NYC’s December 17th Vigil: Audacia Ray’s Speech

In New York City, about 30 people gathered in Washington Square Park to light candles and remember the sex workers who were murdered this past year. Here’s the speech I gave – in video and text form.

Every year I come to this event, and every year, in the hour before the vigil, I seriously consider not showing up, because it’s hard to be here, hard to stay present and be witness to the sadness and struggles of this community. Sex workers and our allies are strong – no doubt – but we are also vulnerable. And those two words -strength and vulnerability- are exactly why the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers exists.

Today, on the 6th annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, there are gatherings in 20 cities around the world, including places like Tucson, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Vancouver, Copenhagen, and Sydney. There’s a National March that happened earlier today in Washington DC, culminating in a rally in front of the Department of Justice. And here we are, a little chilly but resilient. Our movement is growing, and though we have many obstacles, we are moving forward toward a world in which sex workers’ rights are recognized as human rights, where we are free to choose what we do with our bodies and how we make our livings – whether that means working in the sex industry or keeping far away from it because we have viable economic alternatives.

In a minute we’ll read the SWOP demands for ensuring justice and safety for sex workers, but I also wanted to add in my very own demand – and it’s not directed to policy makers, health care providers, law enforcement, or any other official organization. It’s directed to the people standing right here today. My demand is this: take care of yourselves, ask for help when you need it, and offer support to others when you can. And by support, I mean the purest and most human form of support – listen to sex workers and allies about their experiences, their struggles, their doubts. It’s true that we have a lot of work to do, and sex workers are dying while we’re trying to do that work. But it’s also true that we can’t be of service, we can’t fight the good fight, if we don’t take care of ourselves and each other. When we’re done with the program today – after we read the SWOP demands and the list of names of sex workers who were murdered this year, I want to encourage you to hang out a while, decompress, and just talk to each other and offer support.

This day is a hard one to face, a hard one to be present for, but the purpose of any memorial service is to create a space for the living to show respect for those who have lost their lives and to be there for one another. So let’s do that – not just today but throughout the year.

Check out the SWOP demands here.

One Response

  1. That was really beautiful, Audacia. Made me cry all over again, remembering how truly sad the day was for me, and how meaningful our memorial was. Tears, hugs, pain felt and shared, smiles, plans, hope… these things define every great movement since the beginning of time.

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