A non-comprehensive list of questions for Sarit Frishman

27 Sep

“What did you expect after writing that?” This one of the scores of exhausting questions I was inundated with upon publishing my last post, A non-comprehensive list of lies by Lily Fury. The questioner was someone I considered a friendly acquintance. I did what I could to support them when they reached out to the sex work community asking for help a little while ago. Signal boosted their twitter and added them to my duos page. Not much, I know, but I hoped they would benefit from a little bit of cross promo traffic. I wished I could do more.

So I guess my answer to their question is what I did not expect was to get fruitlessly scrutinized by people in my community, especially from those I shared a collegial relationship with, as a consequence of raising legitimate concerns about Sarit Frishman. The optimist in me expected that readers would share my concerns and ask some hard questions of their own. For folks seeking inspiration, below is a list of questions to get you started.

1. Where is the motherfucking lie?

Sarit swears up and down that I’m a bully, I’m viciously speculating about her, and I don’t have any proof of wrongdoing. She talks a big game of victimhood to distract from addressing anything I’ve actually said, which is less speculation and more undisputed fact.

Sarit claims “Lysistrata is one of the only orgs actually doing anything to help sex workers right now” and says their work is inspired by the Black Panthers. It does not register on any level with her how offensive these statements are in reference to an organization operated by white people that facilitated the fraud of hundreds of people to the tune of thousands of dollars.

Whether the organization was intentionally complicit or not, there needs to be some accountability owning to the fault of the organization in getting caught up in this debacle. How could this happen? By their own admission they were unprepared to manage the influx of donations. I doubt the organization has any kind of formal structure but, if they do, it is not listed on their sparse website. In fact, cursory research on the organization reveals virtually no details, absent even basic information like who the members of the organization are or roughly how the organization operates.

In light of their collosal fuck up and the dearth in transparency I see no advantage to donating money to Lysistrata so that it can act as a mysterious middle-man between the donor and the recipient. They proved their incompentence in this regard. It behooves me to understand why anyone would entrust their money with this organization, an organization that once listed the fake Bambi created by Lily Fury as one of their co-founders, rather than donating directly to the person in need. Sarit either founded an organization with someone that she never met, didn’t talk to on the phone even, and could not verify was a real person, or she was in on the scam.

2. Where is the money coming from?

Lysistrata claims in the scant paragraph on their website that they are “largely funded by higher end sex workers.” However, the workers who confirm they received money from the organization are clear in their understanding that the money came largely out of pocket from Sarit herself. While she so generously bails out workers in financial trouble she at the same time claims that she is a low-income street worker who struggles to make ends meet charging double digits on the stroll.

Bitch, where? What stroll in NYC is Sarit Frishman working? Anyone even vaguely familiar with street working in NYC can tell you that the stroll is dominated by Black and Brown workers. Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with Sarit can tell you that she does not hang with Black and Brown people. She is a clueless and sheltered yt with no street smarts whatsoever. Without any relationships with other workers or common sense, she wouldn’t survive five minutes on the stroll.

What is more likely, what folks who know Sarit IRL speculate, is that she is a lonely trust fund baby who spreads goodwill in the sex work community as a way to gain friends and belonging. It’s verifiable that she’s done queer porn at least once and it’s possible that she’s turned a trick here and there. But the math does not add up in support of her inflated self-identification as a survival sex worker, no fucking way, and if you believe that I also have some swell magic beans that I’d like to sell you at a super discount.

3. On a scale of zero to Rachael Dolezal, how much of a POC is she, really?

White people are not POC just because they say so and in a post Lily Fury era, where a white woman blantantly impersonated multiple women of color for the purposes of exploitation and personal profit, I will not tolerate anyone clutching their pearls at an interrogation of whiteness in our community.

Sarit does not present as a person of color. I don’t just mean that she is white skinned with white physical features, although that is most definitely true, I mean that she doesn’t not present any cultural markers of her identity as a person of color. When pressed about her ethnicity her response is “Middle Eastern Jew,” which in my world is thinly veiled code for Jewish people who appropriate poc identity. When further pressed she responds with “mixed race Turkish and Azherbaijani.”

Turkey straddles Asia and Europe geographically. It is seldom labelled a Middle Eastern country although it is heavily influenced by Middle Eastern culture. What is now Turkey was for a long time part of the Eastern Roman Empire. The capital city of Instanbul, formerly known as Constantinople, was the center for European Christianity for over 1,000 years. The greatest influx of Jews into modern day Turkey occured when the Ottoman empire welcomed Jews expelled from Spain, Portugal, and Italy in the 15th century. Therefore, Turkish Jews are primarily of European decent and understood as white people. Today, the vast majority of Turkish Jews emigrated to occupy Palestine and are strong supporters of the Zionist state of Israel.

With the literal center of caucasity, the Caucasus Mountains, running through it, Azherbaijan is even more squarely identified as a European country composed of white people. Similar to Turkey, Zionism thrives in Azherbaijan. It was a centre for the Zionist movement in the 19th century, with the first Zionist organization established there in 1899.

All of these facts put together does not a person of color make and if you believe otherwise then, again, I have these great magical beans that I can get you an awesome deal on.

4. What took her so long?

Possibly the most compelling evidence of Sarit’s advanced whiteitude is her enthusiastic propensity, typical of Darth Becky’s, toward throwing women of color under the bus. Six months ago when I broke the news about Lily’s scam publicly, she promptly appeared in my inbox accusing a Black trans woman leader in the sex worker rights community of involvement with Lily. When I raised this in my blog post last week, Sarit claimed that she received a call from someone posing as the person she accused and that she bought into it because she was confused.

