‘No Humans Involved:’ Violence Against Queer and Transgender Sex Workers

Updated: Today the Gay City News, which is the most widely circulated gay weekly in the United States, published this editorial entitled “No Humans Involved’: End Violence Against Queer and Transgender Sex Workers.” I’m linking it here, because I didn’t just write it for the ‘gaystream.’ I also wrote it for the sex worker movement, which produced some very nontrans ‘woman’-centric statements for the Day to End Violence. The fact is that queer and transgender sex workers, especially people of color, low-income folks, and homeless persons, have long been targets of cops and serial killers. In response to some of the comments this post has already generated; acknowledging this fact does not in any way ‘fragment’ the movement and it doesn’t ‘blame’ or ‘scare off’ some ‘invisible majority’ of sex workers that would somehow tip the scales of public opinion in our favor.

In any case, if acknowledging that racism and homophobia and transphobia are all tied up in the policing of sex work is frightening your ‘majority’ off, that’s because of racism, homophobia, transphobia and internalized whorephobia itself. It’s absolutely criminal that you are accusing people organizing around their identities, and this editorial itself, of being ‘fragmenting’ for the movement. Read it yourself. Tell me again why I should shut up and let the ‘majority’ keep flapping their gums about this supposedly universal ‘good girl’ whore. Tell me again why you need this rotten ‘respectability’ in order to lure the straights and the Republican strippers and the property owning madames who would sooner take her 50 percent than give a damn.

What’s more, acknowledging our differences can strengthen our alliances with other movements. The fact that this editorial was published in a major ‘gay’ publication speaks to this possibility. This is a small step in the direction of remembering and reclaiming the names of those who have died but who have been ignored by us: like the young hustlers who faced death alone in the cold arms of heartless killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy, Jr., but also those of us who have been raped by the police, kicked out of our homes, incarcerated, and abandoned by our families.

‘No Humans Involved’: Ending Violence Against Queer and Transgender Sex Workers

To mourn the victims of murder, incarceration, and intimate partner violence in their midst, this past December 17, sex workers, clients, and allies filled New York City’s Metropolitan Community Church and marked the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. The Day was honored by more than 27 cities this year, from Nairobi to Hong Kong. Here in New York, the high-ceiling room of the church reverberated with the names of the dead.

The list of the dead grows yearly. In 2008, Duanna Johnson, a transgender female, was beaten by Memphis police while she was in custody. Once released, three men shot her to death as she worked a street corner. This past July, the alleged murderer of Paulina Ibarra was finally taken into custody. The walls of Ibarra’s apartment were said to be drenched in blood as a result of multiple stab wounds.

The names are familiar to us all, but Johnson and Ibarra are only a handful of the scores of queer and transgender sex workers killed in the past few years. They share a great deal besides the brutality of their murders. They share facts that situate their killings in a pattern of who gets killed in America, and for what. They were gender non-conforming. They were people of color, and, whether by choice or circumstance, they traded sex for money.

On the Day to End Violence, our thoughts naturally gravitate to serial killings, and rightly so. This violence is not new to the queer and transgender community. Who among us could forget Jeffrey Dahmer? The majority of Dahmer’s victims were hustlers lured by promises of cash in exchange for nude photographs. One of the 17 boys killed was named Jeremiah. He had a hole drilled through his skull so that hydrochloric acid and boiling water could be injected with a syringe.

The gruesome nature of Dahmer’s crimes is perhaps unprecedented, but Dahmer is no exception. The world has committed to memory the name of John Wayne Gacy, Jr., who strangled and buried 33 boys underneath his Chicago home, many of them hustlers. Likewise, the perpetrator of the Atlanta Child Murders murdered at least 28 boys, all African-American. The thought of these young people facing death alone, in the cold arms of heartless killers, should fill every queer and transgender person with the same rage we wore proudly in the recent headlines decrying the epidemic of teen suicides.

Add to these lost boys the scores of transgender women who also traded sex, such as Johnson and Ibarra, who were targeted for cold-blooded murder. Consider the many non-trans women, whether straight or queer, who slept with men for money, and who are now dead in riverbeds and highway ditches, strangled by Gary Ridgway or fed to Robert Pickton’s pigs.

