out-of-town gig and be completely blindsided by rules or accommodations that you weren’t made aware of when you got booked there. A website could enable us to share information about what to expect at different clubs around the world.

I named the site The Naked Truth. It would not only be a resource and support system for exotic dancers, but it would challenge stereotypes and serve as an advocacy site as well. It was a big idea that started very small.

I initially hosted The Naked Truth on webspace offered by my internet provider and used a redirector so the name wasn’t so hard to remember. Then I made up posters and hung them up in change-rooms where I worked. A few dancers I knew started using the site and hanging up posters too. Soon we had a small community of dancers using the site and forum.

As the site began to gain popularity, I recognized the need for a domain name. I was not able to get “thenakedtruth.ca” but “nakedtruth.ca” was available. So it was that in 2002, www.nakedtruth.ca was truly born.

Within a very short amount of time, the website began to rise in popularity among exotic dance industry members and patrons of the industry alike. All of my original intentions were eventually realized. Dancers would post their experiences at different gigs around the world and share what to expect with other dancers. We were able to build a support system to counter the stigma we experienced in our day-to-day lives – from the community in general, and from our loved ones as well.

To give you an idea of the kind of emotional support we were able to provide, exotic dancers are assumed to be drug addicts or sexually promiscuous. As a dancer, you can’t usually talk about your job with your family or significant other because they get angry or insulting. While we were all quite aware that our jobs were just our jobs, everyone else seemed to think otherwise. So it was a comfort to us all when we could discuss the ups and downs of stripping with people who understood our experiences.

Similarly, we were able to empower each other and ourselves by acknowledging that no matter what the “moral majority” might say, we knew what we were doing was not bad. Theories that insist exotic dancing is inherently exploitive were merely theories served up by people with no exotic dance experience. Reality was very different.

We felt empowered through our work, not degraded. In fact, most of us admitted to feeling much more degraded in mainstream occupations such as administration, service and hospitality, retail, and more.

We supported each others’ right to enjoy our jobs, offered advice on how to handle difficult customers, and shared each others’ sadness when things in our personal lives turned sour. We basically provided the kind of friendship we usually only received in the change-rooms from one week to the next working in isolation all over the world. On The Naked Truth, we were a close-knit family.

The story doesn’t end there. Within one year of getting a dot-ca name, The Naked Truth was buzzing with activity. Not only were dancers and customers accessing the site religiously, but agents, club owners, servers, DJ’s, and other industry support staff logged on as well.

In 2004, when a former dancer and close friend found out she was terminally ill with cancer, we planned an elaborate fundraising event in her honour to cheer her up. All the organizing was done as a group through The Naked Truth forums. It brought our community together for a bigger purpose and gave us all an opportunity to take part in reducing the harm of cancer in the world. Jocelyne died later that year, and Exotic Dancers for Cancer became an annual event in her memory.

Now it is 2008. The Fifth Annual Exotic Dancers for Cancer will be held on Friday, April 4th at the Penthouse Night Club in Vancouver, BC. A sister event will also be held on Sunday, April 6 at the Red Lion in Victoria. Both clubs were named by The Naked Truth dancers in the top three best clubs to work at in BC in 2007.

Since the launch of the site six years ago, www.nakedtruth.ca has become a widely recognized industry resource all over the world, but especially in Canada. As founder of the site, I have been contacted on infinite occasions to address issues that impact exotic dances in Canada.

I am often interviewed by media. Organizations like Vancity have contacted me to discuss their policies around businesses associated with the industry. And hundreds of people have emailed me praising the efforts of The Naked Truth community to raise awareness and funds for cancer initiatives.

We are working with the British Columbia government to revise the current regulations in the Liquor Primary Licensee Guide pertaining to exotic show lounges because they are vague and outdated. And we are discussing solutions to the downward spiral of the industry in BC today – with clubs closing like crazy and dancers finding themselves short of safe work options.

On a personal level, my decision to start The Naked Truth catapulted me into a career of advocacy and activism. Although I quit stripping over three years ago to be home more for my children, I have been recognized by other members of the sex worker movement and government officials as a leader in the rights of exotic dancers. And it has led to many exciting projects and initiatives. Right now, I am working on a fantastic project to create health and safety guides for sex industry members across British Columbia. The guides will have invaluable advice for anyone considering a career in or already involved in sex industry work.

The issues are controversial and the stigma all-encompassing, but despite the inevitable impacts on my personal life, I have found my journey to be rewarding and fulfilling. I am blessed to live in a neighbourhood that has accepted me and does not punish my children for my beliefs. And I am further blessed to have a partner who encourages me and supports my work.

Today I am living a life of passion and purpose.

4 comments:

JRM said...

I have just found TNT and am avidly reading for information as I am writing a novel in which a main character is a male stripper. I'm obviously wanting to make his part as realistic as possible. As a customer, I won't see what I need to include. So, thank you, from a new reader.

Annie Temple said...

Thank YOU!

Red said...

I like TNT.ca and your blog. Exotic dancers are interesting people and certainly have a perspective that is "out of the box".

I hope you continue to write.

:)

Annie Temple said...

Thanks a lot. :)