Leaving Penn to find herself

by longformphilly


Sarah Smith | The Daily Pennsylvanian | October 2014

The first step is the website ad: $10 for each post and $10 more each day to promote it. The cost adds up, but the payoff more than covers the investment. Jara Krys’ payoff comes at $300 per hour, non-negotiable.

The next step is a mutual vetting by phone. Cops ask too much, and some men just want to get off on the sound of her voice. The man on the other end of Jara’s phone paid for three hours on the Friday of Labor Day weekend. He told her to meet him at a hotel on 17th Street.

When the three hours were up, Jara walked from the hotel back to her University City apartment, with a stop at Wawa to pick up spicy chicken fingers, Slim Jims, Red Vines and one doughnut. At home, she settled in for her version of the post-coital cigarette: multiplayer-online game DotA 2. Midway through the game, her phone rang. It was the man she just left sad-eyed in the hotel room.

“I want to see you again,” he said, asking her to come back to the hotel.

He paid $1,200 for an overnight, and Jara abandoned her game to make her way back down to 17th Street.

“I only got two hours of sleep that night. I don’t know how I made it through the day,” Jara said the next week. Not that she regretted it, she added, as she reclined in a chair sipping iced tea. Let Jara talk and she’ll go on tangents for hours, starting with a story of a client that reminds her of a friend that reminds her of a problem in the transgender community. Eventually, she’ll circle back to how her life was before Penn.

If Jara had followed her original plan, she’d be a senior in Penn’s Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business, set to graduate next May. If Jara had stayed as she was freshman year, she’d still be a man named Christian Jaramillo, afraid to explore why she was drawn to dresses and ashamed to tell anyone that she’d turned to sex work for money. Since then, she’s accepted her identity as transgender and gone from male to an androgynous gender to more feminine. She talks about a career as an international sex worker as a real possibility. No matter what, she’s sure that she’ll be well-known in the future.

“If you want to be an icon,” she said, “you have to start somewhere.”

Writer bio: Sarah Smith, a native of Marblehead, Massachusetts, is a senior studying English and political science at the University of Pennsylvania; however, she spends a majority of her time reporting for The Daily Pennsylvanian, Penn’s independent student newspaper. She previously interned at POLITICO and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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