The crimes are almost too bloody to conceive, the names too numerous. To cope, sex workers started the Day to End Violence, and on this day, we break the names down to faces and piece together the paraphernalia of the trade — condom wrappers, laced boots, acrylic nails — into a story of the last days of those lost. It is in this way that we stand witness and gather the strength to fight back.

In mourning those we have lost to murder, we must also remember those who remain. The Day to End Violence is as much about our own stories as it is about those who have been murdered. In my own case, I was a male hustler for more than four years, and before that I traded sex informally for food, shelter, and security. I left home at 15 to escape abuse and managed to take part in several causes championed by the “gay movement” — like HIV treatment access and ending queer homelessness. Yet, I have never seen a “community” effort to combat the criminalization, police brutality, and social benefits exclusion waged against queer and transgender sex workers.

The omission should not be taken lightly. Long before I was scraping my knees for $50-per-blow-and-gos, there have been queer and transgender people who traded sex. It was sex workers who threw the first heels at the police outside Stonewall. We have been denied the same jobs and social benefits, hounded by the same vice squad, locked up in the same prisons, and lain side-to-side in the same hospital beds due to lack of access to AIDS treatment.

“No humans involved” is what the police say to refer to many sex workers, queer and transgender folk, and people of color alike. The enemy sees our common cause, but why don’t we? For many of us those identities come together entirely. It is on these bases that queer and transgender people must recognize a common cause in decriminalizing “prostitution.” With decriminalization, sex workers may report crimes to the police, qualify for benefits and healthcare, and improve the conditions of our work.

The thought has its corollary in the observation that violence against sex workers is also institutional. Politicians push quality-of-life policing and close our workplaces, resulting in fines and incarceration for minor conduct. The police use vague and far-reaching laws to harass us and cycle us through the system. Killers lurk in the dark, taking advantage of our isolation. And the media greases its distribution with the yearly bloodlettings of “‘Jack the Ripper’” headlines, where “Hooker Murdered!” is just a placeholder, signifying nothing. We are not considered mothers, sons, brothers, cousins, or even neighbors to the public, just bodies to be murdered and moved, whether to prison or as dismembered body parts in the trunk of a car.

We gather on the Day to End Violence to protest precisely this dehumanization.

Like other queer and transgender people, we are castigated for our “lifestyle choices,” but while many of us choose this work fully, the fact is that as a result of racial and sexual occupational discrimination, lack of a living wage or affordable housing options, homophobia, and transphobia, many of us have been driven into the limited choice of sex work. The only lifeline for many is to trick. Studies show that it is precisely this lack of alternatives and isolation that fuels vulnerability to violence, and this isolation, from our families, friends, and intimate partners, is the product of stigma.

In a recent Daily News piece, incarcerated Long Island serial killer Joel Rifkin laughed aloud at the interviewer’s inquiry as to why sex workers were targeted by him and the “Seaside Slayer.” His response was simple, “No family,” he said, “no one is looking.” The unprecedented and global turnout at the recent Day to End Violence puts a lie to Rifkin’s claim. As Audacia Ray, one of the event’s organizers, said, “Our families are made by blood, by choice, and by love. The idea that no one cares when we go missing comes from people who don’t care. We care.”

As a male hustler, someone who proudly straddles the line between our communities, I invite you to stand witness, too, as our communities first did at Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco and Stonewall. Our enemies are too great for sex workers to defeat alone. I urge you not to allow the mainstream of the movement to desert us in hopes of future “respectability.” Queer and transgender people will never be respectable in the eyes of America, no matter how much property we own or how normal-seeming our demeanor. Our dignity and “respectability” shouldn’t be measured by some external standard. True respectability is measured by our commitment to a concept of liberty that includes all people.

Visit the site of the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-NYC) at swop-nyc.org to find out more about the Day to End Violence. Rockwell’s blog Sex! Work? is at http://williamrockwell.wordpress.com. To contact Will Rockwell, write will@spreadmagazine.org.

26 Responses

  1. I heart you Will. But I just have to say that when I talked about women in my Dec 17th speech, I meant trans women and cis women. This is really important when so many of the victims this past year were trans women (more than some folks may realize). But thank you for the reminder that male sex workers are victims sometimes too. Fyi I think there are orgs that are starting to link our communities, like I would say QEJ…they don’t do any official sex work stuff that I know of but imo it comes up.

  2. Will,

    Thank you for this powerfully written contribution. I understand that it was a transgendered worker who ignited the struggle for decriminalization and eventual victory in New Zealand.