Even if it was true that she accused this person purely out of confusion, that would be thoroughly fucked to put Black trans women in the line of fire for the white girl wrongdoings of her dear friend Lily, but it’s not true.

She has never behaved as someone who was called by someone impersonating a leader in our community. If that was the case, she would be somewhat concerned about getting to the bottom of it. But until I raised it she had nothing to say about it and never reached back out to me to talk about it or correct herself. To this day she refuses to provide any explaination as to how she was so readily fooled by an impersonator and failed to mention anything about it until confronted half a year after the incident, or even any receipts demonstrating that she actually received a call, saying that it would take too much effort to clear her name.

5. What do I have to gain?

Sarit’s accusation was a transparent effort to distract from my very pointed questions asking about refunds for monies donated to Lysistrata as part of the Lily Fury scandal. In response to my raising this, again in peak Darth Beck fashion, she threw the most convenient woman of color under the bus: me. This is how yt makes it hard and dangerous to tell on them. They malign you, they discredit you, they throw insults at their detractors indiscriminantly and hope that some of it sticks.

Some of her campaign against me did have some staying power. Several people picked up and ran with the absurd idea that I myself am a white-passing person taking up space in the community to, in turn, check another white-passing person for taking up too much space. These people summarily erase my identity as a person of color by comparing my full-blooded Punjabi heritage to Sarit’s highly suspect claims to POC identity.

Others said they weren’t siding with her per se but raised generalized suspicion of my motivations for bringing these concerns to light so many months later, as if my assertion that it took this long to process the experience and write it all out is patently unbelievable. There is something just “off” about it. This is the narrative of white supremacy that teaches us a Brown woman with nothing to gain earns suspicion while a white woman with ample opportunity and proximity to wrong doing is afforded the benefit of innocence.

Folks pointed to my dropping patron and paypal links at the end of my last piece as evidence of my attempt to profit off of the controversy. Let me be clear that I am a writer and an activist that deserves compensation for my intellectual and emotional labor. It’s oppressive to shame woman of color when we ask for pay commisserate with our work product and straight petty to hate on me for it when there are people who are excited to support my work. As such, I’m once again asking that folks with economic privilege, especially those of you who also benefit from white privilege, consider donating via paypal or becoming my patron

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A non-comprehensive list of lies by Lily Fury

18 Sep

Back in May I found myself at the centre of a bizarre scandal in the sex worker activist community. It takes a lot to earn the label ‘bizarre’ in the context of the sex worker activist community, a shit-show dominated by messy, clueless white women and their racist proclivities. Even in this world, where slurs against Black people are accompanied by a routine mea culpa, the magnitude of senseless white supremacist greed exhibited in Lily Fury’s absurd and violent plot is nearly unfathomable.

It’s taken months and scores of false starts to write this. To map out in print Lily’s deceit – a deceit that spans months if not years and dozens if not hundreds of people, a deceit that hit me in my heart – is a daunting task that I’ve finally given up on. Instead, my attempt here is to make a running list of her lies and their corresponding truths, for the purpose of catharsis and public memory.

1. I am obsessed with her.

Lily Fury was my first legit fan. She heard me read at a storytelling even about five years ago in NYC. She contacted me to tell me my writing meant a lot to her. She joined a writing workshop I was a part of. She published a review of the film I’m featured in and this activist spotlight about me, which I’m fairly certain remains the most honest thing with her name on it, and it is so because she didn’t write it, I did.

A common misconception I see repeated in reference to what happened with Lily is that it occurred in the ‘online sex worker community.’ Lily was part of a real life community of sex workers. We were friends and colleagues irl. The experience of uncovering an extensive catfish scheme clumsily orchestrated by a close friend is incomprehensibly surreal. This is not to undermine the vast network of her online victims, but to acknowledge that many o f us let Lily into our lives and that it’s a special task to unwind the trauma of her betrayal within and among us.

Make no mistake, the moment it became clear what Lily had done she became trash to me and I relegated her to a meaningless position in my life. At the same time, her actions have far ranging consequences that require unpacking. Everyone deserves to move on from what happened but, for the sake of accountability, we can’t immediately forget it, nor can we let her forget it.

2. She and another sex worker were raped and arrested by police.

On Thursday May 18th, 2017 at 10:11pm Lily contacted me saying she was just released from jail. She said she was doing a duo with a friend of hers that I’d never met but corresponded with online, Bambi Ortiz, when their hotel room was raided and they were both subsequently arrested. She claimed that the cop had sex with them both before making the arrest. She claimed that Bambi “busted his fucking face” and that she was being held at Rikers on charges of solicitation and assault on a police officer.

Soon after, I saw that she copied and pasted most of the text she sent me and posted it as a status update on Facebook along with a fundraising request on behalf of Bambi, encouraging people to share and donate. The next day she distributed a meme with the fundraising appeal using a catfished picture of a Barbadian fashion designer that was also previously used as a profile pic on the Facebook profile she fabricated for Bambi nearly six months earlier. The meme got some traction on Facebook and then Instagram, where the Barbadian fashion designer has a significant following. She was notified by several of her followers about the fundraiser with her face attached to it. She replied to posts fundraising for fake Bambi calling it all out as a scam. Lily responded by spreading word that Bambi was simply trying to save face, she was angry that her picture was circulated because she was outed as a sex worker to family and friends.

