Award-winning Toronto journalist is bidding farewell to his lucrative sideline gig—male prostitution—of the past 24 years. Prior to his upcoming retirement party, he shares with us his most fondly remembered days and nights on the job.
Sitting in the living room of the downtown condominium where Gerald Hannon services many of his clients, the 67-year-old isn’t expecting to receive a gold watch at his sex-trade retirement party later this month. “Well, maybe a gold condom,” he says wryly. Soft-spoken and careful with his words, Hannon emanates calm. His walls are covered in a heady mix of junk shop art, kitsch, prints and the room’s centerpiece: a portrait of him cradled in the arms of a man dressed as a boy scout.
And perhaps it seems provocative that Hannon, also an award-winning journalist and former university instructor, has chosen to reflect on over a quarter-century of sex work as a cause for celebration (and an opportunity to draw more attention to Bedford v. Canada, a legal challenge to the country’s current prostitution laws). According to him it also just seemed like a splashy thing to do.
Of course he’s no stranger to splashy scenes. In 1995, Hannon found himself in the middle of a media storm after being outed for his sex work with the headline “Ryerson Prof: I’m A Hooker” on the front page of the Toronto Sun. Before that, Hannon courted controversy with his work at The Body Politic, a defining monthly queer magazine that folded in 1987. Since then he’s gone on to write extensively for Toronto Life, Xtra! and The Globe and Mail among others—however, prostitution has remained a constant in his life for over 20 years.
Why throw yourself a retirement party from prostitution?
I think sex workers don’t actually do it. In my sense it was partly just for fun, partly because it made it seem like a normal type of job. People have retirement parties from offices, from schools, so why not this?
How did your career in the sex trade begin?
I was broke, essentially. I had worked for the previous 15 years making very little money. The [Body Politic] ended and I wanted a change—I wanted to become a freelance writer.
I didn’t think I could do it, but I ran into a friend of mine who recommended [sex work] as a way of bringing in some money. It was so wacky, so off-the-map for someone of my age and looks. The classic line “young, hung, full of cum”—I’m not any of them. My friend said there’s a niche market for everything, which really proved to be true.
It turned out to be perfect for someone who was going into freelance writing. It doesn’t take a lot of time: The actual sex, men being what they are, takes 40 minutes. Then you go right back to writing. Like a coffee break, only you’re richer at the end of it.
What kind of services did you provide?
I usually advertised as a masseur, and that’s where the phrase “I work my fingers to your bone” comes from. A lot of clients were self-identified as straight, I guess. And the idea of just going for a massage made it a whole lot easier to do. A lot of hand jobs or blow jobs, some penetrative, always safe. I never had an STD. Because there were so many self-identified straight guys, they wanted to do stuff they wouldn’t get to do with a woman. So they wanted to be fucked; they really wanted to suck me.
If there’s a young man out there who needs some money, would you recommend this line of work?
Yes, I would. Although you have to be comfortable in your sexuality and you have to ween yourself away from a moralizing approach to things, otherwise you’re going to hate yourself. Society says [prostitution is] a horrible thing to happen to anybody. The money’s tempting, but you think, “I’m a dirty piece of crap” letting these guys paw me, and I have a romantic notion of love and this is not it.
Has your work in the sex trade affected how you operate as a journalist?
Probably not. Except I’m sometimes told that my non-judgmental attitude to the world is conveyed in the way I interview people. Being non-judgmental is certainly one of the benefits of being in the sex trade, because you see so many scenarios that are so judged by the world and you’re part of them. And you see the innocence of it all.
What are you going to miss about it?
I’ll miss the adventure of not knowing what I’ll see when I open the door. And how that can get me insight into the secret sexual lives of men: Quite ordinary looking guys who want to be peed on, or want to be spanked—the whole range of sexual activity that’s hidden just below the surface. I’ll miss that insight. Also, I ended up having some really great sex with guys I really found sexy. But also I had to clench my teeth and go through with some other ones. But that’s true in any job.
Gerald Hannon’s retirement party will be held Nov. 25, 9 p.m.-2 a.m. at Goodhandy’s (120 Church St.). $5-$20 sliding-scale donations, with proceeds going to Maggie’s: Toronto Sex Workers Action Project. Featured performers include Fay Slift, Helene Ducharme and DJ Alex McClelland.