  3. Yes, perhaps some SWOP chapters said “women” meaning both cis and trans women as yours did, but I doubt that it was so in most cases and from the press release on Pickton et al it was not clear at all. While it’s important not to thirdgender, I think it’s also important to avoid making invisible trans women, so generally we should just be specific about who we are talking about, such as when we talk about women we say “women, including transgender women,” it’s archaic but necessary.

    The rhetorical emphasis on ‘young men too’ was aimed at the majority gay white audience of the Gay City News, but it’s just as relevant for sex workers to consider, and it isn’t limited to murder. I hear from activists all the time that men aren’t targeted like women (including transgender women) are for arrests, and this is true for crimes with ‘prostitution’ in the title, but there is at least one study I know of that shows there are in fact substantially more arrests for men in the sex industry on the street than women, only under different charges (CSEC in NYC, Ric Curtis). This is probably a result of profiling and we have to consider it in advocating for decriminalization. A lot of activists have long said that even if we had ‘prostitution’ decriminalized the police would arrest on other charges just as easily, and this shows that they are already doing it, and to a greater degree, for men trading sex on the street.

    In any case, I don’t want this to be perceived as a competition for a claim for oppression for male sex workers, I’m just sick of reading so many things produced by activists that only references women, and which plays to media heterosexism. This extends into everything we do, including logos with high heels in them. I’m just asking that people be more aware. We aren’t some small minority of the industry that corresponds to Kinsey’s ‘10% exclusive homosexual’ category, we include straight-identified men who serve men and queer-identified women who serve men and queer-identified men who serve women. The work is more than just people in heels (but it is that too)!

  4. Thank you for this entire thread. As a well-read woman, I confess my tremendous ignorance on this. Thank you for waking me up.

  5. Hey Will, I think you are arguing against things I didn’t say. I agree that it is good to acknowledge the disproportionate impact of violence etc. on trans women. I didn’t say anything about male sex workers and arrest – and I agree that sex workers are targeted for arrest on things other than prostitution (for example I am pro- decriminalizing drugs, and doing away with bullshit laws that criminalize poverty, “quality of life” etc). I agree with using gender-neutral symbols like the red umbrella (I am also pro- using less sexualized symbols, but maybe that’s just me, I have a feeling you may not agree😉 ). And you know that I know that there are straight men in the sex industry who serve men! we have at least one mutual (former, on my end) friend who is one. And queer women who serve men, um, are not male sex workers but seeing as I was a queer woman who served men I think I know we exist too.

    FYI, I wasn’t talking about the whole SWOP chapter, I think we referenced sex workers of every gender…I spoke at our event and referenced women because to the best of my knowledge all the known victims this past year were women (I may be wrong about that, but at least all the ones I added and/or looked up were), but definitely, definitely meant trans women too as so many of those we lost were trans. This was clear from the reading of the names so I think it was clear from context. I mostly just wanted to point out here that some of us do mean trans women too, when we say women.

    Robin

  6. In case it wasn’t clear I do think this is a great editorial. Thank you for writing it.

  7. Yes, you’re right, I should have been clear I was directing the majority of that response to BNG readers generally. Also, I didn’t mean to say queer-identified women who serve men were men, but simply to include them in this large and unacknowledged category of other-than-straight-cis-sex-workers. I just hear too often that ‘LGBT’ sex workers are a ‘minority’ and so a ‘special issue’ group, but this relies on a really naive understanding of the mechanics of sexuality in the industry.

    In any case, I know you agree and as always I love the conversation. I’m so happy to hear of SWOP-Colorado organizing!

  8. Beautifully written piece, Will! Your writing is very poignant.

    A couple notes:

    1) “A lot of activists have long said that even if we had ‘prostitution’ decriminalized the police would arrest on other charges just as easily”

    I think that, as activists, we would do everyone the most good to work towards the goal of decriminalization and take the rest as it comes. IMHO.

    2) I don’t quite understand what a cisgendered woman is!!! could you or someone else please explain?

    3) EVERYONE has the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, and EVERYONE’s inalienable rights ought to be defended equally under the law. Period.

    4) As a female hustler, I have been around people of all different races, classes, genders, and sexuality – and I don’t discriminate based on any of them.

