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Positive Voices

EPISODE #210 - Sex Work & HIV


Precious Survival: True Stories of Sex Work

February 12, 2024. 1:07:59

This week, Tei and Malachi are talking to our guests, Marlene and Jasmine, about the realities of sex work. From sex work as a business to working for survival, our guests are sharing their stories without holding back. No filter, no sugarcoating, no-nonsense.

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This program contains language and subject matter that some audiences may find triggering or sensitive. Our purpose is to encourage engagement in care and treatment; however, please consider your well-being before continuing.


Marlene Ayejimni: You can do whatever you want to do when it comes to sex, but you're not going to screw me and play with my mind at the same time.
Tei Pearson-Hall: What's up, folks? I'm your girl, Tei Pearson-Hall.
Malachi Stewart: And I'm Malachi Stewart.
Tei Pearson-Hall: And listen, today, here on Positive Voices, let's talk about sex, baby, let's talk about you. We're going to get into it. We have some amazing guests on the couch with us today that's going to give us some conversation around sex work, so help me welcome our guests.
How you doing, ladies? Thank you for joining us today.
Jasmine Ford: Hello.
Tei Pearson-Hall: So could you just give us a little bit about who you are, what's your name, and what you do?
Marlene Ayejimni: I am Marlene. I am currently working with CFLS. I'm on a speakers bureau, where I speak publicly pertaining to sex, homelessness, addiction, things of that nature.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Okay, thank you.
Marlene Ayejimni: So full circle.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Full circle. We're going to get into that circle. Thank you for that.
What about you, young lady?
Jasmine Ford: Yes. Hi, I'm Jasmine Christine Ford. I'm a published author, and I also work in the HIV and AIDS space as well.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Okay, they ain't come to play with us today.
Malachi Stewart: They ain't come to play, not at all. I'm personally just glad to have both of you here, because I feel like the topic of sex work is one where there's just so much stigma and ignorance around it. A lot of people make a lot of assumptions, and so I feel like today is the opportunity for people to hear it from the horse's mouth, so to speak.
So can we just start with you, Marlene? Can you just tell us sex work, how did you get started? Why did you get started?
Marlene Ayejimni: Well, actually, I was molested as a child, eight years old. I really didn't know anything about getting money. I was left home alone a lot, pregnant as a teenager. I learned to use my body to get what I wanted for myself and my child. I didn't have any credit cards. Money first, we'll talk about everything else later. You're not going to beat on me, choke me, and all these other things. You can get off me in 15 minutes.
Tei Pearson-Hall: She said, "Use what you got to get what you want. Money first."
Marlene Ayejimni: No, this ain't no all night train. I've got other things to do.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Hello, money first.
Marlene Ayejimni: Exactly. Cha-ching.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Cha-ching. So once you got into it, I just want to follow up with what Malachi said. So you were home a lot as a young mother. So how was the transition from there? What was that transition, though, to sex work?
Marlene Ayejimni: Actually, I was married at 25, and my husband was definitely an abuser of women. He was a womanizer, and I felt like, if he can go out there and get it, I can go get it too. But only I am going to get paid for mine. He can go out there and give it away all he wants to. I'm going to get mine. So just being me, being angry at the world, because I was hurting inside. Had no coping skills, and I wanted to hurt him as much as he was hurting me. So I did things openly. I didn't hide behind the scene.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Okay, so he knew what was up?
Marlene Ayejimni: Not at first. I was on the strip. He was a trick, but he didn't know it.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Oh.
Marlene Ayejimni: He didn't know it then.
Tei Pearson-Hall: He ain't know then.
Marlene Ayejimni: Yeah, I told him some years later, after marriage.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Okay.
Malachi Stewart: I was going to say, he know now.
Marlene Ayejimni: Oh, I broke it down to him, because he was like, "What? You was doing what?"
Tei Pearson-Hall: Right, wow.
Malachi Stewart: For the audience who may not know, what is a trick? Define that for us.
Marlene Ayejimni: Tricking is when you just go out, and you see somebody, and somebody sees you. You get in a ride or you get them to take you to a hotel, motel, whichever one is preferable for the customer. But you want to be in a safe place, so you got to have your little razor with you or whatever you carry. You go out, and either you give oral sex or physical. I just knew the men I wanted to be with. If you was dirty and all this, I wasn't messing with you. You had to look like money.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Hello. Hello.
Malachi Stewart: You had a standard.
Tei Pearson-Hall: A standard.
Marlene Ayejimni: Yeah. For instance, I said my husband. He was coming from work, and I saw his uniform.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Okay.
Marlene Ayejimni: Yeah, and he was driving. He was hollering at me, I hollered back.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Hollered back.
Marlene Ayejimni: But things went on from there, and as I said, he was a womanizer. I was hurting. I just didn't know how to express it, or I didn't want to physically fight with him in front of my children, because I went through that as a child. So I hurt him in other ways, pocket-wise. I wrecked the car intentionally so he can get us a new one, things like that. Oh, yeah.
Malachi Stewart: You was waiting [inaudible 00:05:02].
Tei Pearson-Hall: She was outside, baby.
Malachi Stewart: She was waiting [inaudible 00:05:03]. You ready to set the car on fire? What about you, Jasmine? I want to hear what was your experience like getting into sex work?
Jasmine Ford: Very similar to Marlene's. I got into sex work as a teen. I was about 12, 13. I was a young little boy. I'm transgendered, so God, now I'm 51. So I had to have been around.
Malachi Stewart: You look good.
Jasmine Ford: Thank you. Thank you so much. So this is like 1983, 84. So I was raised in [inaudible 00:05:43], Pennsylvania. I was born in Philadelphia. So [inaudible 00:05:46] is a little suburb of Philadelphia, about 45 minutes north. And I was going to the mall. I had bus fairs to go to the mall and I think another dollar for some chips. So I went broke. So walking across from the mall, a car pull up beside me. And it's a Caucasian man in his, I guess late 40s, early 50s. And I was a child, and he said, "Well, can I give you a ride to the front door of the mall?"
It was a hot summer day. I said, "Yeah, sure." I should not have been jumping into cars. But I did. And as soon as I got in his car, he put his hand on my lap and he tried to grab my penis. And I was young, and he said, "If you let me give you head, I'll give you $50."
Tei Pearson-Hall: Oh wow.
Jasmine Ford: I was 12, so that was a lot of money for a 12-year-old kid who didn't have a lot of money.
Malachi Stewart: Especially in the 80s.
Jasmine Ford: And I was going to the mall broke to window-shop. So I let him do it. I was really just shocked. It didn't last long. I was a baby. A few minutes, and I have money instantly. So within a few minutes I had a pocket full of money. So I gave him my home number.
Tei Pearson-Hall: The house phone?
Jasmine Ford: The house phone. Yes, the house phone with the cord. So I went to the mall, and I was able to have a real great afternoon. I bought candy. I played video games at the arcade. I just did things that I would not have money to do. And it done something to me, because I was sexually assaulted too. I was sexually molested too as well. So I was used to bargaining money for sex. And it was on a hush hush level, because I was a little boy called faggot, called punk, called sissy, all those words growing up. And the same men in my family who would call me punk and faggot, you're too feminine, you're too pretty. They would molest me at nighttime. So I got mixed messages. Either this is wrong and I'm going to hell, but why are you filling me up and have me do things to you at nighttime?