It didn’t make sense. I contacted the Barbadian fashion designer and talked with her privately, surfed her profile. All at once I became irrevocably convinced of the reality of what Lily did. In that same instant my phone lit up with an incoming call. It was an NYC sex worker activist, Akynos, calling from Australia. She said, she had no idea what time it was where I was, she was sorry if she woke me up, but what is the deal with this woman commenting on the posts? Before she finished her sentence I was answering: Bambi is a fake. I can’t fully explain it, I told her, but I know it’s true. Akynos, with her unflappable bullshit detector, believed me immediately.

On Sunday May 21st, 2017 I contacted Lily to tell her that I figured it out. I posted on Facebook breaking the news, that after speaking to the victim of Lily’s catfishing I could assert with near certainty that Bambi Ortiz was a fake. Within a matter of hours the lie that she worked so hard to build over the course of several months was dismantled to rubble.

3. She is a mastermind.

The fact that Lily repeats this lie publicly and directly to several of her victims is both cruel and flat out ridiculous. Anyone with some intelligence and foresight could have predicted that the flimsy scheme would collapse under the weight of it’s own vacuous incredulity. The slim window of success she did gain is entirely attributable to the loving trust and open hearts of her (former) community, as well as the sheer unbelievable contention that anyone would go to such detestable lengths to commit petty fraud.

Her ill conceived plan was short-lived and minimally profitable at best. It’s entirely unclear how much money Lily actually made. The organization Lysistrata claims they refunded all of the several thousand dollars in donations they received. Additional donations were made through Bambi Ortiz’s Facebook page may or may not have reached Lily, since many of the donors filed claim to Facebook for fraud. Although the donations meant a lot to the individual donors, many of them cash poor sex workers of colour, they couldn’t have amounted to much more than a few bills added to Lily’s bank account.

Regardless of how much money Lily cashed in (not much) the consequent losses are staggering. Her stunt cost her all credibility, good faith, and friendship in the sex work community and as a journalist. There are literally hundreds of people touched by her evil that will and do go out of their way toward bringing harm and discord to her life.

As foolish as Lily is, I know that even she does not believe she achieved any success through this doomed endeavour. Pathetic and alone, having squandered any chance of redemption, she oscillates between different platitudes to bring her fleeting comfort amid the impending gravity of her colossal fuck up. At times her steadfast denial of this reality takes the form of the feigned egoism of the mastermind persona, and at other times it takes the flailing form of the white woman accuser, laying blame on any unfortunately person of color, real or imagined, within her reach.

4. Harmony Rodriguez did it.

Once it clicked in my mind that Bambi Ortiz was a fake, I came to tanother uncomfortable conclusion that Harmony Rodriguez was also a figment of Lily’s devise.

Harmony was another friend of Lily’s that I had corresponded with online but never met in person. Harmony was the only person other than Lily who claimed a real life personal relationship with Bambi. If Bambi was fake, then Harmony was either a liar or another fake. It didn’t take much to identify Harmony as a fake. Her Facebook profile pics were obviously fake, they didn’t look like each other, and there were no candid photos, no posts from friends, no signs of a real life interactions. The Spanish peppered throughout was cringeworthy in that it was flagrantly stereotypical and incorrect.

At the time of this writing Lily maintains that Harmony was the person responsible for everything. In an effort to absolve herself of guilt, she disseminated a ludicrous video with a hired Harmony stand-in awkwardly and laughably reading a scripted rant naming herself as a the sole perpetrator of the Bambi scam. As if in recognition of the transparency of this lie, she layers on other scapegoats, in a misguided effort to deflect and evade.

5. Lola did it?

Inexplicably, at one point Lily urged me to google 9298882608 to find out the real truth about who she was protecting, which led me to several sex work ads picturing her on-again-off-again girlfriend Lola. At the time of this writing I remain unsure of what the actual point was of sharing the link to Lola’s ads, if the ads were in fact posted with the consent of Lola, and the extent of Lola’s involvement in the scam. At best, Lola is passively complicit, since she never made a concerted effort to speak out against Lily’s actions.

6. She did it because schizoaffective disorder.

This is intolerable ableist and stigmatizing bullshit. Schizoaffective disorder does not make you a violently racist and exploitative person. On top of everything awful that Lily did, we can add shitting on neurodivergent people to the list.

7. She deserves mercy and/or help.

For a hot second after I went public about the scam, I succumbed to the sentiments of several of Lily’s friends, pleading for leniency. She threatened suicide. I told people to take it easy on her, that the thing our community did not need right now, in the wake of this tremendous hurt, was loss of life.

It was scary, until it became tired, which was quick. In a formidable narcissistic reversal, Lily demanded that I get her help for her problem, that I make sure nothing bad happens to her. I thought if I extended some care to her it might persuade her to own up it but, in typical white girl fashion, it simply strengthened her narcissistic claims to entitlement.

The more I observed of her, the more it became clear that Lily is the most insidious kind of Darth Becky, reeking of entitlement and privilege, peddling an origin story of struggle that doesn’t add up. She was born and raised to a white-bred family in upstate New York. Her Aryan blond sister lives in a Mexican vacation town, operating a wine importation business. Nothing about Lily except her ratty ass old weave suggests that she is a product of poverty.

Even in light of all of this, I might afford her some forgiveness if she demonstrated any remorse or accountability. But there’s no trace of redemptive actions on her part. Instead she continues to deny and transgress.

8. She will release a sex tape of me performing disgusting sex acts.

There was an unfortunate threesome orchestrated by Lily and predicated on lies, which is to say that myself and the other participant did not consent, since consent requires minimum circumstances of honesty. There is no sex tape in Lily’s possession. However, her threats of releasing the recording of me and another person, her ongoing slut-shaming, and the public explication of the sex acts we engaged in that night are rapey violations of my agency and privacy as well as the agency and privacy of the other person involved.

