Lydia, thank you for this clear, well-written, honest piece. I've known one sex worker who, after getting to know and trust me, told me she'd once been in that line of work. I think if her life had taken a different turn, she would not have worked in that business for the reasons you state. However, one of the many things about her that I admired was that she demanded respect for who she was regardless of how she once earned her living. You have that in common with her and I admire that in you.
For everyone who makes a judgment about your life and how you live it, I hope they also train that disapproving spotlight on the men who keep your business flourishing. I am so sick of hearing men brag about losing their virginity to a prostitute or worse, having a parent pay for it. These men will then turn around and smear the women who provide them with the pleasure or bragging rights or whatever they get out of the exchange.
Wouldn't it be nice to have a society that acknowledges that sex workers provide an important service instead of criminalizing them and putting them in a position to be victimized financially and often physically.