So I understood that sex was secret, a dirty secret that you did behind closed doors. So with the sex work, it started off with me being approached. And then I built my own little business, because in that time I would give grown men my home number. So I used to walk through parks, and little black boys were a target. I'm not sure when you grow up in white middle class neighborhoods, let's keep it real. Little black boys, they were a target.
Malachi Stewart: Yeah. To add to that, little black feminine boys too.
Jasmine Ford: Right.
Malachi Stewart: I definitely felt like, I don't think people understand. I'm glad you're saying it, how much we're targeted when nobody's around. And it'd be like you said, the exact same ones that are being homophobic. They have their own self-hatred, are extremely predatory. So I appreciate you saying that.
Jasmine Ford: Absolutely. And so for me, I would give my clients, even as a kid, I would give my clients walking through parks, sitting on bus benches, acting like I was waiting for a bus. And grown men would approach me. This is before the internet, before social media. And that was the way that they would be a predator if we out in the open, broad daylight. I would go to adult bookstores, was too young to be in there, but they would let me come in, going in in back. You know the glory hall they call them, that kind of thing, during that time. So I built a clientele, and my aunt who raised me, who's in my book, my aunt, she was in her late 50s, but no fool. Aunt Mary was from Augusta, Georgia. And she was like, "Boy, why are these grown men calling my house at [inaudible 00:10:35]?" I'm just tutoring them.
Tei Pearson-Hall: I was going to ask you that. When that phone is ringing at the house, what was that?
Jasmine Ford: It was ringing crazy. I got in trouble. It was ringing 1, 2, 3 o'clock in the morning for a little child.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Because you wasn't telling them don't call after nine.
Jasmine Ford: I would say that, but they...
Tei Pearson-Hall: Was doing what they wanted to do.
Jasmine Ford: Right. But that built a clientele for me, and that transitioned. As I grew, I grew my clientele. I got more advanced, times changed. I got a beeper.
Malachi Stewart: Oh, you was [inaudible 00:11:13] back in the day with beeper.
Tei Pearson-Hall: [inaudible 00:11:14] house phone.
Jasmine Ford: Yeah, so I did that. And that transitioned toward I did my transition physically and maintained. Something that we'll talk about too as well is when you're in sex work, there's a psychology of prostitution. There's a mentality that goes along with that that people really don't understand.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Sure, can you break that down for the both of you?
Jasmine Ford: That's really interesting. For me, there's what they call a whole mentality. You have to have a whole mentality.
Tei Pearson-Hall: A whole mentality, okay.
Jasmine Ford: You have to be hip to the game, be strong. And some people come into it really naive. I was from the burbs. I was really naive, but I learned over time how to navigate that space in a way that that's going to keep me safe physically. I was small-boned and thin and feminine, how to keep myself safe. I had to be witty and sharp and intelligent, but also sexy and super seductive all at one time. You have no idea what you have to go through. It's not just laying down and performing a sex act. You have to be someone's fantasy. I tricked when I was sick, had the flu, fresh post-op from a boob job, a nose job, my testicles getting taken out. I tricked the next day in some pain. That was just the lifestyle. I was chasing money. I didn't have any addictions. I didn't drink. I never drank, never smoked, never done any kind of drug. But I wanted that paper. You would think that I had something, because I was like, I tricked from the time I got up to when I went to sleep.
Malachi Stewart: You were a hustle. You were out there hustling. What about you, Marlene?
Marlene Ayejimni: I think that's where we differ, because whereas you were called a hoe, I was called a trick. Because when you were a natural prostitute and everybody knew you were, you'd be out there and you're sitting [inaudible 00:13:26] back on K Street, 14th and K, places like that. You have on your trick clothes and wear your little perfume. I didn't do all that. I dressed in regular clothes, but I had a clientele as well. They knew me when they saw me out there, and they would say, "Precious, come here, Precious." And it got so popular that the police would call me, "Come here, Precious, I want to talk to you."
Ni, they would ask me things like, "Did I see somebody get hurt," or whatever? And at that time, they had this band would come around at night called Hips. They would give out the condoms and things of that nature for the women that were prostituting. So I just felt like as opposed to just going out, working for the money, I was working for survival. Because it was not just the aid myself. I said I was a teenage mom, but I didn't say how old. I had my son at 13.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Wow, okay.
Marlene Ayejimni: Yeah, I had a son at 13 years old. I was still in junior high, but I knew enough to know that boys ain't had no money. I had to go with the older men. Because I wanted somebody with a job. Boys ain't had no car, have a car to take me places. But no, it just became a thing for me, because I couldn't get a regular job. I wasn't old enough, but I could do other things. And I wasn't ashamed of it. As people try to hide things with not telling people, I was always outspoken with it. When other girls would ask me, "How you feel about doing this?" "Oh, you just had a baby?" "Yeah, I did."
"Did it hurt?" All these kind of things. Try it yourself, you'll see.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Right. But just like, "You go ahead and do that."
Marlene Ayejimni: Yeah, self experience is the best experience. But yeah, I got some guys, not stalkers, but addicted to me.
Tei Pearson-Hall: She said she was the drug, baby, don't play.
Marlene Ayejimni: Yeah, because it became a regular thing. I didn't have the phone calls or the beepers, but they would blow their horns past my house, let me know come on outside.
Exactly. Blow the horn two times. Okay, I know what that is.
Malachi Stewart: You was coming outside to get that 15 minutes worth of money.
Marlene Ayejimni: Well, it was money.
Tei Pearson-Hall: And she said money first, honey. That's the beep beep, and then the...
Marlene Ayejimni: As like I said, they got addicted, then the money had to go up. If you want to see me more, you got to pay me more.
Tei Pearson-Hall: The rate's changed.
Marlene Ayejimni: And I have somebody else to support. Yeah, I had somebody else to support. And I didn't go around looking like a bum. I needed things. I wanted to buy new shoes, [inaudible 00:16:00], everything. And other girls didn't have that. They parents bought they clothes. I didn't have somebody to buy me nothing. I still don't. Independence. But along with that, she was speaking about the mental abuse. I beat myself up about that then, and now I still do. I think back to it. But later on they told me that I was promiscuous and I had bipolar. I said, "Why?" I couldn't understand that. Why?
Tei Pearson-Hall: Who said that to you?
Marlene Ayejimni: The psychiatrist. I went to a psychiatrist. I went to a woman's homeless shelter, it was really cold out. I wanted to get inside. I went into the shelter. It was an overnight shelter. Went in there, and they had a psychiatrist there. And I wanted to know why, if there's something wrong with me. Am I crazy? Because I got there, they're like, "You know you crazy." No, I'm not. I'm dependent, dependent on me. I don't look for people to take care of me anymore. Like I said, I was home alone a lot, so I learned to fend for myself. And I got beat up by a man that said he loved me. I got shot by a man that said, if I didn't see him anymore, he was going to kill me. I was 18. He were married, go home to your wife. Why you want to chase me around? But apparently I was doing some things she wasn't. And that was the whole thing.
Malachi Stewart: May I ask something? Because often in the field of the medical field, and we often have clinicians that don't look like us, that don't come from the same socioeconomic background that we come from. And so I'm not a clinician. I can't speak to what the psychologist said to you and whether that diagnosis was accurate. But I can ask you, how did it make you feel? Did it feel like this was a person who was dismissing your experience? Because I hear you on the couch now, and you sound like a person who responded to their circumstances. You said, "I had these sexual experiences. I learned that sex was a way to negotiate money. I'm already having these experiences. Men are already doing what they're doing, but I can empower myself and use this to make money off of it. And be able to be independent and support my child." That's what I'm hearing you say. And yet that translate to someone else as you're promiscuous, and therefore it's mental illness.