9. I am not, nor have I ever been, impacted by racism and I am just pulling the “race card.”

This lacks a basic understanding of dynamics of racism that I don’t have the wherewithal to explain here but, sufficed to say, as a woman of colour I am indelibly impacted by racism and it is 2017 so I’m going to need white people to stop referring to any and all kinds of “race card.”

10. I’m broke, I asked her to help me get sex work, and I’m way overpricing myself.

An odd claim to make by someone caught in a desperate debacle to make money. While my financial situation is far from stable, I can say that I’m not at all motivated to undertake a plot to defraud everyone close to me in a hopeless ploy for a few dollars. Business is good enough and I’m priced at about market rate.

11. She wants to get me on a fast, easy hustle with a big payoff.

Nah, I’m good.

12. She needs to raise funds toward legal expenses in a child custody battle.

After everything we learned is there any good reason to believe that this crowd fund to help Lily reunite with her daughter is legit?

13. Some, most, or all of this Salon article.

Lily’s lies exist just beneath the surface of the facade that is her existence. Looking back to see how lazily they’re hidden, it’s shocking to realize that none of her editors, not a single fact-checker, picked up on anything wrong. I guess this is part of the incredible luxury that is whiteness.

Lily’s articles are still published in good standing. Her Salon article, What it’s like to watch him die, is an editors pick. I remember back when it was published Lily mentioning that there were “haters” questioning the veracity of her story. I brushed off the criticisms. Never read the comments, I told her, everyone knows that.

I think now the most glaring issue with the article is that Lily claims she began her relationship with a death row inmate through letters she wrote to him as part of a court-ordered community service program that sent reading materials to prisoners. I want to live in a world where there are court-ordered community service programs that send reading materials to prisoners, but my common sense and understandings of the carceral state dictate the unlikelihood of this reality. Even if such a program did exist, I’m fairly certain it would not allow correspondence between former and current prisoners.

Casting doubt on the circumstances of their meeting puts the entire story into question. I’m unsure she ever knew this person on death row, or if this person even exists. There is a picture of Lily visiting a prisoner that accompanies the article, but what does that prove, really?

The article is largely compelling because so many of the elements are unbelievable. In hindsight, these elements are no longer unbelievable, I just don’t believe them. I don’t believe that she found a rare and incredible love under impossible circumstances, I don’t believe that they communicated escape plans through sign language, I don’t believe that she possesses a letter from him outlining the suicide of his co-defendant in the adjacent cell, I don’t believe there were wedding papers left unsigned due to an ice-storm in Texas. I even googled “texas ice storm” to see if there are, in fact, ice-storms in Texas. So I found out that there are ice storms in Texas, and yet, I still don’t believe any of it.

14. She was speaking for sex workers of colour.

In reference to an article since taken down, a round table discussion on police violence against sex workers of color where Lily participated posing as Bambi and Harmony, she claimed she did it because she needed to speak on behalf of sex workers of colour. She claimed that she needed to respond to cases like Daniel Holtzclaw, a police officer who raped and extorted Black women sex workers in Okhlahoma. She claimed that Bambi was inspired by me and other women of colour in her life.

Lily took to the extreme a white supremacist ethic running rampant in the sex worker rights community: the conception that sex workers of colour are incapable or unwilling to speak for ourselves and, as such, we want and need white women to speak for us. In this sense, she’s not much different than any of the scores of white women in the sex worker rights movement who make a career profiting on the backs of our suffering. As written by Peachinton Marie at Tits and Sass Magazine, the Lily Fury scandal is more than just a tale to keep the gossip mill running, or even an unfortunate incident of interpersonal violence, it is a reflection of the racism endemic in our community.

15. She is working with a prominent Black sex worker activist to tell her story.

After I recently posted screenshots of a text conversation with Lily where she claimed she was “working with a prominent sex worker activist to chronicle the whole Bambi fiasco in an aim for transparency and accountability” I was contacted by Peachington Marie, the author of the aforementioned Tits and Sass article. She told me she was who Lily was talking about, that she never agreed to work with her, that she was sorry that Lily was using her to further harass and abuse me, and that she told Fury to go fuck herself.

16. For an attention whore, any attention is good attention.

Every time I take to social media to out Lily, literally every time I refer to the way she terrorizes myself and folks in my communities, I am swarmed by (mostly white) detractors. There are not only the threats and insults from Lily and her allies, there’s the people on the periphery of the harm she committed, pouting that they’re tired of hearing about Lily, that I should just move on, that I’m playing into her hands by giving her the attention that she craves, that I am some how implicated in the evil caused by this white devil, and by their twisted logic the way to hold her accountable for the harm she caused is to never speak of it again.

It’s incredible how handily white people erase, excuse, and lay blame for the blatant wrongdoings of white people by scapegoating and undermining people of colour. For people who were most hurt by Lily, poor sex workers of colour, it’s important to put her behind us. Rather than demanding our silence, putting all of this behind us demands the question, how did we get here in the first place?

Why did (white) sex worker rights journalists and activists so readily distribute the call out for support while so many Black women are surviving and dying without any of us rallying to support them? Perhaps they were drawn toward a sensationalist story involving a cis white women with a great deal of social capital? How many of us are responsible for empowering Lily toward her actions?

