The Challenge

fannie-lou-hamer-activist-nobodys-free-until-everybodysOkay, my LGBTQ and sex positive friends and allies:

This is your call to action.  Maybe you’ve been burning with anger, or immobilized by fear. Maybe you just don’t want to think about political stuff at all — jeez, I know I don’t.  I’m not a policy wonk, and while business-as-usual hasn’t worked out that well for me as a disabled person, I’ve survived.

But the battleground is set, and it’s on the edge of a volcano. We hear the ground rumbling underneath us.  It’s more heated right now than I can remember anytime in my life — and I’m in my fifth decade. The fight for human rights feels more urgent to me now than anything since Stonewall, since the fight against AIDS in the 1980s & 1990s, since the assassinations of George Moscone and Harvey Milk, since the rallying cry around the death of Matthew Shepard or any of the myriads who’ve died for the crime of being different.

In the last five years we’ve seen the LGBTQ  community gain some amazing strides: the legalization of marriage nation-wide, the Obama administration interpretation of anti-discrimination law, some strong moves forward and statements by cities, states and school districts in support of their LBGTQ population.

We have met these changes with triumph and with regret that they are still so little and long overdue.  To us, it is obvious that all human beings must have the equal rights to access to love, security, housing, education, and jobs.

For the most vocal of the Trump supporters, no.  The election results were not a surprise to me, nor to many of my friends who’ve lived in rural America.  Anyone who is poor could probably see this coming. We know what shadows lie in the system of business-as-usual, and what has to be sacrificed to keep our awareness down, to keep from being ground under its wheels.

Throughout this election year and especially after the election results, it has become more obvious to us that people are tribal. We’ve noticed that many people’s definition of tribe can’t encompass an entire country, and maybe ours can’t either. But those of us who have been in this fight, whether for years or decades, need to redouble our efforts to put the good for the whole country over the good for just the people we like.

And how do we do that?

We need to challenge the idea that any life can be disposable. We need to broaden our perspective.  We have to struggle even harder for our own rights while simultaneously insuring that the rights of other people aren’t sacrificed for our security and peace of mind. Not in this country, and not on this planet.

We need to stay informed. And we need to get our information from good sources. Read many sources not just a few.  Cruise the news. Try checking out The Guardian or another foreign paper to get news on US politics.  Don’t rely on the same sources every day. And definitely get on the mailing lists for your own representatives to stay apprised of what they are working to do.

We need to stop vilifying people.  We can despise actions without despising the humanity of the people who perpetuate them.  We aim for understanding of those who are our worst critics. Tha

We need to commit to what we can actually do.  It’s easy to get swept up in post-election fervor and it’s not hard for most people to participate in a nonviolent protest. But if I’m agoraphobic, that’s not going to be my style of activism.

What small thing can I actually do to change the world today?  Would my efforts be more useful at a local level or state level? Am I more of an online activist or a call-your-senator type?  Maybe I’m a person wh0 believes that meditation or prayer has a place in activism.  Or maybe my Vietnamese next door neighbor needs me to go with her to Social Security to make sure that communication lines stay clear because she doesn’t speak English well.

I remember why I left the peace movement in the late 1980’s — I reached a wall. I felt I’d done what I could and I didn’t have any more to give. I was angry all the time, and some part of me felt that I couldn’t be marching for peace until I had more peace with who I was. Sometimes you need to change the world and sometimes you need to let the world change you.

The Challenge

I completely understand the desire to hide away somewhere peaceful or to Netflix out for awhile — and there’s a place for that. But don’t let that be where you stay.  Make a small amount of time for political action — an hour a week, or a phone call a day. Pick an organization working for change and meet with them in your city.  Because we really can’t afford to numb out all the time. We have a clear example of where inaction leads us. Now let’s see what we can really do.

 

(Value added: LGBT rights by country or territory)

 

News Round-up, May 27

In transgender news

On Wednesday, 11 states filed suit against the Obama Administration over its guidelines ordering schools to allow access to the bathrooms of their chosen gender for transgender students. (New York Times Mag). Plaintiffs in the suit are: Alabama, two school districts in Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine Gov. Paul LePage, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, a school district in Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin. (CNN)

Also on Wednesday, Alisha, a 23-year-old transgender activist in Pakistan, died on the operating table after being shot 7 times and then taunted by men outside the Emergency Room at the hospital. (LA Times)

In sex positive news

Vice.com has a nice article about Pornceptual:

…Pornceptual is not a regular sex party where the primary goal is getting off with hot strangers—although that still might happen. The project has a socio-political mission that many parties of this sort lack: challenging the mainstream porn industry’s misogyny, [exploitative] treatment of its workers, and fetishistic views on race and sexuality by creating an alternative model based on inclusivity and queerness.

On Thursday Babeland employees became the first unionized sex shop employees in the US. (Autostraddle)

In the news about sex worker rights

Amnesty International published its policy on protecting sex workers from human rights violations. (Amnesty International)

The policy calls on governments to take several critical steps to protect the human rights of sex workers, including: decriminalize consensual sex work, ensure that sex workers are protected from harm, exploitation and coercion; include sex workers in the development of laws that affect their lives and safety; and end discrimination and provide access to education and employment options for all.