Marlene Ayejimni: I didn't care. You can call me what you want. Just don't call me too late for dinner, and make sure you've got that money.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Don't call me too late for dinner. I'm going to start using that one.
Marlene Ayejimni: Oh, don't do it.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Quick question for both of you, ladies, because I heard you both started at different sides. And so could you give us just a little quick run through for people who may not understand sex work? There's different types and all of that stuff, so could either one of you or both talk to that different dynamics?
Jasmine Ford: Sure, I can start. For myself, I run a business. I was making about 30, $35,000 a month. As technology progressed, I first did the magazine ads, and then I would pay three, four, or $500 just in my advertisement.
Malachi Stewart: For escorts?
Jasmine Ford: Per month.
Malachi Stewart: Advertisements for escorts.
Jasmine Ford: Right, advertisement for my services. Within magazines, online advertisement. So I would charge between three to 500, 300, 500 to $1,000 per hour, depending on what they want. I had services that I had all night services. Dinner, some dancing, a package deal, and then we'll adjourn to one's hotel. And that was a few thousand dollars. I had clients who were the average Joe's. I had clients who were doctors, lawyers, some actors, some ball players, same things that we hear online. Very famous, very wealthy. And then I had men who had to save two, three weeks for my services. So for me, I didn't care. Which is so crazy, because now that I've retired, I'm like, damn, I was crazy as hell. I was bugging.
Tei Pearson-Hall: To think back.
Jasmine Ford: When I think back, I was like, my God, I put myself in really risky situations. For example, I had a few clients who were in the mafia. Yeah, I know. So I would say, "Just leave your guns out on..." I would just talk like it was a normal conversation.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Leave them out on the table.
Jasmine Ford: Leave your guns out on my little potted plant. If you sell drugs, leave your drugs out there. Don't come in my house. I was just bugging. I was about that money, and it was about whatever happened in my house, I didn't tell anybody. My clients knew that they were anonymous. I was not interested in exposing anybody for what they did. Pay me my money.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Your house was Vegas.
Jasmine Ford: Vegas.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Yeah, what happens [inaudible 00:21:18].
Jasmine Ford: I had a full service bar. I would make drinks, and they'll come in, they get a cocktail. Porn was playing. Sometimes I was the porn, that was planned.
Tei Pearson-Hall: That was a different experience.
Malachi Stewart: This is an experience. You get your money worth for this.
Jasmine Ford: Because it could pay for all my little surgery, because I had a bunch of surgeries. So I spent about $200,000 cash on my body and my face. This would be before wonderful Obama made it possible for trans women to have gender-affirming surgeries, this would before that when it was called elective surgeries. So I paid cash.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Wow. So I was going to ask you that, so did your prices go up when you transitioned? Was there a shift?
Jasmine Ford: Yes. Yeah, because I found that my clientele, I would advertise on very high-end sites, and sites where, I even did back page.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Did back pages and stuff.
Jasmine Ford: Back page and Craigslist, where they get a little discount. Even during the pandemic, no, no, no. Even during the recession, back in, what, was it, 2012, 2013 round then? I was still banking 20 grand a month during a recession.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Wow. Hello, okay.
Malachi Stewart: [inaudible 00:22:54].
Jasmine Ford: Because sex sells.
Tei Pearson-Hall: It does, and it always has.
Jasmine Ford: This is just conversation, but I've had some men who would sell their children's Christmas gifts.
Tei Pearson-Hall: To get that money together.
Jasmine Ford: I put one client out. I said, "You're going to sell your son's sneakers to get screwed in your butt?"
We're not that. No, I couldn't do it. But many different stories. We have stories. You have no idea who patronize your transgender services.
And my clients were mostly married men.
Marlene Ayejimni: Well, for me it was totally different. It wasn't always about the money. Like I said, it was about survival, about taking care of my kid. Trying to make sure we had food on the table. And I had a sister, but we weren't really close. So I was giving her money or buying her cigarettes so she could watch the baby while I go... When that horn blow, I can go out and get it done, like I said, 15 minutes or less. And I come right back in, but I have my money.
Malachi Stewart: So no ads for you? No high-end, it wasn't an organized thing. It was just like you meet a person.
Marlene Ayejimni: It was organized when I started doing drugs with the sex. When I started getting high in sex, it became more. Because you could give me drugs instead of just money.
Tei Pearson-Hall: So your payment was in drugs sometimes too.
Marlene Ayejimni: Sometimes, especially when [inaudible 00:24:40] was out, they had to work in 50s as they called them. And you could break that down and you could sell some. Sometimes the guys that I tricked with was guys that I got high with. So you can give me some money and you could still buy me something to get high. But that's it, because I've got to go home. But as a teenager, men like to play with your head. And being around older men, some of them tried to school me, as they said. But I already knew. I had an older brother, and he would tell me certain things.
The guy that I said that shot me, I was around with him about eight years straight. And he just couldn't believe that I would go out with other men. You're not paying me enough, one, you got a wife, another. Two, I don't love you, because you don't really put your feelings in that. Why? Because you know it's not yours. It's just a hit-and-miss or a hit-and-run. You can do whatever you want to do when it comes to sex, but you not going to screw me and play with my mind at the same time.
Tei Pearson-Hall: I got you. So question for both of you ladies, so when we talk about sex work, we hear the money. So was there any fear of STIs, STDs, HIV, AIDS? Was there ever thoughts? Or treatment, preventive treatment when you were working?
Marlene Ayejimni: I always thought that it was from gay people, because back in the 80s people were dying. And I know about the transvestites, they used to be on K Street and places like that. And I would always assume, because it really wasn't popular as it is right now, people living longer. But back then people would have it and didn't know they had it. So very transferable. Just like me, I didn't know it until I got arrested that I had HIV. So I could have been passing it, but I never knew. So it wasn't intentional. Whereas the person that gave it to me, he knew he had it. He knew he had it, but he didn't protect himself and I didn't protect me. So it goes both ways, because I didn't ask him to use a rubber. Because it didn't start out as that, it started out as oral sex, him giving me oral sex. And that ended up being more, so I'm like, okay, but I wasn't trying to get into no relationship.
I couldn't afford to get into a relationship, because it's too dangerous. When you get people's feelings involved, you setting yourself up. Or if I get too attached, and I know you going home to somebody else. Or you got a wife and kids, even if you don't have a wife and kids, I can't be your wife. I'm too young. I got older, I got smarter, but I was bolder.
Tei Pearson-Hall: How so?
Marlene Ayejimni: Because I would tell the police certain things, not on people, but about me. When they would stop me and ask me certain questions, "What you got? I just saw you come out that building. What you doing in there?" Don't ask me that, you already know. That's a dumb question. I was getting mine. Getting what? Getting that paper. But don't play with me about why I'm doing it, because they already knew. It's just like the neighborhood, whereas when your child do something bad, the neighbors spank you. Then you go home and the parents spank you. Everybody know, they just not saying it.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Got you.