    5) Now that I’ve clarified that, I must say I don’t feel the need to make special reference to transgendered women or more specifically, transgendered sex workers when speaking about the cause of sex workers rights.

    Solidarity – mutual agreement and support: harmony of interests and responsibilities among individuals in a group, especially as manifested in unanimous support and collective action for something – Encarta World English Dictionary

    Dec 17 is International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers. It is not International Day To End Violence Against Women.

    Again; A is A, man is man, and whores are whores. Whatever else we are individually and no matter what venue we each choose to do so (indoor, outdoor, massage, escort, street, porn, phone, club, brothel, etc), we are all sex workers. I don’t feel that it’s beneficial to the cause of sex workers rights or more specifically to our collective goal of decriminalizing prostitution for us to concentrate on our differences.

    It has nothing to do with abandoning anyone in hopes of “respectability”, which I still maintain is measured by the respect one shows others. It has everything to do with solidarity and working together in a rational manner to achieve our goal.

    KJ

  9. For many many years now I’ve essentially been the only ‘out’ trans person in the SW rights movement working on things. We are very very rare! So thank you for standing up and speaking out with us.

    Around queer, while I don’t really do much in the queer world (my last sentence in paragraph explains why), my understanding is the queer are pretty well represented WITHIN the SW communities, but are not represented well at all in the queer communities, but then again, people with trans* identities are regularly forgotten about or downright oppressed within the queer communities too, so🙂

    Anyways, Thanks again for being an ally and talking about Queer and Trans* identified persons!

    With Love,
    Tara

  10. @Kelly James: Your questions!

    1) Yes decrim is the beginning of the solution for sex workers.

    2) about what cisgendered means? It’s ‘single’ gender, so someone that was born assigned a particular gender and is happy with that assignment. I.e. a person born, assigned female at birth, and at the end of their life, still very comfortable being a part of the female gender identify spectrum. Does this help? (Tho generally we refer to people who are currently comfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth as being cisgendered, tho in reality they may at some time decide to come out and be transgendered).

    3) Well this only applies in theory in the USA, other countries have other viewpoints.

    4) It’s nice that you say that, but I’ve yet to meet any human regardless of race, color, gender, etc that doesn’t have privilege that doesn’t need work, I know I have lots of it!

    If it’s true, I’d LOVE to meet you!

    5) Well, as a trans* person, (but really this goes for anyone of a particular oppressed community), if a group is known to regularly oppress your community, then it’s equally important to work at ending that oppression, and one way is to publicly out your support of that community, and be an ally to them, make them feel welcomed and supported within the community, etc.

    Since I’m basically the ONLY out trans person that does stuff nationally in any of the groups, and one of the few anywhere within the SW rights community as a whole that does SW rights work, I speak from experience that we need better support, and better inclusion of trans-identified people within the various SW organizations organizing.

    If you’ve ever gone through the list of names (or helped compile the names) for December 17th, like I have, you’ll notice a good majority are PoC and/or trans-women.

    With Love,
    Tara

  11. Tara,

    There were a fair number of trans-women at Desiree Alliance this year. I know you could not attend, but there is certainly interest in involvement.

    XX

  12. “A lot of activists have long said that even if we had ‘prostitution’ decriminalized the police would arrest on other charges just as easily”

    I disagree. Though decriminalization isn’t an end all be all that will fix every problem, that doesn’t negate the harms of criminalization. Under criminalization, the police don’t even have to be creative enough to come up with another excuse to arrest prostitutes. They can simply arrest sex workers for prostitution. Also, not all prostitutes are engaged in other crimes.
    Though the police may in some cases still be able to arrest prostitutes for other reasons under decriminalization, they would actually need to go through the effort to find other reasons (which they don’t need to do under criminalization), so they wouldn’t be able to arrest prostitutes just as easily.

  13. @Tara

    1) Decriminalization needs to be the goal. Although it may be only the beginning of the solution, this movement needs a clearly defined goal. And we can achieve it!

    2) “Cisgendered” then refers to the 98% of the population who are not transgendered nor have ever wished to be. Correct? I can understand where such a term might useful within the gay community, but it just doesn’t seem applicable here.

    I don’t buy into the “spectrum of gender” thing. Gender is not a continuum, it is polar by nature. There are men and there are women. Men have penises, women have vaginas. Everyone has one or the other. A pre-op trans born male is male, only post-op are they female – and vice versa.

