The Zanzibar Circus Tavern was where my career as a stripper began. I used to smoke on the rooftop, crouching over a coffee canister full of cigarette butts, counting my money and trying to decide if I should head home early or stick it out until close.
It never occurred to me that someone might see me in my skivvies from their window.
On Wednesday, local blog Torontoist published a series of photos of dancers and servers smoking on the Zanzibar's rooftop, captured by peeping tom librarian Brian Cameron with a zoom lens from his office window at 359 Yonge Street.
When Torontoist asked the club's management about the rooftop patio, they told them what they had told me: that the rooftop is not visible at all.
The women in these photos had a misguided expectation of privacy, and it was violated by a voyeur.
Torontoist editors knew the photographer was a voyeur, they knew the privacy of these women would be compromised by the publication of these photos, and they didn't care.
My colleagues throughout the years have held other jobs while stripping part-time. They are registered nurses, social workers, office administrators, advertising copywriters, costume designers, teachers, fitness instructors, and real estate agents. Strippers also have children, they are members of the PTA. Most strippers I know are not open about their night job with all or even most of the people in their lives.
Cameras are strictly forbidden in strip clubs. My workplace is open to the public and I have had awkward run-ins with acquaintances at work, but for them to out me as a sex worker, they'd have to out themselves as customers.
There is no moral high ground inside a strip club.
The same cannot be said of the internet, where my colleagues' photos can now be found. The stigma around stripping forces many of us to keep our job a secret, and paradoxically it also prevents us from being seen as ordinary citizens with busy lives outside the club who deserve to have their privacy respected by the media.
These photos are not urban cityscapes. They are portraits of unwilling subjects who are silenced by stigma, and who are compelling subjects to the editors of Torontoist because this stigma exoticizes us.