Marlene Ayejimni: But I would say it, because I spoke on it. I was like, some people can get pregnant as teenager and their parents will take care of the baby like it's theirs, and it's a family secret. I already knew that people knew what I was doing, but did I care? Did they care? Did they call me a trick or whatever? You can call me whatever you want to. And the guys that was tricking with me knew that I was tricking with other people, and they never protected themselves. But after I found out, I'm married at 25. So I didn't get it until '99. And I had to tell my husband, and I had to sit with my kids and say, "Look, [inaudible 00:28:51] knocked up." They tested me. I tested positive for HIV, and I was exposed to TB from sharing a pipe with people.
So my husband's like, "You have what? You got it from what?" And I told him point-blank, just like you be out there with them tricks and you go to the strip clubs, I got something from one of my tricks.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Wow, okay.
Marlene Ayejimni: So my son was like, "Mom, are you going to die?" "No, absolutely not. I'm going to live as long as I possibly can." I wasn't in a mind frame that I was going to go out there and let somebody shoot me or stab me because I'm out there, they know I'm a trick or whatever. Because I always had a way to defend myself. I had me a little blade. I would stick you real quick. The guys told me, "Put a razor, put a straight razor there." You already knew. And that's how I ended up in jail, they say simple assault. If I'm defending myself, why are you going to say simple assault? Am I supposed to let this person hurt me? Are you crazy? That's what I asked them, the police, "Why are you locking me up?" "Well, you just cut this guy." Okay, what was he doing to me?
Tei Pearson-Hall: Did your fear shift once you got your diagnosis? Like now you know your status, but were you still doing sex work right after that?
Marlene Ayejimni: Absolutely, but with condoms. And I had to know you. Like I said, when I was out there on all these place where [inaudible 00:30:15] was, the drug dealers knew me. They knew me. And I had so much of a clientele. Whereas you had people that would beep you, I had people that just knew me from the way I walked, the way I looked. I wasn't as big as I am right now, but a healthy lady. And guys said, "Come here, Precious, let me holler at you." And I'd be like, "What are you talking about? You talking about some money? Okay, fine." And that would be that.
That's just the drug dealers, but the overall, where you used to say, John, the overall John, to see me on the street and don't know me. When things got difficult and I started feeling like, okay, I don't know this guy. He might be into kidnapping. He might be one of the people that want to drive me out into a dark place, my spirit man would rise up.
They say the hairs on the back of your neck rise, my spirit man would then say, "No, don't trust that. Don't go with him." How I knew, I don't know. Like I said, it had to be my higher power, because somebody was shielding me. I wasn't shielding me, but somebody was. Maybe it was my mom's prayers, I have no idea. But I know that the only person that actually hurt me was the guy that was with his wife, and I was with him for eight years. Because he refused to let me go. Even though he knew I was doing other stuff, he just was adamant about making me his. You can't claim something that's not yours.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Yeah, that [inaudible 00:31:42].
Marlene Ayejimni: There's not enough money in the world to make me say, "Okay, I am yours," and you married. But it hurts to tell people that, "No, I don't love you," because there's feelings involved.
Tei Pearson-Hall: No is hard for people to hear sometimes.
Marlene Ayejimni: I wasn't trying to be mean or shoot the person down for saying that they love me and they got feelings, I was trying to be honest. Open and direct, I'm not [inaudible 00:32:08]. Didn't then, don't now. I'm going to tell you this, don't get your feelings involved, because I'm not going to get mine involved. I might like you, it might even be good sex.
Tei Pearson-Hall: She said it might be.
Marlene Ayejimni: It might even be good sex, but I'm not going to, it's just too risky. I didn't want to shack up. I knew that I did want to get married someday. And when I got married, he was out there. Foreigner, you know a foreigner's always got a job. So I went outside the country to get a husband. Lord, forgive me. No, I'm serious. No, because that's where the money was. They came up here, they went to college. They became doctors, lawyers, whatever they wanted to become. And I wanted some of that money.
So I want a nice house, I want a nice car. If you going to get happy with me and be with me for the rest of my life, put something on the table besides me. Because I'm going to bring something to the table, but then I had to get legit. I had to stop all the tricking. But I had my sidekicks, because I knew he was going out. I knew he was going to, what was it, Foxy Playground and the Penthouse, all these places. I knew he was doing those things. I knew he knew strippers. They would call him, page him. I would call them back sometime. Oh yeah, I would call them back. "He not here right now. Can I take a message?"
Jasmine Ford: Can I take a message?
Malachi Stewart: But you mentioned being legit, and I do want to actually ask you both a question about that transition. But before I do, I wanted to hear just Jasmine, there are a lot of assumptions that people make, especially about trans women when it comes to sex work. What, if anything, did protection look like for you? From STIs, HIV? What did your experience end up being?
Jasmine Ford: Right, growing up, this is back in the 80s. So I was inundated with just fear of contracting HIV even from a teenager. So I knew about HIV. I knew I didn't want to get it. It was killing people at that time. For me, I was very adamant about using condoms, especially when I transitioned around 19, 20, that age. So for me, I didn't drink or do any drugs, so I went into every session coherent and very clear. So I wasn't clouded by any substances, so I would say, "Condoms or no play." I was very serious about that. So no amount of money was going to compromise me in regards to my health. Even clients who wanted to pay more money to have unsafe sex, because they do. They'll offer you more money.
Marlene Ayejimni: Exactly.
Jasmine Ford: The answer is no. And then there are clients who will pull off a condom in mid-stroke.
Malachi Stewart: That's just men, period.
Jasmine Ford: For real. So you had to be very conscious of what you're doing. So during that session, you have to be sexy and in the moment sexually pleasing, and still be mindful of what he's doing. And still pretending that you're the fantasy. So that takes up a lot of mental brain power. So I caught quite a few, it feels different when it's raw [inaudible 00:35:56].
Malachi Stewart: No wonder why you would charge all that money, you had to do a lot.
Jasmine Ford: That was a lot of work.
Malachi Stewart: You got to put on a show, [inaudible 00:36:05] the condom, make sure it's there.
Jasmine Ford: Be sexy.
Tei Pearson-Hall: And security.
Jasmine Ford: So I was very careful about that. And then later on, but see, I wasn't careful. I was careful with clients, but my story is different. Because I would date men who had little to nothing, and they would let me trick. And I had low self-esteem. I was good at dressing up the outside because the inside was so hurting and so dirty and so all that. So I was good at looking good and being physically perfect. And I had your body, [inaudible 00:36:51]. Small waist, big chest, round hips, and dressing nice, but inside I wanted to die. And that's how I dealt with my pain.
So for me being trans, like you said, a lot of men did not want to openly claim us or openly validate us. So for me, they did so in my business. You are going to pay me for sex. I'm not your experiment. I'm not your project. You want me, you'll pay for it.
Malachi Stewart: You had to take power back.
Jasmine Ford: That's it.
Malachi Stewart: You mentioned condoms. Was condoms the only preventative measure you took? I know we talk a lot about PrEP here on the show, free exposure.
Jasmine Ford: Later on, 2017, I was towards my retirement. I began using PrEP every single day. I used PrEP for two years straight.
Malachi Stewart: What made you want to go on PrEP? And did you continue to use the condoms after?