    Sexuality can be a continuum but gender cannot. For instance, I am bisexual, equally attracted to both women and men. Different people can be bisexual to varying degrees or they can be completely straight or completely gay, so sexuality can be considered a spectrum….

    I can’t imagine what it’s like to feel you were born as the wrong gender. It must be hard! Please keep in mind that none of what I’m saying is meant personally toward you🙂 I simply disagree, and perhaps through engaging in intelligent debate we can both learn something.

    3) Inalienable rights are rights that every human being is entitled to simply because they are a human being. Fundamentally, man (or woman or trans) is by nature a rational being and therefore since life on earth is our purpose it follows that the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of our own lives – the right to life – is our natural right.

    While perhaps not recognized by some more primitive societies, man’s inalienable right to life is recognized by the United Nations and international human rights organizations.

    4) I don’t know exactly what you mean by “doesn’t have privilege” but if we met you might be disappointed as there are so many things about me that could use some work that if I were to list them all this post would be very long!

    What I’m sayin’ is that I am far from perfect and would never claim to be🙂 however, I do at least put forth a conscious effort not to discriminate against anyone no matter who or what they may be.

    5) The first step towards ending the oppression of all sex workers is the decriminalization of sex work.

    I don’t know exactly what you mean by “a group known to regularly oppress your community”. Do you mean “particular members of your community”? If so, of course it is important to offer those particular members support and love and I truly want ALL sex workers to feel welcomed in our community.

    Have you read Amanda Brooks’ latest column? It kinda ties in to what I’m tryin’ to say…link is texasgoldengirl.com/afterhours read “the invisible majority and the pc exclusion factor”

    Back to my point – I truly want ALL sex workers to feel welcomed within the community BUT it doesn’t serve the community as a whole to lose focus of our collective goal.

    As far as many of the Dec 17 victims being trans, I have not carefully gone through the list but I’ll take your word for it and it makes a lot of sense that it’s the case. It’s not right, in fact it’s horrible and wrong in every sense of the word….but it makes sense according to my theory of why violence towards sex workers is so prevalent (see my blog “Cause we all know that ain’t cool”). Simply put, violence towards sex workers is so prevalant because the perpetrators of such crimes feel that because the victim is a sex worker they will get away with it.

    This applies to any marginalized group – just substitute “sex worker” with “trans person” or “black person” in the above statement. When a victim belongs to more than one marginalized group….I think you get what I’m saying. It’s awful, unacceptable, and so totally uncool😦

    KJ

  14. In my experience, it is common for people who feel attacked for their opinions to resort to complaints of assault by ‘PC’ types, as if the whole point of subgroups organizing in a movement is to persecute the particular ‘majority’ of which the complainants are a part, or that there is some political consensus in the first place. Or, alternatively, that ‘ticking boxes’ across race, class, gender, etc. is a futile exercise given our shared oppression under criminalization. I’ve felt this impulse myself, but if decriminalization and its attendant priorities are to succeed, we have to fight this inclination. At every step of the way, these boxes greatly, and I can’t emphasize that word enough, impact the scale and, perhaps most importantly for this discussion, type of oppression any given sex worker experiences. Without these conversations of difference, how would we remember to fight criminalization’s different effects on the vastly different people involved in the sex trade? This is why difference is helpful; it educates us about ‘our’selves, meaning ‘our’ movement. That is, of course, if you believe being a part of a ‘sex worker movement’ is about being a part of something larger than yourself; something that you can’t see in the mirror.

    I’m not trying to personally attack anyone by speaking about my experience or those who are like me. The recognition of difference is not an accusation! What threatens you all so much that you have to cry ‘PC’ when someone writes one piece on race or class or gender or sexuality out of, say twenty pieces that assume a Universal Sex Worker, simply to point out the difference. What power have we taken away from you that brings you so low? The answer, from what I gather from reading the posts on this subject from Kelly James, Amanda Brooks, and Maggie McNeill, to name a few, is a fundamental anxiety that by pointing out difference we ‘fragment’ the movement. A subplot to this concern is that there is some ‘reality’/’majority’ that is betrayed by all this difference. But what do you get when you add up people of color in the sex trade, recent immigrants, young people, queer people, transgender people, straight men in the sex trade, street workers, differently-abled sex workers, and other people differently-impacted by criminalization? Who is the majority then? Even if you claim there is some ‘Invisible Majority’ out there we aren’t reaching, what does this majority look like? How do we know, in an illegal and informal economy like the sex trade that is so utterly compromised by stereotypes, how many people do what and what they look like? As a case in point, a DOJ-sponsored study, using more money and time and resources than our meager researchers could ever muster as a result of federal ‘domestic trafficking’ funding, and with every incentive to skew the other way, found that out of young people in the sex trade in New York City a whole 54 percent of this population are boys who serve men. 54 percent. Who would have ever guessed this, and how many times do you intend for us to repeat this mistake across every category of difference we could imagine?

