I dedicated my recently published memoirs, called Dominatrix on Trial, to 12 people: “The Dozen”. Briefly, they are those who fought with me and enabled me to fight. One was a wealthy client. One a journalist and activist against the current laws back in the 1990’s. One was an owner of a cross dressers’ clothing store in Toronto, Paddy Aldridge. Another was her husband, one of the most well known transvestites in Toronto, known as Roxy. Roxy in normal life was a distinguished looking man who retired early to enjoy being his true self. Roxy died early in 2011. Paddy and I were with him when he died. Albert was a prosperous retiree who helped me financially and otherwise with my legal battles. He was in his late seventies when he began to do so and he is gone now too. Some clients and friends who have been helpful to me and my daughter to this day are among the dozen.
The range of backgrounds of this group is highly varied, but they all came forward to fight for me and with me, or help me in other ways. I think Dominatrix on Trial is as much about The Dozen as it is about me. My biggest regret about the book is that I could not do them justice. I tried, but their desire for privacy and the pressures of space in the book made me omit telling the reader the extraordinary things they did and what wonderful people they are. Maybe an entire book about them is in order. I will certainly consider it.
In the last while I have sometimes been asked what it is like not to be running a dungeon any more. More specifically, they wanted to know if I missed the lifestyle with all its activities and the people I encountered. In the first place I have to remind them that I closed my Toronto facility, known as The Bondage Hotel, among other names, in 2002. I have since then practiced my trade in a very limited capacity, rarely for money, among a close inner circle only.
If I was healthy, and was funded to the point that I did not have to make ends meet, I would have no problem with reopening. I do miss doing sessions. However, when your health is as bad as mine, with my failing liver, spinal stenosis and fibromyalgia; you don’t feel a big desire to take on responsibilities. I can’t even be depended on to make a session I have booked. Some days I am bedridden. I make a point of setting an afternoon once a week to go to interviews for my book that are not over the phone, and only go out when I am up to it otherwise. So, as you can see, there are everyday things I miss more than the life I lived as a dominatrix.
So I have restricted myself to two interests. One was finishing my memoirs, Dominatrix on Trial, now published. The other was the current constitutional challenge to the prostitution laws. I try to look forward now that I have confronted my past.
The other day I went to a small supermarket down the street from where I live. A woman who was also shopping there came up to me and said ‘Are you Terri-Jean Bedford?’. Although I was in my sort of disguise I said yes, I am. She told me she had always wanted to meet me and asked me for my autograph, which I gave her, on back of a flyer she found. We had a nice chat and she told me to keep up the fight and stand up for women victims of our laws.
It is always interesting to keep a finger on the pulse of opinion and see what people’s perceptions are. It is amazing how out of the most obscure corners there often comes the most solid support. It is also amazing, watching or listening to call-in shows and the like, how much people know about the current legal battle, and how little some others know.
I have been asked in interviews about my book, Dominatrix on Trial, to compare my struggles, my trials, in my younger years to the legal battles I have fought. I was first busted for having an escort service, with dominatrix services as well, in 1986 and have basically been fighting in courts since that time.
I was born in 1959. For the first 30 years of my life my struggles were for survival. I sometimes had to steal to eat. I had to sell my body in the most dangerous ways possible. I was so down and out and desperate most of the time that the only people I could associate with were those on the margins and things like drug and alcohol abuse, which got them there, rubbed off on me. I was always just responding to the needs of the day and mistakes of the days before. I was almost always in over my head. Sometimes from poor judgment, sometimes from desperation. When I wrote about those days in my memoirs I glossed over some things just to keep my story moving, because I think the reader was getting the idea. I tried to tell about some times when things went well for me, but didn’t last because I was either betrayed, or I screwed up, or changes occurred that were not anybody’s fault.
My later struggles however were of a very different type. My time as a dominatrix and the behavior of the authorities in my cases brought me many allies. I did not struggle alone. Now the struggles are carried on for me, as I must struggle with my chronic health problems. I stand by what I wrote in my memoirs. I have regrets, but not about fighting for what is right and just. That makes me a winner.
I devoted about 4 chapters in my memoirs ‘Dominatrix on Trial‘ to describing how I operated as a dominatrix. For those who are curious about the lifestyle I want to say that being a dominatrix, or dom, can mean a number of possible lifestyles.
For those who do outcalls only it means you just pack a bag of equipment and perhaps clothing, or wear your fetish wear under an overcoat, and go to the client’s home or hotel room. Other doms will have a small “dungeon”, perhaps even one bedroom in an apartment or a bachelor apartment set up as a dungeon. Yet other doms will rent dungeons in which to see their clients. So different doms use different locations.
Some doms will work in teams and share clients, whatever their locale. Others will hire someone to handle all phone calls and just go to sessions or be in their dungeons when the clients arrive. If the dom has an extensive dungeon she must clean and tidy up or have it done for her. Some will allow loyal clients, slaves, to exchange their labor for sessions or just to be around her and her staff.
What is common to all is that they must have records kept and be aware of what laws they must observe concerning licensing, taxes and prostitution. The latter, as we are well aware, is a fiasco in Canada and now before the courts. They must have good records kept like client files, schedules and contact information of associates.
The job part of the lifestyle is as much like another job as it is unlike it. It means responsibility and work, as well as creativity and role playing. The personal part of the lifestyle can be as much or as little as the dom wants it to be.
In my book I tell all about that. I hope you will read it.
When I first realized I was being raided I was shocked and angry. I had been there doing this openly for almost two years. I had checked with lawyers, a couple of whom were clients, to ensure legality. I had run my dominatrix house as if all visitors, repeat all, were police.
There was absolutely no need for a SWAT team. There was absolutely no need for them to strip the place almost clean by seizing 700 items, most of them everyday items. There was no need to mock us. And they didn’t have to call a press conference the day after the raid to display what they had had taken. They could have just charged me or given me a ticket and awaited trial. I knew this during the raid and it was raised in subsequent legal proceedings.
In future I was actually glad they made such a big splash, because it led to my profile in the media where I could advocate for my rights and bring big issues to national attention and publish my story as well.
I’m not sure what I would have done differently. I had a chance to run a first rate dungeon and facility for adult role play. I had a chance to earn a decent living. My dream of running such a facility came true, and the cause brought me allies to enable me to rise up again with another facility a few years later and bring forth my book. I don’t think, looking back, I would have changed a thing I had done.
For me, today, it feels good. Not embarrassing now. After all, I have a book for sale and some causes to advocate. This means that long ago I accepted that my life would become an open book itself.
The opening of that book began in Windsor in 1986 when my dungeon and escort service was busted and my name and face were in the papers. Then in 1994 came the big raid near Toronto and I was again front page news but this time in Toronto, and my name was very exposed; as were the private practices I sold to the public. When I fought the charges I was interviewed and photographed continually and my private life and history discussed continuously in the media. Nothing the people I am closest to privately see in the media takes them by surprise.
So I have got used to living as a public figure. I did so gradually. I love to talk and fight for what I believe in and, as I say, I just published my memoirs (go to my website terrijeanbedford.com if you are interested) so for me it is now second nature to live my life knowing that everyone who knows who I am knows my history, public and formerly private. However the fact that it is now second nature does not always make it easy.