Jasmine Ford: Oh, God. Fear, what made me? Fear. I knew that just using condoms for me just wasn't enough, because I don't know what, I've mentioned this, but I was working in the HIV field, still seeing clients. I was a nurse and still seeing clients. I was in nursing school, and I would go to class, take an exam on chemistry and pathophysiology, and then go home and do a client. That was my lifestyle. So I could not let that money go. Even though I was navigating my education and I finished college, became a nurse, I was still tricking. Because it was part of my adulthood, my youth, I couldn't let it go. Even with my faith, it was what they call a stronghold. I was really trying to quit, but I could not.
I was just so used to the attention, so used to the adulation, because there's something about when you have low self-esteem, there's something very special about someone calling you up and them choosing you. I'm choosing you out of like a whole sea of other girls.
Tei Pearson-Hall: I got you.
Jasmine Ford: You're special, and I'm going to pay you for your time because you're special.
Marlene Ayejimni: Precious.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Precious.
Malachi Stewart: Listen, you are Precious.
Marlene Ayejimni: Yeah, that was my name.
Jasmine Ford: And you feel special, you feel validated.
Malachi Stewart: I want you both to answer this then, because you really lead me into that. You said that you were working in the field, that you had become a nurse, is what I'm hearing you say. And yet you were still escorting, you were still doing sex work. How difficult was it both for you all to transition out and how did that end up looking?
Jasmine Ford: Oh my god. Let me tell you something. That paycheck.
Tei Pearson-Hall: The first paycheck?
Malachi Stewart: The first legal paycheck.
Jasmine Ford: The first paycheck, because okay, I've always worked, but I always tricked. So I had two paychecks. I had my [inaudible 00:40:33] paycheck and then I had my real money that came in every single day.
Tei Pearson-Hall: The real money is a new concept.
Jasmine Ford: The real money. So when I didn't have the real money and only that check, and you work hard for two, I'm getting a little like a flashback. And you work hard for two weeks, 80 hours.
Tei Pearson-Hall: This is triggering. Would you say this is tricking?
Malachi Stewart: Yes. You preaching to my choir now, talk about that.
Jasmine Ford: Jesus, for 80 hours, navigating people here and there. And you're doing the assessments and you're working hard, and getting up in the morning half and driving. I drove an hour.
Tei Pearson-Hall: I understand that. I understand.
Jasmine Ford: And then I got my check, happy. I got my check in my hand, and woo-hoo. And I opened that bad boy, I'm like, wait a second.
Malachi Stewart: She just as [inaudible 00:41:30].
Tei Pearson-Hall: Hello.
Malachi Stewart: [inaudible 00:41:31].
Tei Pearson-Hall: [inaudible 00:41:33].
Jasmine Ford: Wait, where the rest? What's going on? And who's [inaudible 00:41:38]?
Tei Pearson-Hall: Yeah, we don't know them. We don't know them. Some people come to the reunion.
Jasmine Ford: Yeah. So I just [inaudible 00:41:47], yeah. Seriously, that was hard. So for me, I had to pray myself through it. And really, I had to just have a different mindset. It is almost like for me, even though I'd never been on drugs, someone told me who was on drugs, it's like getting off of a substance. Because for many years I had a particular lifestyle that served me, that fed me. And I had very few consequences. I didn't have an STD. I didn't contract HIV. I didn't go to prison. I went to jail twice and stayed a weekend. That's a lower inconvenience, but I never really had any real consequences. So it kept me in the game longer. And I made a lot of money.
I had a condo, new cars every couple of years. It was a fly here, flying there. Just to add some context. When I did my taxes a few years back, just in my traveling expenses, I had to claim those two as well. I spent just on flying across the country and staying in hotels, $35,000 just on traveling [inaudible 00:43:19] hotels for one year.
Tei Pearson-Hall: In one year?
Jasmine Ford: For one year.
Malachi Stewart: So how did you let go? [inaudible 00:43:24] the last trick, the last trick?
Jasmine Ford: Oh wow. That's a great question. I was a Christian. Well, I'm a Christian, and for many years I was navigating my faith and my gender and sex work. And I'd be in church on Sundays and my phone on vibrate. And after the benediction, I get my praise in. And go home and would see a client.
Malachi Stewart: Not in the church clothes?
Tei Pearson-Hall: She changed.
Jasmine Ford: I would change.
Malachi Stewart: Okay.
Jasmine Ford: [inaudible 00:43:59], but sometimes I would see my clients in the sanctuary.
Marlene Ayejimni: Me too, me too.
Jasmine Ford: The preacher and the deacon.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Don't say the preacher and the deacon, hello.
Jasmine Ford: So what happened was I just had to, I prayed through it. And I think for me, I think I was just really delivered because it was just one... The last client that I saw, I was like, I couldn't do it anymore. Something changed. There was something different about the way my client smelled and looked. Everything was always familiar. That particular day, everything changed. Nothing was the same. And I said, "I cannot do this." There's something about me now laying down with someone for money just was not going to work for me. I had just had bottom surgery. And it might be becoming, just having my full transition might have done something to me mentally, it might've been just me being tired after 30 years of sex work. I'm not sure what that was, but I think now, because I had, can I say vagina? Can I say [inaudible 00:45:27]?
Tei Pearson-Hall: You can say whatever you want, yeah.
Malachi Stewart: You can talk about your vagina here on Positive Voices.
Jasmine Ford: Okay, well she's cute. She real cute. So for me, having waited so long to have that kind of procedure done, and I could no longer just give myself away, there's something about that.
Malachi Stewart: It felt sacred.
Jasmine Ford: That surgery, it felt sacred.
Malachi Stewart: It felt sacred.
Jasmine Ford: Yeah, it felt sacred. And I was not going to let anyone tamper or tinker with my new body. She was fresh as.
Marlene Ayejimni: That was me.
Malachi Stewart: Because Marlene said, Precious was out here in the streets.
Tei Pearson-Hall: No, I was Precious. That's what she saying.
Marlene Ayejimni: I'm older than you, so I was [inaudible 00:46:19].
Malachi Stewart: What made Precious last client her last trick the last one? What made Precious turn back into Marlene?
Marlene Ayejimni: Okay, as I said, see this wasn't a career for me. This was just a way of life at that time, until I met him. I actually did end up falling in love with my husband. I genuinely loved him. I wanted a house, a stable home. Like I said, I wouldn't fight at home. I wouldn't even like to argue in front of my kids. We could talk about this later, not in front of the kids. But two car, garage, house, whatever. That's why I said I knew foreigners had those good jobs. So if you're going to take care of me and my kids, even if they not yours, you got to have some good money. And I don't want to have to go outside to get none. I will tell you right to your face, if you stop taking care of us, I'm going to stop taking care of you and I'm going to go get it myself.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Oops. Would you say that's upfront?
Marlene Ayejimni: I don't know no other way, I've been doing it for so long. But then there were guys that would beg me, like, "Baby, baby just come. I give you $300 to piss in my face." Stuff like that. These was easy jobs.
Tei Pearson-Hall: That was an easy word, what'd you say?
Malachi Stewart: You got to go to bathroom anyway.
Marlene Ayejimni: Oh yeah, exactly.
Tei Pearson-Hall: And she said 15 minutes or less, [inaudible 00:47:44].
She didn't come to play with us. [inaudible 00:47:46].
Marlene Ayejimni: I'm trying to keep it 100.
Tei Pearson-Hall: We appreciate it here at Positive Voices.
Marlene Ayejimni: No, that's right. But I just told myself in my mind, you know the question you get, where do you see yourself in five years from now? I don't want to see myself still tricking outside, hooked on drugs. I got clean, I got interested in other things.
Tei Pearson-Hall: I want to pause for that. You can't slide that in. I'm in recovery too, so one day at a time. I get it.
Marlene Ayejimni: It wasn't easy, because I was in and out of 30 day programs back and forth. Six months, I come back out and relapse.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Oil change, you know that's what we call it.
