On Tinker Toys and Sex Work

Do you remember Tinker Toys? I do. We had a lot of building toys when I was growing up, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, Legos. And every once in a while, they’d get mixed up in our hasty “Oh crap, Mom’s coming!” panic-driven clean up, and the next time you’d go play with Tinker Toys all the colored plastic pieces and fake notched logs would tumble out. Because you’d done it wrong in the first place.

A recent “sex trafficking” bill in Hawaii, heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee this last week, does the same thing that many such bills do:  it conflates human trafficking and sexual slavery with legitimate sex work by adult practitioners in a consensual setting.

Most recent anti-sex work legislation gets it wrong.  When sex work, human trafficking and child enslavement are all thrown into the same box, legislation becomes messy, confusing, and ineffective.

Rights, Not Rescue

An open letter to policy and law makers from the Sex Workers Outreach Project of Seattle addresses this confusion:

Sexual exploitation that involves underage persons or adults subjected to force, fraud, or coercion is a serious violation of human rights; but sex work by individuals who are choosing to sell sexual services and which does not include these elements is not inherently exploitative, and it is not trafficking.

It further points out that policies which confuse “sex trafficking” with adult sex work and policies intended to “end demand” by criminally charging sex work clients (often with felonies) are often based on faulty research that is openly biased.

Adult sex workers do not need to be rescued from their chosen profession.  Many people are in the industry because it is a good living, because they are good at it, because they have an affinity for it, and some because they enjoy it.

Amnesty International calls for making sex work legal, as does the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, International Labour Organization, the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women, the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, Human Rights Watch, the Open Society Foundations and Anti-Slavery International.  Such organizations recognize that there is a difference between sex work and slavery.  They advocate decriminalization as a way of “refocussing of laws to tackle acts of exploitation, abuse and trafficking – rather than catch-all offences that only criminalize and endanger sex workers.”

In other words, stop mixing the Lincoln Logs in with the Tinker Toys, and start building something that matters.


Rabbit Hole: ACP statement, Dr. McHugh, Leelah’s Law

Symbol-des-Tages_TransGender_2006-03-29From Think Progress:  Hate Group Masquerading as Pediatricians Attacks Transgender Youth:

As trans activist Brynn Tannehill pointed out in her own debunk of ACP’s statement, it appears to have been spearheaded by Dr. Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins University. He is one of the only prominent doctors in the country that rejects transgender equality, distorting and rejecting research as is necessary to do so. Conservatives regularly rely on him to prop up their anti-trans talking points and he in turn contributes columns to their publications.

From Brynn Tannehill on Huffington Post: Johns Hopkins Professor Endangers Lives of Transgender Youth:

Somewhere out there, a parent will follow his advice. Or a court, or child protective services. We already know it happens when they do. We know the results from anecdotes and years of research, and it looks like Leelah Alcorn.

This isn’t just about academic freedom. It’s about the reputation of the institution. It’s about the moral obligation to do no harm.

And if all of those things are meaningless to Johns Hopkins administration, it’s also about liability. Someday, someone who followed McHugh’s advice, with your implied blessing, is going to show up on your doorstep with a lawyer and a dead child.

From Wikipedia: Death of Leelah Alcorn:

Leelah’s Law

A Facebook group called “Justice for Leelah Alcorn” was established,[56] while a petition calling for “Leelah’s Law”, a ban on conversion therapy in the United States, was created by the Transgender Human Rights Institute to raise awareness of the psychologically harmful effects of such practices; by January 24 it had 330,009 signatures,[47][57][58][59] and was named the fastest growing change.org petition of 2014.[60] A second appeal demanding the enactment of “Leelah’s Law” was posted to the We the People section of WhiteHouse.gov on January 3, 2015 which garnered more than 100,000 signatures as of January 30.[61] In response to the petition President Barack Obama called for the banning of conversion therapy for minors.[62] Under the Twitter hashtag #RealLiveTransAdult, many transgender people posted encouraging tweets for their younger counterparts,[63] while other hashtags, such as #ProtectTransKids, and the term “Rest in Power”, also circulated on Twitter.[9][64][65][66] A change.org petition was set up calling for Leelah’s chosen name to be included on her gravestone,[29] which gained over 80,000 signatures.[39] On January 6, Adam Hoover of Marriage Equality Ohio remarked that, since the request of having Alcorn’s chosen name on her gravestone seemed “like a slim possibility”, they would be raising money for a permanent memorial arranged as a bench, tree and commemorative plaque.[39] In April 2015, President Obama responded to the petition seeking to ban conversion therapy inspired by Alcorn’s death with a pledge to advocate for such a ban.[67]