Who is Lysistrata, the organization that took on fundraising for Lily’s Bambi scam, and what is there involvement? Several people have privately approached me questioning co-founder Sarit Frishman’s collusion. I harbour my own doubts of her innocence and suspicions about her that predate the Lily scandal. In a recent article she likened Lysistrata to the Black Panthers and lamented on her own poverty. Back in September, I had a weird exchange with her where she contacted me to tell me her parents sent her “a huge amount of money out of the blue” and offered to send me some “when the check clears.” I vaguebooked about the conversation and a mutual acquaintance reached out to tell me she doubted Sarit was telling the truth about doing sex work at all. Lily talked about how they worked together but other than that I have no evidence to support her ever sex working. After I broke the Lily story on Facebook, there was another weird exchange where she said she worried this would bring down Lysistrata and, in a bizarre move, implied that my longtime friend and colleague, a Black trans woman leader in the sex worker rights movement, was somehow involved in Lily’s fraud.

For the sake of clarity, I want to say definitively that there is no fucking way that this person had anything to do with this bullshit. She is a tireless advocate in the sex work community. Few people have contributed more to the well-being and liberation of NYC sex workers and the population of sex workers globally. The fact that Sarit made an effort to drag her into this Lily shit is not only a reason to scrutinize her, it’s a reason to to cut her out of our community like a cancer. It’s just one example of how white people exploit our community to discredit, profit off of, and destroy people of color, especially trans people of color and Black women.

There is scant information available about Lysistrata, it’s officers, finances, or any detailed information about their work. At best, it is an irresponsible organization that lacks accountability infrastructure to sustain fundraising or activist work. It’s possible that they raise money with good intentions but there’s no way to know how efficient or worthwhile the operation is. There is no good reason to believe that there’s an advantage to donating to Lysistrata as opposed to sending money directly to the people they are fundraising on behalf of, since most have their own paypal, venmo, crowd fundraiser, or a combination of ways to receive donations. It’s questionable as to why the organization doesn’t just promote those methods of direct donation rather than collect the funds in their own bank account where they retain the power to distribute, or not. When I asked Sarit back in May if Lysistrata would refund all monies raised for Lily’s fake Bambi she hedged. Later there were promises that everyone would receive refunds. But there’s no way to track whether that was done.

More broadly, I want all of us in the sex worker rights community to grapple with the question, who are these awful white women and why do we take for granted their role as fixtures in our movement? Shortly after outing Lily I heard from “Mistress Matisse” who I’ve battled since I wrestled out of her racist control a New York Times cover story on the decriminalization of prostitution, insisting better representation of sex workers of colour. Upon the Lily scandal trolled me on my Facebook page, commenting that I was somehow responsible for what happened with Lily. She then inexplicably publishing our email correspondence from over a year earlier.

There were several other random attacks by white and white passing sex workers. When I called out Tara Burns for taking up too much space in the conversation about Lily, she ridiculed me for falling for Lily’s scam and providing my support to Lily. Another white passing sex worker railed on me for being too lenient on Lily, lecturing me about how sex workers of colour rarely get the benefit of doubt, seemingly made temporarily unaware of my status as a sex worker of colour and thinking I needed to be educated on this topic.

While I respect the desire and right of people of colour victimized by Lily to move on and live their best life, whatever that looks like, for me talking about what she did and what it means in the context of our community is a radical and necessary act of resistance. Asking questions and naming names is a radical and necessary act of resistance. The pursuit of truth and truth-telling, rooting out the lies that oppress us, are radical and necessary acts of resistance.

Thank you for making it this far, even if you skimmed some of what I wrote to get here, I’m grateful for your participating in this accountability and healing process with me. This is a necessary process, an important process, but it is also exhausting, it takes a toll. For those of you with capacity, especially white and white passing sex worker activists and allies, I hope that in recognition of the emotional, intellectual, and physical labour entailed in my work to uncover and document the Lily scandal, as well as my ongoing work to dismantle the crisis of white supremacy in our movement, that you will consider supporting me by becoming my patron or making a donation via paypal.

Don’t be the “Good” White Person

17 Nov

It’s true that if we got to know each other better I could find something to like about you. I’m a sex worker and I find that skill is essential to my business model. Besides, I think most people are at their core good, even your kind.

I’m not taking new applications for white friends. You are a plague. We can’t avoid you, your path of destruction, your wake of suffering. You go everywhere and everywhere you go you bring your manmade curse: greed, hubris, and inhumanity. I know a lot of white people by necessity because I came to work for them or fell in love with them, nurtured a friendship, went to school with them or got virulently spit on by them at a dance club in freshman year.

You built your way of life on the unscrupulous protection of white women. However distasteful they may be, the pasty and tepid Abbi Fisher’s and Hilary Clinton’s, they are your modes of reproduction in the absence of many lasting cultural contributions to the world in the way of art, science, philosophy, or good food. Without Becky your people die, to the benefit of everyone else here on earth, except you.

You institute an era of lynching largely fueled by the white women’s claims of rape by Black men, which carries the duel humiliation of death and fabricated attraction to the white women. She Devil. The one who changes the name of Black children from Trayvon to Superpredator, expresses a concern for the threat of lurking Palestinians, and proclaims when it is politically expedient that marriage is between man and woman.

You enslave us to wet nurse her babies and sew her ungainly garments, subsequently sold back to all of us at a markup as a foundational element of your economy. This model you call the Manufacturing Economy steadily fails under the inefficiencies of its violence. Rather than meet this reality at eye-level your people flail into a panic over your fledgling way of life. A vocal minority of you vote for a candidacy that would keep out Muslims, commit war crimes, and build a wall. All measures that will do nothing to keep you safe from yourselves and your waining fraternity with the community of Earth.

