Amid a spike in hate crimes against Asian-Americans, including Tuesday's massage parlor massacre in Atlanta seemingly targeting Asian sex workers, RuPaul's Drag Race star Rock M. Sakura has taken to social media to speak out about her experience as a sex worker. Beloved for her sharp sense of humor and eclectic, anime-inspired fashion, Sakura quickly became a fan favorite during the show's 12th season last year, with some fans even signing a petition for her to return following her elimination.
Yet before her Drag Race fame, Sakura says she worked as a sex worker in a massage parlor, something she says she felt pressured to keep under wraps during her time on the show.
“I have to get something off of my chest, something that has been weighing very heavy on me for a long time now, but I feel needs to be said for me and for many other[s] right now," she wrote on Wednesday night. “I want to preface this with, I'm not sure how this will be taken, if people will support me or not, if people will leave the fanbase, or send me hate messages, unsubscribe or whatever. Because I don't think those things matter right now," Sakura continued.
“With the violent crimes that have been affecting the Asian community as of recently and the hate crimes that were committed last night against Asian sex workers, I wanted to come out and say that I was a sex worker, specifically working with a massage until my debut on season 12,” the San Francisco-based queen explained.
Fearing potential repercussions of speaking openly about being a sex worker, including being “slut-shamed," “losing job opportunities in different countries,” or being “blacklisted” from various television appearances including RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars, where previously eliminated queens return for a second chance at the crown, Sakura stayed quiet on her occupation, although she says she had never been threatened.
“I remember feeling shame during DR when asked [what I] did for a living, and I had to lie and say I was a fulltime queen because I didn't want to get kicked off (I didn't know if I would, I was just scared),” she said. “The truth is, my job paid for my expenses while I lived in SF, and helped me pursue and fund my drag, even on drag race.”
However, in the wake of a deadly attack on three Asian-owned massage parlors in Georgia, Sakura says she wanted to speak out about her experience to help “keep Asian people safe.”
“But right now people need to see, need to hear, and need to know that we need to #StopAsianHate and protect sexworkers. What happened last night was exactly what it looks like. A hate crime against Asian people." she stated. "I want everyone to have perspective, that could easily have been me, it could easily have been people you care about and love."
The former Drag Race contestant then provided a call to action for her approximately 119,000 Twitter followers. “Please, I urge you, if you are a fan of me, of drag, and LGBTQIA+ person or ally, please help protect our community right now. Please keep Asian people safe.”
Despite Sakura's concerns surrounding a potential backlash to her profound statement, fans and other drag performers alike quickly flocked to her page, showering the star with support …
… commending her bravery …
… noting how the stigma surrounding sex work should be dismantled …
… and reiterating their love and respect for the beloved artist.
Sakura's heartfelt post comes days after a 21-year-old man was arrested for attacking three massage parlors in the Atlanta area, killing eight people, six of whom were “women of Asian descent,” according to the AP. Although the BBC reports that police say the shooter may have been a patron of these establishments and told officials he had a “sex addiction," investigators have not eliminated anti-Asian bias as a factor in the attack, the New York Times says. Seemingly existing at the "intersection of gender-based violence, misogyny and xenophobia," according to Georgia State Representative, Bee Nguyen, the first Democratic Asian-American woman to serve in Georgia's state office, the incident comes after a particularly painful year for the Asian-American community. Between March 19, 2020 to February 28, 2021, approximately 3,800 anti-Asian hate crimes were reported, including several instances of physical assault and verbal harassment, according to a recent report from Stop AAPI Hate.
As these hate crimes skyrocketed by nearly 150% in 2020, NBC News reported, many attribute this gut-wrenching spike to anti-Asian racism stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, including former President Trump's continued racially-charged Covid-19 rhetoric, calling the disease the “kung flu" and “China virus,” using the latter during a Tuesday appearance on Fox News, the same night as the deadly attack.
"The former President inflamed discrimination against Asian Americans by using racist phrases like Kung Flu," California Representative Ted Lieu wrote of this dangerous rhetoric on Tuesday evening, alongside the hashtag #IAmNotAVirus. “I urge any officials who continue to use ethnic identifiers to describe the virus to please stop doing so. You are adding fuel to the fire of hate.”
For more information about combatting anti-Asian racism, visit https://stopaapihate.org/. To learn more about an organization serving Asian and migrant sex workers, visit https://www.redcanarysong.net/.