    This isn’t just about ‘exclusion’ its about the strength of our argument. To extend the statistic further; what does this knowledge of the 54 percent do to the arguments of our enemies? How can they claim that prostitution is violence against women when 54 percent of the population of young people trading sex are boys, and that many of these are boys are straight-identified boys who serve men. Why aren’t they out there ‘saving’ them? Why isn’t prostitution actually violence against men? This concludes my point; difference does not fragment the movement or distract from some crucial and imaginary ‘majority,’ nor is it some personal attack on your ‘PC’ factor, it’s what informs us of each other and our shared as well as solidarity-inspired priorities. It’s what keeps us in the same room and the same streets and the same prisons. It’s why you (whoever this ‘invisible majority’ is supposed to be), fight in the first place: for recognition. Finally, it’s why when myself and others (or when others do so to me) testify to our difference we are not clenching our fists, but opening our hands.

  15. SWA — Yes, my thoughts exactly. Once prostitutes have the same civil rights as any other citizen, police likely won’t come up excuses for arrest. It’s much easier to start internal investigations or push for a lawsuit for wrongful arrest if one has basic civil rights.

    Will — Since I am someone involved with a vast swath of sex workers who are indeed ignored by the movement, I can assure you they feel excluded. They do not feel the movement is relevant to them. They WANT to create action and change and are making steps to do so. Change will come only by large numbers, not by small individual groups of people trying to accomplish basically the same thing but lacking the power of numbers.

    The movement is blithely ignoring an enormous population of sex workers spread all over the US simply because they’re not politically-correct people. It’s not a smart strategy for success.

    XX

  16. Will – I don’t “feel attacked for my opinions”. I have not (yet) been personally attacked. However, there has been recent incidence where another activist was in fact personally attacked for her opinions, and for not being as inclusive of certain “subgroups” on her own blog as some apparently feel she ought to be. Perhaps you may have heard about it.

    “‘ticking boxes’ across race, class, gender, etc. is a futile exercise given our shared oppression under criminalization”

    It’s worse than a futile exercise, it’s one that is detrimental to the movement as a whole.

    “At every step of the way, these boxes greatly, and I can’t emphasize that word enough, impact the scale and, perhaps most importantly for this discussion, type of oppression any given sex worker experiences. Without these conversations of difference, how would we remember to fight criminalization’s different effects on the vastly different people involved in the sex trade?”

    Oppression is oppression; you said it yourself – “We have been denied the same jobs and benefits, We have been hunted by the same vice squad, We have been held in the same prisons”

    I am tired of the incorrect assumption that because I am young, white, and attractive that I am somehow “privileged” and do not experience the same oppression as a sex worker that non “privileged” sex workers experience.

    “What threatens you all so much that you have to cry ‘PC’ when someone writes one piece on race or class or gender or sexuality out of, say twenty pieces that assume a Universal Sex Worker, simply to point out the difference. What power have we taken away from you that brings you so low? The answer, from what I gather from reading the posts on this subject from Kelly James, Amanda Brooks, and Maggie McNeill, to name a few, is a fundamental anxiety that by pointing out difference we ‘fragment’ the movement. A subplot to this concern is that there is some ‘reality’/’majority’ that is betrayed by all this difference.”

    I don’t feel “threatened” or that any “power” has been taken from me; on the contrary, this has opened the door for me to say what’s been on my mind for awhile.

    I have lots more to say, but as I’ve already been working on a column on my own blog about this very issue, I’m gonna address it there and will copy and paste relevant parts here or maybe just post the whole thing. Give me a few days – I’m a slow writer🙂

    and again….it’s nothing personal against you or anyone else! Intelligent debate is a positive thing, and it brings positive change!