In December 2015, Cincinnati became the second U.S. city after Washington D.C. to ban the practice of conversion therapy outright; council member Chris Seelbach cited Alcorn’s suicide as an influence in the decision, stating that “She challenged us to make her death matter, and we’re doing just that.”[68]

From #BornPerfect: Facts About Conversion Therapy:

All of the nation’s leading professional medical and mental health associations have rejected conversion therapy as unnecessary, ineffective, and dangerous. These groups have cautioned that the practices do not work and have warned patients that they may be harmful. For example, the American Psychological Association “advises parents, guardians, young people, and their families to avoid sexual orientation change efforts that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and to seek psychotherapy, social support, and educational services that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support, and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth.

To end conversion therapy, look at #BornPerfect: Laws and Legislation By State.  If your state doesn’t have a bill that’s been introduced yet, work with state representatives and senators to get a bill authored.  Also consider working directly with your city council.  Like the movement to legalize gay marriage, the end conversion therapy may need to start locally and as a grassroots effort.

Rabbit Hole is a regular feature that starts with one article and follows the links within that article to the next, and so on.  Look for more Rabbit Hole posts in the future.


Case Study: Arkansas

“…we have a long way to go for actual equality and justice, not only in the law, but in the eyes of the people. For now, we’ll start with the law.”

I’m looking at transgender rights and where we are in each state with the fight to get rights for transgender people. It’s a struggle that is just starting to garner support from the public in some places– and a very hot issue right now.  Even in states where there are ample protections in place for sexual orientation, there are still no protections for gender orientation.

In my research I’m looking at three areas:  does the state have protections against discrimination by gender orientation? Does the state have protections for hate crimes against transgender people? And, what does it require to get a birth certificate name changed.  But I keep bumping into a more interesting story.

Take Arkansas. Please. (Rimshot.)

Arkansas is a perfect example as to where the controversial issue is right now for most of the country in early 2016.  Now, sexual activity between people of the same gender has been legal for — gosh! — about 11 years now, although there are still no legal protections against discrimination of gay people, let alone any protections for hate crimes.  So you know that transgender rights and protections aren’t going to be an easy sell.  I mean, it’s the South, right?

But along comes the Fayetteville City Council with their highfalutin espresso drinks and liberal ways.  In 2014, they passed an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity.  That’s less than two years ago.  Lest you think that Fayetteville is stockpiled with extra radical sex positive people, though, the voters of Fayetteville defeated the ordinance that December by 51%.  That’s a mighty close margin.

Now on high alert, the state Senate met and passed the Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act in February of 2015.  That’s a little over a year ago. Why it’s called an “Improvement Act” and what it has to do with “Intrastate Commerce” is a mystery we’ll leave to brighter political minds than mind.  This is an act that prohibits “any county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state from adopting or enforcing an ordinance, resolution, rule, or policy that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law”.

It makes an exception for employees of a local government.  So basically it’s saying, go ahead Fayetteville City Council.  Do your thing and make your statements. But they’ll never be law. This Act passed both the state Senate (24-8, 2 abstentions) and the state House of Representatives (58-21, with 21 either abstaining or just voting present).

It’s worth noting that it passed without the signature of Governor Asa Hutchinson who seems okay despite being an old privileged white guy.  He made his name early in his career by prosecuting a white supremacist organization and more recently came out in favor of medical marijuana use.

While the Improvement Act was being hotly debated on the state Senate floor, the Eureka Springs City Council had their own ideas in mind.  The very same day the Act passed the state Senate and went to the state’s House of Representatives the Eureka Springs City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

In April 2015, the board in Little Rock voted in protections for transgender people.  In June 2015 that pesky Fayetteville City Council passed a new ordinance with protections for transgender people.

It’s looking good, right?