Out of this swamp of toxic white supremacy comes you: The “Good” White Person. You are evolved. You know you are The Problem. It was a while ago that you figured that out. Since then you’ve been earning your ally cookies. Showing up to our meetings and our protests, shining your pretty white smiles for the cameras, and having your voice heard. Because it’s obvious that the only way we will fix white supremacy is to look for the solutions amongst the very people who caused it. That’s a thing, right?

In any case, eventually you gained the official title of White Ally, and a few years later you received your nomination for promotion to White Accomplice. Upon review by the People of Color High Council of your resume of success in art and activism built on the backs of our suffering and the short list of community members that you have personally abused with your racism and oppression, your nomination was accepted and you were subsequently proclaimed White Accomplice.

It took a lot of hard work for you to get there. You mastered the rhetoric of dismantling white supremacy while taking stunningly few practical measures to actualizing it in your daily life. You mastered the telling of our stories. You mastered the profiting off of our narratives. You mastered tone policing and otherwise taking up space in our movements. You mastered insidiously centering yourselves, your intrusive feelings and opinions, in our dialogues. Everywhere, you call yourself Master.

Nietzche said, “Morality is just a fiction used by the herd of inferior human being to hold back the superior men.” Under this logic you construct Jim Crow and the War on Drugs, criminalize sex work and migration, instruct the state apparatus to genocide us. You erect an ethic that relies on our existence and survival as a danger to yours.

You, The “Good” White Person, transcend all of that. In the vacuum created by your lack of overt racism you create the non-profit industrial complex, an industry premised on the monetization of socio-economic justice. You create manarchism, a fusion of misogyny and political chaos. You create bourgeoise socialism, a school of thought remaining just out of reach from the imagined and revered contemporary proletariat.

Here’s a thought: don’t be The “Good” White person. Instead, be a good white person. Give us your money. Eschew leadership. Yell at other white people upon our request. Give us your money. Marry for purposes of citizenship and insurance privileges. Use humility and proactive corrective action as your currency among us. Assign a dollar value to your white guilt, donate triple. Refrain from organizing a mission, cultural exchange, or delegation to our homelands. Stay home, give us your money. Stare into a mirror and repeat “Yes all white people.”Believe survivors of your white terror. Also, money.

Re: Thank You for Making My Bday Fabulous!

18 Oct

Dear Birthday Celebrator:

While i did appreciate the lovely company last night and I am somewhat relieved that your birthday was not ruined by the ugliness of what happened – i do want to share that i find this email disturbing in the context of my experience, my night was far from fabulous and i wish the fabulousness of your night included a safe space for all your friends you invited to attend.

I get that you can’t control what happens when you bring people together and that you don’t necessarily know how to best respond. It feels pretty messed up that you would include me in this mass email knowing that I was forced to leave last night because I felt the space was not safe. It’s tough but understandable that you didn’t take any action to address the situation, instead asking that everyone just forget about it and move on, but sending this email that completely erases my traumatizing experience feels like insult to injury.

At the table last night I overheard two of the people talking about sex work in a very problematic way. I engaged them to talk about how i am a former sex worker, a sex worker activist and leader in the community, and that what they were saying was problematic and does violence to our communities. Perhaps the most upsetting and problematic of the assertions made about sex work was the idea that  many poor people are “trafficked into sex work”.

Let me make clear that trafficked people are not “trafficked into sex work”. They are trafficked into the sex industry. They are trafficked into slavery. Sex work is real work. Sex workers are workers in the sex industry. These distinctions are vitally important to sex workers and victims of trafficking. I mean, quite literally, these distinctions are a matter of life and death in our communities.

When I tried to explain how important this distinction is and how oppressive it was to assert this conflation of terms i was met with resistance in many different forms. There was the claim that the conflation of terms is a matter of opinion and the opinion is justified because the person making it had dated a sex worker and worked in the field of sex worker human rights. There was the claim that all capitalism is exploitation, that this was an argument over definitions. Also, they did not like my tone and I should stop picking fights with other queer women of color

When it became clear that there was a conflict happening and I was asked about it I said simply, “They’re saying fucked up shit about sex workers.” I was asked if we could all just move on and forget about it. I could not forget about it. This is my life. I am a sex worker. There is an assault on our existence. I have to fight these humiliations and violences on our dignity, on our right to exist, on our right to exist and tell our own stories – this is my every day. Forgetting about it and just moving on for the sake of the comfort of others is not an option for me. Too many of us are murdered and exploited by this refusal to speak up. These ideas about sex work make a concrete negative impact on my life and the lives of people who are dear to me and the lives of people who i never knew but that i think deserve dignity in their lives and deaths. All of this is more important to me than maintaining the polite and vapid civility that “moving on” serves.

I want you to know that i will go to bat for you if you are feeling unsafe in a space. If someone is gay bashing, or misogynistic, or racist, or otherwise oppressive – i will speak up for you. It’s more important to me than maintaining the appearance of diplomacy or figuring out who was “right” or “wrong”. I will honor you and your truth if you tell me you are not safe in the space. I will not always do the right thing, i will not always be there when you need me, but i will try because it’s deeply important to me.

Below a few resources on sex work vs. sex trafficking. For folks who think, as was expressed last night, that choice in sex work is largely determined by the class of the sex worker or that that non-sex workers are just as equipped to have opinion on sex work as those who have direct experience with the work – check out the official trailer for the Red Up Doc: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECQkCKZ9ZFg&feature=youtu.be. And, check yourself before you wreck yourself – your ignorance and arrogance in speaking on behalf of our community is violent, appropriative and embarrassing.