    KJ

  17. sorry I forgot – there is a “majority” that is betrayed by all this difference.

    Everyone.

    KJ

  18. “We have been denied the same jobs and benefits, We have been hunted by the same vice squad, We have been held in the same prisons”

    “I am tired of the incorrect assumption that because I am young, white, and attractive that I am somehow “privileged” and do not experience the same oppression as a sex worker that non “privileged” sex workers experience.”

    When I worked the streets in New York (many, many years ago), cops arrested my Puerto Rican and African American sisters in sweeps, while us young white workers were still holding down our corners. Oh for sure, young white workers got arrested too. But one sister, Puerto Rican, arrested 137 times, 137 trips to Rikers Island, to my ZERO in the time I knew her. NYPD just as transphobic and homophobic as they are racist. Transgendered workers work with transphobic targets on their back and that is every second of every day that they are out in the street.

    When I was a heroin addict, cops walked right by me to arrest the Black man, easily 1,000 times. They got to go to jail, more likely state prison, I always got to go home and get loaded.

    When the state makes laws criminalizing sex and drugs, it’s a disproportionate number of black and brown people who get arrested and go to jail/prison. As an example, African Americans account for 13% to 14% of drug use/sales but they account for 60% of the arrests. Look at the at statistics of who’s in jail and prison and then tell me we all suffer under the same oppression.

    I was once young and white. With the life I have led, the only reason I got to get old is precisely because I am white and there was not one second I did not benefit from white privilege.

    The most oppressed people, whether they are oppressed because of racism, homophobia, transphobia or country of origin (racism again) belong front and center of every struggle. That does not divide us, it absolutely unites us.

  19. Lisa – It’s funny you say that….I just picked up my laptop to sit down and write as I was just thinking something along similar lines! LOL

    And ya know what? I agree. I’ve been writing a totally unrelated piece about fascist America and so have recently read a lot about just this subject.

    First off, the criminalization of sex and drugs is unconstitutional. Secondly, it is impossible to objectively enforce such laws which gives law enforcement the opportunity to enforce them at their discretion and – bam – 75% if not more of the prison population in America is black or brown. Go fucking figure.

    “With the life I have led, the only reason I got to get old is precisely because I am white and there was not one second I did not benefit from white privilege”

    Agreed to an extent. Things are probably a little different now then twenty or even ten years ago in that law enforcement has become more prevalent as well as more stringent towards everybody. Additionally, things are different in different cities across the country. I’m originally from NY myself and things in NY and things here in Phoenix work a lot differently.

    Most importantly to this issue, the business of sex work has changed drastically in the years (almost 13!) I’ve been in it. Much of street work has gone online and lemme tell you what – LE is just as happy to bust a white sex worker with fake tits as a black, hispanic, transgendered, or male sex worker….if not happier.

    However, I totally agree about the definite relation of race/gender/class to civil rights in this country, BUT this is a sex worker forum and at least here we are sex worker activists not civil rights activists…and it’s important for us to be the most effective sex worker activists we can be, which means working towards a goal in solidarity. Please believe – I am all about the individual – but here we are all sex workers.

    love KJ

  20. If I went to a feminist forum and told them that when referring to women they should use the term “women, including women involved with sex work” they would look at me as if I had two heads.

    How about if I came here and said that when referring to sex workers everyone ought to say “sex workers, including Jewish sex workers”?

  21. “If I went to a feminist forum and told them that when referring to women they should use the term ‘women, including women involved with sex work’ they would look at me as if I had two heads.
    How about if I came here and said that when referring to sex workers everyone ought to say ‘sex workers, including Jewish sex workers’?

    Absolutely bang on.🙂

  22. my opinion is posted on my blog – sincerelykelly.com “Rational thought and ‘the pc factor'”

  23. I think it’s great that you got published in Gay City News, Will.

    It’s about time that the mainstream LGBT starts to recognize that there are LGBT sex workers who should also be acknowledged. Kudos.

  24. I think it’s great that you got published in Gay City News, Will.

    It’s about time that the mainstream LGBT movement starts to recognize that there are LGBT sex workers who should also be acknowledged. Kudos.

  25. Sorry for the double-post.

  26. […] interconnected with some things I discussed on December 22nd and 27th.  The first appeared in Bound, Not Gagged on Christmas Day; the commentary after the article is definitely the most interesting part.  While […]

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