Not so much. On September 1, the Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued a statement that the Fayetteville ordinance was in violation of state law and unenforceable. Not to be squelched, the Fayetteville city council sent the ordinance to the voters, and this time it was upheld by 52% of the voters.

Arkansas is a microcosm of the kind of battle most states are having with transgender protections. People in those states just don’t want to give up their right to discriminate against deviants and use a bathroom in which presumably all the other people share the same plumbing that they do.

California, by contrast, has had anti-discrimination protections for gender orientation since 2004.

So there’s hope, but we have a long way to go for actual equality and justice, not only in the law, but in the eyes of the people.  For now, we’ll start with the law.

This piece is Part One of a series on Transgender Rights.  If you want to help along the causes of social justice, please contact your state senators and representatives, and your federal senators and representatives, and let them know this issue matters to you.  

— Virginia Lore is a cisgender woman who volunteers with The Center for Sex Positive Culture in Seattle, WA.



Transgender Rights

I’m working on putting together a graphic on where transgender rights are per state. In the meantime, from graphiq.com, here is a graph of the number of transgender people per 100,000 in different states of the US.

I’m working on putting together a graphic on where transgender rights are per state. In the meantime, from graphiq.com, here is a graph of the number of transgender people per 100,000 in different states of the US. Source is 2010 census data.  Oregon, Vermont and Washington lead at 10.6 transgender people per 100,000.

Tea & Consent

I ran into this video awhile ago and it’s stuck in my mind. It’s the perfect video for explaining consent to someone who just. doesn’t. get it.  If that sounds like someone you know, see if you can share this video with them, and then find out what they think. It could be a life-changing conversation.

Why the Queer Struggle Matters to Kinksters

“When it comes down to it, it’s about solidarity in our stand for sexual freedom, and it’s about knowing what it feels like to be hurt because of whom and how you love.”

From Top to Bottom

So yesterday was National Coming Out Day in the States, and today I’d like write a bit about why the queer struggle for equality is absolutely necessary to the health and vitality of the BDSM community.  The “duh” explanation of this is that any legal and social vindication of sexual rights also supports sexual freedoms in other arenas.  From a common sense perspective, it’s difficult to imagine that a subculture that fully supports cross-dressing for humiliation purposes as well as gender play, the subversion of gender roles of submission/dominance, etc., would turn its face from same-sex partnerships.  For the BDSM community and gay rights, however, the symbiosis goes much deeper than superficial commonalities.

First and foremost, it’s important to remember how much the BDSM scene owes to our gay brothers and sisters.  According to Bienvenu’s 1998 dissertation on kinkster culture, the beginnings of the organized modern scene began in…

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Rape Culture Watch: No Need for Most Rape Kits

Sheriff Craig Rowland of the Bingham County Sheriff’s Department in Idaho is in hot water this week after stating in a local press interview that there is no need for a state-mandated schedule of rape kit testing.  His reason? “Most of our rapes that are called in are actually consensual sex.”

Rowland cited the example of a hypothetical 17-year-old who lied to her parents and told them she’d been raped to avoid getting into trouble for having sex, an example so common among the Blame-the-Victim crowd it is almost cliche.

Rowland’s statement (which he later apologized for on Facebook) was in response to a bill introduced by Rep. Melissa Wintrow (D) that mandates the testing of all rape kits collected, requires that the rape kits be tested in a timely manner, and sets up notification of rape survivors about where their kit is in the process.

In 2015, consortium of journalists from 75 news outlets conducted a thorough inventory of untested rape kits in the nation. They found the numbers of kits that had not been sent on for testing topped 70,000 from the first 1,000 of more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the country.

According to End the Backlog, a website dedicated to moving these tests along and advocating for rape survivors, many states are now moving to enact legislation that requires testing of these kits. If the Idaho governor signs the legislature-approved bill into law, Idaho will join Colorado, Illinois, Ohio and Texas in having policies to address the backlog of rape kits, an effort Sheriff Rowland indicated would get in the way of law enforcement doing their jobs.

As for Sheriff Rowland’s hypothetical example? The Centers for Disease Control report that 10.5% of girls and 4.2% of boys report having forced sexual intercourse (aka rape) in high school. Maybe not so hypothetical after all.

For more information on ending the backlog, see http://endthebacklog.org/