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.

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