Feel free to send news items of interest to: mysticsavage@gmail.com

 

What’s so wrong with a little sex work?

We shouldn’t forget that legalizing something means you’ll get more of it.
NYPOST.COM

This opinion piece poses an interesting response to the people arguing for legalizing sex work– of which, I am one.

I would argue that there is a difference between choosing sex work from a place of shame and desperation and choosing sex work from a place of knowing that it’s a good match for one’s interests and skill set.

Prostitution does not inherently commodify women’s or men’s bodies more than professional athletics, or acting, or hell, professional mime. It commodifies their compassion and hearts and conversation skills no more than therapy or teaching. It is no more soul-destroying than being a lawyer — far less in some cases.

I’ve meet a number of sex workers — and have two dear friends in sex work.  They are not victims or survivors (of anything more hostile than the occasional bad police work). They don’t lack self esteem — they’re empowered feminists who are proud of what they do.

One of them has a client who is a paraplegic who doesn’t leave the house.  Another has clients who are shy or don’t have the social skills to approach people for sex, but still have sexual desires.  Some clients are in town for business, or are just too busy to bother with all the complications that come with having a girlfriend or boyfriend.

I’ve known people who are clients too.  There are those who visit sex workers to learn new skills, to have a physical-only relationship with a person after their spouse or partner has become ill.  Some people are clear that they want sex, not a relationship.

What is wrong with that?

 

The author of the New York Post article also uses a slippery slope approach to argue that once sex work is made legal, everyone will want to do it.  There’ll be human sacrifice, cats and dogs living together…mass hysteria! (Thank you, Peter Venkman in my head.) The fear is that economically desperate and unemployed women will receive pressure to go into sex work…like they don’t already?

What is this romantic idea about empowerment through legal work, but not illegal work? Go to the nearest Target or McDonald’s and ask the workers there if they chose the job out of need and desperation or a recognition that it matches their skill set. Then ask them how empowering their work is, and if at the end of the day they feel fulfilled or maybe just a little degraded.

The author of the article then mentions all the organizations that are against Amnesty International’s position to decriminalize all aspects of professional, voluntary adult sex work, mentioning all the organizations that are against Amnesty International’s decision. In their own position paper, “Sex Workers’ Rights are Human Rights,” Amnesty International does describe this controversy and admits to being attacked from all sides when they first announced they’d be developing a group to protect the rights of sex workers.  It’s true.  This is a hugely controversial issue.  But you know who agrees with them?  Other reputable human rights organizations.  From that paper:

We would like to claim to be the first to address this issue.  But we are not. Other groups which support or are calling for the decriminalization of sex work include 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.

It’s true that sex work is dangerous. You know why? Because it’s illegal. Until it is legal sex workers will not come forward when they’ve been harmed outside of their negotiated contract for fear of retaliation. Until it is legal, the industry won’t be regulated for safety.

Until it is legal, law enforcement will still conflate powerful, self-respecting, often feminist sex workers with human trafficking victims. Charitable groups will waste their time trying save people who don’t want or need to be saved when they could instead be devoting their efforts to real human trafficking, slavery, and the institutionalized injustices which make real crime invisible.

Why Sex Worker Rights Complement LGBT Rights

I’m pretty new to being vocally sex positive.  I’ve been polyamorous all my life, so in my personal circle, I’ve been critical of dominant relationship paradigms — for me.  I’ve been bisexual all my life, so when someone has asked, I’ve said yes, I’m bisexual.  And I’ve been submissive most of my adult life.  That actually doesn’t come up in conversation much with my friends, so while I don’t hide it, I also don’t make a big deal out of it.

But through my volunteer work with the Center for Sex Positive Culture in Seattle, and with this blog, I have become much more vocal about what I’d like to see happen beyond the personal level:  transgender people should be able to use whatever bathroom they feel is appropriate; no one should be discriminated against in employment or housing, regardless of sexual preference or gender identity (or race, age, etc.).  And this:  I believe sex work should be legal.

Why?

Because I’d like to see sex workers empowered with protections and rights.  I’d like to see the highly professional people I know who do sex work get some recognition as the hard workers they are.  I’d like the profession to be better regulated, for sex workers to be seen as separate from the current international story that human trafficking and preying on the week is what drives sex work.  I’d like the profession to be regulated, too, because that would make illegal activity around sex work more visible.  And I’d like the people who patronize sex workers to be free to do so.

I also think it’s an important human rights issue.  Currently sex workers are arrested and jailed for their motive for having sex and for whom they have sex with.  Just like at one point, gay men could be jailed, beaten, and worse for their idea of whom they found sexy.  And there is also this, from the Huffington Post:

In terms of ideology, the two movements are not so far apart. The heart of the demand for LGBT rights is the idea that all people should be granted autonomy over their lives and bodies, that anyone should be allowed to sleep with who they choose and that it only concerns the people in the relationship and not the government or bigots. The very same idea is at the core of the fight for sex workers. Why should they not be granted the same freedom? Why should they not be allowed to have sex with who they choose? — Stephanie Farnsworth

If anyone wants to be truly free on this planet, we must fight for the rights of all our people to be free.

 

 

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.