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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.”

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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.