By Peter Berton.
Ground- and taboo-breaking trans activist, entrepreneur, and sex worker. Plain-spoken author, witty comedian, and talented comedian. Toronto’s Mandy Goodhandy is all of these things and more. And although the onset of COVID-19 killed her Club 120 restaurant/nightclub, it don’t not finish off Mandy Goodhandy. Far from it: Like a defiant phoenix (albeit one with a smart sense of humour), she has risen once again.
The Naked Truth’s Peter Berton caught up with Mandy recently, to find out all about her rise.
Naked Truth: For those Naked Truth readers who might not know you, could you please tell us a bit about your storied and successful career in sex work — including your book ‘Just Call Me Lady: A Work of Completion’, which I have read and very much enjoyed — and your music, comedy, and videos.
Mandy Goodhandy: I have been a proud sex-worker since 1992. Starting early 2000 I have been a vocal advocate for the decriminalization of sex work. As an entertainer, I use the humorous side of sex-work in my comedy monologues, with hopes of educating people that sex workers are human and even have a sense of humour like anyone else.
Naked Truth: Prior to COVID, you had a successful restaurant named Club 120 in Toronto that was famous for its T-Girl Parties. Please tell us about the club and those nights, and the opportunities they provided for sex workers.
Mandy Goodhandy: I have been holding a weekly party since 2001 till now. It has been the World’s longest running party that caters to trans women, their admirers, supporters and allies – a night for trans women, including trans women sex-workers, to feel safe in a space that allows them to network and socialize with others. The parties started every Thursday night, in a couple of Toronto and Mississauga venues, as early as 2001.
The party moved into its full time home in 2006, when me and my business partner Todd Klinck opened Goodhandy’s nightclub in downtown. In 2012 the club changed the name to Club120 which stayed open till 2020 when COVID hit, making it impossible for the club to stay open. We had to close down. The building has since been demolished and will be made into yet another Toronto condo building.
Naked Truth: You have risen like a phoenix with the opening of Mandy’s Bistro on the Danforth. Please tell us about it.
Mandy Goodhandy: I was given a call by Richard Henry, who worked as a chef downstairs in the 120 Diner restaurant that we opened on the main floor of 120 Church street in 2014.
He had found an available venue at 123 Danforth Avenue (The Old Nick) in April 2021. I was not ready to get involved in a new business at this time, but I really liked the location and the fact it had two floors.
Renos began in September 2021 and we opened Mandy’s Bistro in November 2021. We then had to close back up in December 2021 and did not reopen till March of 2022, then we started the T-Girl party up again around June the same year. Before then and till now I have also been booking live comedy and live music events.
Over time, we discovered that Richard and I had different visions. So I made the decision to give up my half of the business, but still continue booking the events. This includes the Thursday night T-Girl party.
This was a totally amicable decision, which also frees up some of my time to perform in other venues as a singer and comedian. Mandy’s Bistro will be changing its name by June 2023 to Ephochal Imp, it will continue to have live entertainment and will add an element with books being available to read and to buy. Currently the T-Girl party is held on the main floor bar for socializing, with privacy booths downstairs for consenting adults.
Naked Truth: As you mentioned, you have revived your T-Girl Parties, where you offer private booths. Just how free are your clients and t-girls to enjoy themselves in these spaces, and do you have any fear of the law intruding?
Mandy Goodhandy: Sex clubs are allowed in Toronto. But people must be warned in advance if they are entering a sex area. We provide privacy booths downstairs that may or may not include sex. We do not allow alcohol down in the basement area of the club. This area is also patrolled and kept clean by a security person.
Creating a space for people to feel safe and for them to know that it is not illegal helps the overall feel of the party. Not everyone visits downstairs but they can still have a fun social time on the main floor with other like-minded people.
Naked Truth: What else are you up to these days?
Mandy Goodhandy: When not booking 123 Danforth or hosting the Thursday night party, I keep busy with my music and comedy. I will soon be working on my second book which will concentrate mostly on my sex working adventures. It will be strictly an e-book and will involve vignettes of funny and not-so-funny stories of my experiences. I am also planning to launch my first live stand-up comedy album, which will touch on the funny side of sex work and living as a trans woman.
Naked Truth: How have the experiences of the last three years shaped you as a person, an entertainer, a businessperson, and a sex worker?
Mandy Goodhandy: I honestly do not have a lot of shaping to do at this point of my life. I guess I am at the point that I would love to help shape others out there; others who may need the advice or support of someone who has “been there”.
Naked Truth: What advice do you have for other sex workers, in terms of getting the most out of their personal and professional lives?
Mandy Goodhandy: I have found along the way that (consenting) sex-workers are some of the smartest people I know. One of the reasons for this is that we seem to go into high speed when it comes to experiencing a different style of life.
Sex-workers learn everything about the underbelly of life and meet people on a very personal level. whether wanting to or not. Our clients will share or will show a different side of themselves that they may not even share with others who are close to them. We are all things to them including: girl/boy friend, wife/husband and even a somewhat distant family member at times. We also learn very quickly how to be entrepreneurs.
There is no “Hooker for Dummies” out there for us, so we learn and grow by the skin of our teeth. Far be it from me to give advice on that. Unless I am asked, of course.
I will, however, be honoured to share my own policies of being a sex worker:
- Set definite boundaries
- Pay close attention to your surroundings
- Never be ashamed, or let others make you feel ashamed of your work.
- Always be proud of being part of the world’s oldest and most noble profession.