Friends – Your reaching out to me about this directly would be so appreciated. Whether it’s “I didn’t stand up for you and i’m sorry”, “I didn’t know what was going on/I left before this happened but would’ve had your back”, “I was willfully ignorant because I was uncomfortable and I know that was wrong”, “Do you want to vent?”, “I would like to ally with you against the whorephobia you experienced”… I will gratefully receive anything you can say with honestly and kindness about the situation.

It really is true what MLK said: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Sincerely,

Retired(?) Cunty Whore

– Sex Worker Project, Human Trafficking and Sex Workhttp://sexworkersproject.org/media-toolkit/downloads/05-HumanTraffickingAndSexWork.pdf

“Confusing sex workers with trafficked persons erases the voices of sex workers, worsens their working conditions, adds to their general stigmatization and impedes discussions on ways to end human trafficking.”

– Melissa Ditmore, Sex Work, Trafficking: Understanding the Difference http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2008/05/06/sex-work-trafficking-understanding-difference/

“… treating sex work as if it is the same as sex trafficking both ignores the realities of sex work and endangers those engaged in it.”

– Ruth Jacobs, Knowing the difference between sex-trafficking and sex work – A survivor speaks http://womennewsnetwork.net/2014/01/16/difference-sex-trafficking-survivor/

“As awareness of trafficking grows, additional negative stigma is placed on sex workers because most individuals don’t understand the difference between sex work and sex trafficking.

“Sex workers are viewed by society as helpless souls who can’t possibly make healthy choices because they are victims and in desperate need of rescue. Trafficking survivors are viewed as pity cases who are incapable of doing much of anything besides art or sewing, and a pretty bedroom will solve the issues of complex trauma. Both views are wrong but it’s hard to hear the voices of sex workers and trafficking survivors through the billowing echos of the ‘voice of the voiceless.”

Prostitutes and Politicians

5 Oct

On Friday, former Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa was sentenced to one year federal incarceration and three years probation for marriage and bankruptcy fraud. At the center of her crimes was a sham marriage she paid for as a path to legal immigration. Before she was forced into resignation, Rosa was the first Dominican born woman to hold state office in New York.

Rosa, along with several former legislative colleagues, pleaded that the court consider a sentence of probation so that she could continue parenting her 16 year old son and caring for her ailing mother. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called her a phony. The judge handing down the sentence claimed leniency would do insult to all of those immigrants who pursue legal means to citizenship in this country.

Legal means to U.S. citizenship? This clearly coming from someone who has never explored these illusive legal means to U.S. citizenship. For most people, the only such legal means to U.S. citizenship is the privilege of an American falling in love with you. And, not just any American, but the right kind of American. An American who has the proper papers themselves to expand their status to you. Also, essentially, an American who is the opposite sex to yours, or at least the sex listed on your government documents.

Gabriela Rosa used money to gain that kind of love from someone. The kind that would make them feel so close to another that they would bind themselves legally and under the watchful eyes of Homeland Security to that special person. Money has a way of inspiring that kind of love; ask any prostitute.

Despite the criminal charges against her, the guilty pleas and the prison sentence, Rosa’s citizenship is already secured. She will not face deportation. One can only hope that upon resuming life after prison her mother will still be around and that she hasn’t missed too much of her young son’s life.

She could have avoided incarceration all together by taking up the offer to wear a wire. Despite being surrounded by corruption amongst her in the New York State Legislature, she was never implicated in any of it. And, despite the temptation to avoid or lessen her criminal penalties, Rosa was not a snitch.

Meanwhile, another tearful woman, Kristin Davis, also got a prison sentence. Davis – made famous as the Manhattan Madame who supplied prostitutes to her later opponent in the race for City Comptroller, Eliot Spitzer – will get locked up for two years. This time not for prostitution but for selling prescription pills. Davis said she only ever started selling the pills after suffering for four months in Rikers for promoting prostitution.

She too, like Rosa, begged for leniency. She said, “One hour in solitary confinement in Rikers was hell.” She said she came out of the prison pretty messed up and was trying to clean up her act by pursuing a career in cosmotology. Although the judge chalked up Davis’ crimes to greed, Bharara might have agreed with Davis on this one. He’s insisting on cleaning up the infamous institution, shining a light on “A deep culture of violence” and misuse of solitary confinement, amongst other criticisms.

Yet another New York elected official, one of Rosa’s colleagues in the Assembly, William Scarborough, got busted last week charged with 23 state and 11 federal crimes. Scarborough pleaded not-guilty to all charges revolving around the claim that he collected over $40,000 in falsified reimbursements.

If found guilty he will face up to 37 years in prison although, in the meantime, he will run unopposed in the upcoming election to regain his seat in January. There he will join his colleagues in the State legislature, Tom Libous and John Sampson, who also managed to stave of investigation and indictments long enough to return to their publicly funded elected positions.

Thus further blurring the line between prostitutes and politicians in New York State.

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

17 Dec
 
I joined a group of workers. Middle class white women. “High-end” escorts. They told me the first order of business was to make sure each of has someone we can call to check-in and out of appointments. “Anyone who doesn’t have a safe-call, put up their hand.” I put up my hand. Up until that moment I was not “out” as a sex worker to anyone within close enough proximity to keep me “safe” in the event that I was in danger. I have a lover who is local but he doesn’t know what it is exactly that I do and I don’t want him to know. I have friends here but they are not close friends and I’m a very private person.

I’m private by necessity. Because being poor and brown is lethal enough. Adding prostitution to that mix often makes it feel like a death sentence. It makes me consider the statement, “I would rather die than have them find out I’m a prostitute.” It’s funny in a morbid way, I think, maybe it’s true.