Marlene Ayejimni: No, that was when you go to jail for six months.
Tei Pearson-Hall: [inaudible 00:48:26].
Marlene Ayejimni: The court date? No, that's when you get a little vacation.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Oh, the little vacation.
Marlene Ayejimni: So you can get clean, and you come back out and start over again. But I had some other things on my mind. I wanted my kids to go to good schools. I wanted my health insurance. I didn't need no 401k that was on the table from the get go. When you said, I do to me, everything 50 50. And if I leave you tomorrow, I want that, that and this. And I got that.
Malachi Stewart: Precious is my kind of girl.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Hello.
Marlene Ayejimni: There's no bottom line to that. That's it, and that's always on the table. And if you can't take it, leave it. Somebody else will. Because I knew I was gorgeous, I knew how to handle my business. And I knew that people fell in love with me. But I fell in love with him, he fell in love with me. And I said, okay, it's time to stop. Pump your brakes, let all these other tricks go. Even though they want to keep it going, the money look good. You have somebody that you can settle down with. Like they say, you can't turn a hoe into a housewife. Well shit, I was tired of being out there. I was ready to be the housewife. Let me come in here and cook the meals, clean the house and kids go to school. I'm good.
Malachi Stewart: So feeling stable changed things for you?
Marlene Ayejimni: I was secure.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Security, yeah.
Malachi Stewart: What role did your spirituality play? Not even at the end, but at any point. Because I hear you talking about your spirituality, and it plays such a big role. What role did your spirituality play?
Marlene Ayejimni: Well, my family, my mother's side especially, I have always been religious from evangelist ministers. My grandmother, her sister, my great aunt. I was in the choir as a child. When my kids started getting curious about God, I would take them to Sunday school. My husband was a Christian, so he said, but he wasn't explaining the Christian qualities, not out there committing adultery and all that. But no, I just wanted to be the right type of person that my kids could look at. I have seven sons, one daughter, and not one of those sons will touch a woman harmfully. They still open doors for women, car doors, front doors, whatever it is. They'll help you with your bags. I raise those kind of sons because I know what real men are made out of. Because some people can play a man, but you ain't no man.
If I can manipulate you or finesse you, let's say. Yeah, I want to go on this cruise. I don't have nobody to go with me. Can you get my girlfriend a ticket?
Tei Pearson-Hall: That was a good finesse.
Marlene Ayejimni: I would just make it up, say, "I've never been on a boat before. Can you let me go on?"
Malachi Stewart: [inaudible 00:51:06] that smile with them dimples.
Marlene Ayejimni: Like I said, I knew guys fell for me. And I could play innocent knowing I was devious as hell. I throw it on you real good. Well, look, I need this right now. I can't wait till tomorrow. Got to have it. School about to start, my sons need this, that, and the other. And I don't have enough for this, can you give me $500 now?
It's a package deal. Like I said, you know people in the area.
Tei Pearson-Hall: I'm hearing packages.
Marlene Ayejimni: Listen, when you dealing with people like [inaudible 00:51:42], his uncles, the people out there, he called them lieutenants. And you know you connected with that type of people and those groups of people, even if you are on drugs, they look out for you. Especially if you good. They won't let nobody beat you up or try to rob you or anything like that. They going to put you with good people. And I've had drug dealers buy clothes from crack heads and give them to me for my kids with tags still on them. They would boost, [inaudible 00:52:06] bring it to them, and I would get it. So it was a way, one hand wash the other. It was a way to manage. And I wanted that same attitude with my raising my kids in my household.
Only I didn't let that interfere with my housing. I already had a mental state that, okay, I want this type of man, I want this type of house. What am I going to do to contribute? But I couldn't say what I wanted to do five years from now, so I had to really think about that. As I mentioned before, the preachers and the deacons, they were scratching my palms. So I knew what that meant.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Right, see you later.
Malachi Stewart: [inaudible 00:52:42].
Tei Pearson-Hall: That's just that see you later. I understand that too.
Marlene Ayejimni: Exactly. So he up there on the pulpit, getting somebody [inaudible 00:52:45]. I [inaudible 00:52:45], give some of that money to me. But I learned that in order for you to have a set goal, you got to have a set mind. And my mind wasn't set on anything but making sure my boys is all right. Let me get my kids fed, clothed, haircut, educated, and all that other stuff would fall into place. And it didn't for me like I wanted, so I said, okay, what is it that you really like to do? I like to take care of people. So I went to school, I went to PTC Careers to become an assistant nurse. I like taking care of the veterans. I like talking to old people.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Hey, [inaudible 00:53:29].
Marlene Ayejimni: Yeah, church got me humble. And as I said before, I did some prison time, but it was for killing my [inaudible 00:53:39]. I didn't mean to kill him, but again, I got this thing about you touching me the wrong way. If you hit me, I'm going to hurt you. I'm not going to fight you. You're a man, you think you're stronger than me. So that's what happened. But I did that time, and my mind became clear from everything. It was just me, no kids, nobody, no bills, no nothing. I had to focus on me while I was serving that time.
So I continued my education throughout the incarceration at every kind of class I could take. I programmed all the way through. And it gave me goals. So when I got close to the doors, they say, about to get out, I had a 24-month plan already laid out what I was going to do when I was released. So I had a job before they released me, just over the phone. So as soon as I got my identification, I was going to work. But I needed to have a plan for the long term. Like I said, no, 401k. Now my husband is to the curb. He can go ahead because I had some money backed up. I invested in some bonds, stocks and bonds. Little things like that helped me set up for my kids. It wasn't always about me. It wasn't always about the sex. I love the sex now, I love the sex, but sometimes you got to put yourself on the back burner when you do them for somebody else.
That's why I didn't let my feelings get involved, because of my kids. All my love goes to those kids. You can say you love me 30 times a day. Okay, that's it. You ain't going to give me your, "I love you back." No, for what? I love the money.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Got you. Thank you. Oh, sorry.
Marlene Ayejimni: I'm sorry. But after coming clean, I grew closer to my religion. I studied more. It was the only time in my life that I actually got to read the whole Bible from front to back. I actually had time to do that. But like I said, my mind was a sponge. So I started learning things. And I already said, "When I come out, I'm going to pay it forward." And that's what I'm doing right now.
Tei Pearson-Hall: And speaking of paying forward, can you look at this camera and pay it forward to someone who may be doing sex work right now that has a positive status. What could you talk to and tell them that you think could be helpful for them? And then Ms. Jasmine, I have another question for you.
Marlene Ayejimni: Well, I'm not an entrepreneur like the sister, but I work for a community family life services. And it is a business that it's not fundable, but the people that we help are women that are returning citizens. Women that have been incarcerated 15, 20 years, that when they come out, they don't know how to use a cell phone or a smart trip card or any of these things. We help them get on their feet, we give them housing. A lot of times people don't want to go back to what they knew. They want to start fresh. And that's very hard when you come out to a system, you have no clue. But Washington, D.C. Was not the same when I came home. There wasn't even Walmart here when I left. There was everything else, and it's still changing.
