A lot of my writing is for an audience of insiders -- communities and people I know my way around, who are mostly queer or queer-positive, sex-positive, and sex worker-friendly. Today, I am writing for an audience I don't normally write for, about an event that is very important and dear to me. Please read on, and consider forwarding this post to someone you know who might need to see it. Thanks.
I want you to participate in International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers -- wherever you are -- because violence against sex workers is something that affects all of us.
Day to End Violence is this Wednesday, December 17th. These are the events happening in the Bay Area, where I live. Members of the writing class I teach (Sex Workers' Writing Workshop) will be reading at the San Francisco event. There are also events happening all over the world. Please check and see if something if happening in your hometown, and join us.
Chances are, you have a sex worker friend or family member, even if you think you've never met a sex worker before.
Popular stereotypes of sex workers tend to paint sex workers as cisgender women who are either impoverished and downtrodden streetwalkers or privileged, vapid, and politically clueless happy hookers. The stereotypes come complete with hugely racist and classist assumptions -- generally, the Downtrodden Streetwalker is portrayed as a woman of color, and the Clueless Happy Hooker is portrayed as white. But the truth is that sex workers are members of every ethnic group, every socio-economic class, every gender, every sexual orientation. We are all sizes, we are disabled and able-bodied, and we are old and young. We do all kinds of sex work, from nude modelling to phone sex to pro-bdsm to prostitution.
We also all have different and complicated relationships to our work. Some of us want to get out of the industry; some us love our work and would never want to stop; and some of us exist in places between those two extremes. It is important to remember that people's relationships to their jobs, to money, and to what they are called to do in the world change. Sex workers are no different from people who don't work in the sex industry in that respect.
Sex workers show up places that might surprise you. Sex workers are your friends, your siblings, your parents, your children, and your distant relatives. We are the nice boy who offered you his seat on the bus today, and the cute girl in your choir at church.
I've written before about my family's history with sex work. I've been thinking about this history a lot these days, and especially thinking about how family -- both blood and chosen -- can surprise and touch us. I will say this much here: My great-grandmother was an old-school Catholic, Southern-Italian immigrant. She was poor and uneducated -- which I don't want anyone to confuse with stupid, but she did not have even a thimbleful of the resources people of my generation have. This was a woman who sent one of her children to the Convent when she was 14; a woman who said the Rosary every day. If my great-grandmother could talk about being friends with women she called "whores" with no trace of malice -- if my great-grandmother could talk about sex workers being a part of her community and her chosen family -- then I would like to challenge those of you who think you've never met a sex worker to open your hearts and minds to do the same.
At last count, 24 sex workers were murdered for being sex workers this year. That's simply disgusting, senseless, and heart-breaking. To paraphrase my brilliant friend Sadie: I want you to stop persecuting me because you don't understand me.
Furthermore, I want you to get brave, and join the fight against persecution.
-- PLEASE CIRCULATE!!! --
On Wednesday December 17, 2008, sex workers will gather to demand inclusion in San Francisco's policies to protect & serve our community. This vigil marks the 6th Annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This year mourners will convene at the Hall of Justice for a vigil to honor sex workers who've been murdered or assaulted. Sex workers are demanding that San Francisco's public officials enact policy changes that would prevent violence and improve public health.
We would be deeply honored to have you join us this Wednesday, in solidarity with sex workers organizing for our civil rights and safety. We have lost too many to violence, and we should never again.
Melissa Gira Grant
Chair, Organizing Committee, San Francisco's Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers
6th Annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers
850 Bryant St. (Hall of Justice)
5 to 5:30pm, December 17th, 2008
Following the vigil, will process together to a Memorial (hosted by Annie Sprinkle)
For our sister and brother sex workers lost to violence
6:30pm, Center for Sex and Culture
1519 Mission Street (at 11th)
Vigil Co-sponsored by St. James Infirmary (stjamesinfirmary.org)
and Sex Workers' Outreach Project (swopusa.org)
Bring a Red Umbrella in Solidarity
with Sex Workers & Our Human Rights