One of the ladies named Jollee volunteered to be my safe call. Jollee is a former big wig business woman who joined the industry after losing a major client. She says I should text her when I arrive at an appointment and leave an appointment safely. I wondered what she does if she doesn’t received an “AOK” text from me. We did not talk about what to do and she does not ask, which is fine because I don’t know what to tell her.

My closest family and friends live hundreds of miles away across an international border. I have the number for a criminal attorney that understands immigration issues. A lot of lawyers will recommend that clients charged with prostitution plead to a lesser offense but for immigrants, especially undocumented folks like me, this will often mean deportation with a lifelong ban from reentry. The U.S. maintains an archaic lifelong travel ban against anyone who they can identify as ever having engaged in sex work and they don’t distinguish between legal and illegal work. Not that it mattered; I was doing illegal work and I could not afford the criminal immigration attorney or any lawyer, for that matter, who was well equipped to represent me should I get caught. 

The assumption is that Jollee would call the police. Even though they are whores just like me, I realize they perceive that the law enforcement, that the law itself, exists to protect them. They are probably right. Jollee does not know I am an undocumented immigrant. I am an illegal and a whore. She cannot fathom how my circumstances contextualize my notion of “safety” and that the cops are more likely than any of my clients to assault me, to rape me of my sex and freedom.

They know my friend and colleague Elizabeth and they know her story. She once did a “double date” where she saw one client and his friend back-to-back. When she was done with the second guy, when he was dressed and she was still mostly naked, he pulled out his badge and arrested her. He took her condoms to later use as evidence of prostitution against her. They confiscated her money as “avails of prostitution” so she could not use it to bail herself out. They are thieves without mercy, dignity or humanity They stole everything they could from her.   

Even though the group knows what happened to Elizabeth and knows this is standard operating procedure with low rent whores like me and her, no one offers their number for me to call if I need bail money, which is the best way a person with disposable income could contribute to my safety. When the cops get a person like me into a cage they intend to keep me there for as long as possible and they usually are fairly successful in this endeavor, Bail, a good lawyer – these are things that could help. Both cost money I don’t have.

The stress of this reality is almost too much for me to bear by myself. I do not offer to be someone’s safe call. I have enough to worry about as it is. It is even too much for me to remember to text Jollee when I get in and out of appointments.

But I do call Elizabeth to talk about the burden, about the anxiety that she understands all too well. We call each other when the anxiety feels like a strangle hold. The burden does not weigh less after we speak but I seem to have a grip on it. The anxiety does not loosen because of our talks but I feel I can feel my breath again. I know that these calls to and from Elizabeth are not what they mean when they say “safe-call”. I guess these calls don’t make me any safer, but these are the calls that keep me alive.    

Five questions cool peoples should stop asking

4 May

Excuses for asking wack-ass questions:

 

    1. I was just curious
    2. I’m just trying to get to know you better
    3. It’s perfectly fair to ask
    4. You’re being too sensitive

 

To some these excuses will sound reasonable. To others they sound creepy. It greatly depends on the persons involved and context. Excuses aside, there are some questions that make the room measurably unsafe for those in question. There are other questions that are plain awkward. Whether these questions are innocuous or not, there is no question, they are oppressive questions.

 

  1. What’s your citizenship/work status? Even if you’re offering me salaried employment, I prefer that you ask me this question in writing only after we have engaged in at least preliminary contract negotiations. But your drunk ass thinks it’s appropriate to slur over cocktails “So umm… you were born in Mexico??? How do you work HERE then? You gotum ah GREENcard or sumthin?” I know you understand that people die and/or are imprisoned over this very question. This is not your cue to chime in with your thoughts on immigration policy. I didn’t ask and I don’t care!
  2. What with this whole “queer” thing? Hold on one sec while I get my Queer Identified membership card so that I can read you the universally recognized definition off of the back. Oh wait, first, let me ask YOU what’s with this whole gay/straight thing? You meet a person and you think “I am SO crushing on that person’s gender representation” or after getting to know some one better you say to yourself “I would really like to pursue a relationship with that person based on their sex organs“. And don’t give this bullshit that Queer is a political identity. It’s not. It’s a way of being, it’s the way that I exist. It’s what I am, which has nothing to do with white hipster lesbians gentrifying Brooklyn brownstones and adopting Haitian babies. I am not gay, or lesbian or bi-sexual. I am queer but it hardly matters because I have no interest in fucking you.
  3. Did you lose/gain weight? You’re being fatphobic.
  4. How do you make your money? Call me an idealist but I honestly believe that the most important things to know about some one has nothing to do with how they engage with the violence of capitalism. The paid gigs that we, as poor people of color, have to take on for the sake of economic survival often range from humiliating to illegal to stigmatized and sometimes a combination of these. Of course there are many of us who work perfectly awesome jobs. But even for them, for all of us, our jobs are not who we are. Our jobs are what we do. Sometimes our jobs intersect with who we are inside and sometimes they do not. We have varying privileges as to how much choice we have in this matter. It’s a source of hurt, conflict and stress. In short, all you need to know is that I keep it tight, aight?
  5. Are you single? Wouldn’t you like to know who and under what circumstances I am fucking. If I was interested in cluing you in, I would let you know the old fashioned way of putting a part of my body inside or strategically angled on top of a part of your body. The question you should be asking is Are you desperate? and the answer is, Not enough. Also, I find this question too intense. Like, I dunno, do you mean to ask if I’m alone and what constitutes alone? Do you mean am I alone in the world? You’ve raised an existential mystery that I don’t care to resolve in the polite company of strangers.