But the women that come to us, we go out to the halfway houses, we invite them, we do sex talks with them, sex education. Because you've been clean for 15, 16 years. You come out here and get with a John, you don't know what's happening. But we educate these ladies. We give them classes on employment. We help them get housing, whether it's a 30-day emergency house, six months, two years. We'll help you to help yourself. You can build on us. We can build on you. I speak about HIV freely, because I want them to know my story. So in turn, it might be able to help another person. So it doesn't bother me to talk about what I did, how I did it, and what I learned from it.
And what I learned from it today is that there's a lot of people out there that are afraid to use their voices, and say, "I'm not afraid of it anymore." I used to be ashamed of myself. Like I said, I beat myself up all the time. Because I knew it was wrong. I knew everything I did was wrong. And like she said, I'm going to hell. No, I'm not. No, I'm not. I'm going the opposite way, because you can change. And with age and wisdom, all those things changed for me. So when I go out and do the speaking events at [inaudible 00:57:53] or UDC, or any place that I go speak at, I tell them, "Please ask me any questions you need to know." Because I'm going to be blunt about it. I'm going to be truthful about it, because they need to know. It's a need to know thing.
If you have a person that's been gone for 15 years, they come back, they have no home, they have no job, they have no identification, they have no transportation. And they need help, who do you send them to?
Tei Pearson-Hall: Right, that's a good question.
Marlene Ayejimni: So you educate them on how to get resources, how to get this. And that's what I do now.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Well, we appreciate you so much. Thank you so much. Ms. Jasmine, I keep eyeing this book that you have over there beside you. Talk to us a little bit about you being a published author. What is that book about?
Jasmine Ford: Oh wow. So during the Pandemic, this is 2020, during a time where we were all afraid, we're also sequestered to be inside, I started off as just writing down my thoughts about my life. Taking stock of myself, stock of my life. And a few pages turned into a chapter, and then four months later I had a 312-page book.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Okay, [inaudible 00:59:16] book.
Jasmine Ford: Called Flight of the beautiful lie. The story behind the title is pretty simple, but I think most of us can relate to it. I'm in church, and this is 12 years ago, and a church member who was my friend, we did some evangelizing in the community together. And we were going to an event, and I was getting dressed at her house. And I was in her mirror, half dressed, and I asked her, "How does my hair look?" And she said, I can look at her through the reflection of the mirror. For the very first time I saw in that reflection what she really thought of me, she said, "Jasmine, you're nothing but a beautiful lie."
And I knew what she meant. She meant that because I was trans, I was a lie. I was not authentic. She was my friend. And when she said it, I saw her in the mirror. I saw her scowl behind my back. That hurt me to my core, because she was someone that I would pick up and drop off every Sunday for church. Every prayer meeting, any church event, I would drive 15 miles to her house, to the sanctuary, back to her house, and then back to where I lived in Pembrook Pines. It hurt me deeply, but I never forgot.
We were not friends again.
Tei Pearson-Hall: I thank you for that.
Jasmine Ford: After that, not friends again, but that really stuck in my heart. And when I began to write my book, I titled it flight of the beautiful lie. I took some ownership, I took that very pejorative statement and I owned it. The flight, I might be a beautiful lie in that person's opinion, but I'm going to fly and soar. And this is a book about my journey from having a mother who was bipolar schizophrenic, from a father who was a convicted pedophile, to me be being sexually abused and not wanted as a kid. To going into sex work, transitioning, battling my faith and my spiritual life with my transition. To now evolving into who I think God wanted me to be. And that is someone who is self-actualized, who know who I am. It took me a very long time to love myself.
The outside, I always would tinker because nothing was good enough. I would spend a lot of money dressing up the outside. I would, for example, have a nose job. Before it would heal, I would say, "I'm not perfect. Do it again. Do it again." I have a tiny waist. I want it small, so I would diet. I became bulimic, anorexic. I was every complexion you can think of. I would bleach my skin to a point where my skin was so transparent you could see my veins. Something called fair and white, that's a whole nother show.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Yes, I see.
Jasmine Ford: The whole title, fair and white. I did not think that I was good enough, because I come from a largely light-skinned family and there's a whole colorism, a whole nother situation. So all these things, and my book covers the majority of that. And now I am successful, not because of what I've done academically or professionally. I think that I'm successful because I have survived and thrived. Being proudly a 51-year-old transgender woman is amazing, because most of my sisters succumbed to violence before 30, before 32, before 35. And to sit here and say, "I'm 51," is a wonderful thing. It's a wonderful thing.
They told me when I was 20 that I was going to die. Die of AIDS, die of this, die of that. People say the most cruel thing when you're young, the most cruel thing. But I'm here, and my book, I'm so proud of it. Now I do tours. I didn't know this, but God told me, write honestly and be transparent. And my thought was, God, if I tell folks that I was a prostitute and I work in the business, how's that... That's going to limit me? That's going to make people not want to hire me. That's going to put a professional ceiling that I can't knock through. I was obedient, and it did the opposite.
Tei Pearson-Hall: And God said, "Believe in me." [inaudible 01:05:19].
Jasmine Ford: Absolutely, I had three promotions since my book was written and published, three.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Hello. You better speak about elevation.
Jasmine Ford: Thank you. So I tell people, know your status. Get tested please. Either get into care or get linked with a PrEP coordinator. Just know your status, and that's super important.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Thank you.
Malachi Stewart: Thank you so much for that.
Marlene Ayejimni: I'm so proud of you.
Jasmine Ford: Thank you so much.
Marlene Ayejimni: That you lived your life the way you needed to do it for you, and it was just for you. Nobody in particular, and that's self-preservation.
Jasmine Ford: Thank you so much.
Marlene Ayejimni: So on that note, I feel like for me, my life being what it was then to now is that when I see people that knew me then and they see me now, they're like, "You different." They see the difference. I don't have to tell you that, "Okay, I've been celibate since 2012." I don't have to tell you that. I go to service twice a week. You can see me. My actions show. You already know that, okay, I used to look like this. I don't look like that anymore. I don't put on the wigs, I don't put on none of that stuff. I just do me. I'm point-blank me. And I'm happy. My kids say, "Mom, we so proud of you." Every time, I have grandkids now, mainly girls instead of boys. So I can talk to them about everything. Everything. And they say, "Really, nana." And it make me feel good because they don't believe it.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Well, we thank you so much. Thank you both for just sharing your experience with us.
Malachi, where can people go for more information?
Malachi Stewart: Listen, for more information, you can definitely go to ww.linkU. That's LINK, the letter U, And if you want to hear more episodes, continue this conversation, see resources, and maybe continue the conversation, you can visit us at and click the podcast icon. Listen, as we sign you out, we just want to echo everything that was said here today. No matter what your gender, no matter how you express that gender, no matter what your sexuality is, we just want you to know that you are not alive, that this is definitely a place and a platform where we see and respect your light. And we definitely love the diversity of our audience and the diversity of our community. So until next time, I'm Malachi Stewart.
Tei Pearson-Hall: I'm Tei Pearson-Hall.
Malachi Stewart: And we'll see you later on the next episode. Bye.
Tei Pearson-Hall: Positive Voices.

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Additional Episodes

New episodes weekly. Next release: February 6.

LinkU Health and Resources

LinkU is a free and easy-to-use resource to help you find local services, including help with HIVprevention and care. It is DC, Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County’s goal to makesure everyone who lives, works, and plays in the DMV area can access the services they need.

Meet the Guests

Marlene Ayejimi
(Mrs. Aiyejinmi)

Marlene Ayejimi is a woman living with HIV for the past 25 years. She is healthy and whole, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Marlene is a woman who has survived homelessness, addiction, and incarceration. All of which has made her a better woman. She enjoys swimming, watching movies and family time. All of which makes her extremely wealthy.

Jasmine Ford

Jasmine Christine Ford is a HIV Care Services Clinical Coordinator. She began her career in the field of HIV Care Services in 2016. She accepted a position at Fredericksburg Area HIV/AIDS Support Services, later rebranding as Fredericksburg Area Health and Support Services as a Medical Case Manager. With her newfound appreciation for case management and desire to continually build upon her knowledge of Ryan White services, she was promoted to Assistant Programs Manager in 2020 and Programs Manager of both care and prevention in 2021.

Jasmine graduated from Lindsey Hopkins School of Nursing in 2001, utilizing her clinical skills at Cedars Medical Center in Miami as a Telemetry Nurse from 2001 to 2015. She is also a graduate of Florida International University, earning a bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus in biology and a minor in Psychology. She will begin a new, exciting chapter in her academic journey by entering the Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) program at Tulane University School of Public Health, specializing in Leadership, Advocacy, and health Equity, in Spring 2024. Jasmine was nominated in the 2021 POZ 100 issue: Celebrating Black Advocates in the Fight Against HIV, and her first book, "Flight of the Beautiful Lie: A Memoir," was one of the top five must-read memoirs of the year. Her new book examines the intersection between race, gender identity, and sexual orientation in Modern Black America and is scheduled to be released in late 2023.

Funded by Health Resources and Services Administration Cooperative Agreement (HRSA-20-078)

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