Sex Work, Criminalization, and HIV: Lessons from Advocacy History

In the current issue of BETA: the Bulletin of Experimental Treatments for AIDS, Anna Forbes has a piece concerning the links between the criminalization of sex work and HIV transmission. At the International AIDS Conference last year, the theme of which was “Rights Here, Right Now,” there was a notable absence in the anti-criminalization agenda (i.e., of drug use, MSM, people living with HIV). Very few speakers outside of the Global Village called for the decriminalization of of sex work, despite the very clear health ramifications of criminalization.

Read Anna Forbes’ article for more. I’m quoted in the second-to-last paragraph.

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Will at the Gay City News: ‘No Humans Involved:’ Ending Violence Against Queer and Transgender Sex Workers

The Gay City News, which is the most widely circulated gay weekly in the United States, published my editorial today, entitled No Humans Involved: Ending Violence Against Queer and Transgender Sex Workers. I didn’t just write it for the ‘gaystream,’ however. I also wrote it for the sex worker movement, which produced some very nontrans ‘woman’-centric statements for the Day to End Violence. The fact is that queer and transgender sex workers, especially people of color, low-income folks, and homeless persons, have long been targets of cops and serial killers.

This editorial is a small step in the direction of remembering and reclaiming the names of those who have died: those who faced death alone in the cold arms of heartless killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy, Jr., but also those of us who have been raped by the police, kicked out of our homes, incarcerated, and abandoned.

I also did a radio interview on the subject, just click on the following link and clock in one quarter of the way into the interview on WBAI’s Out-FM.

‘No Humans Involved': Ending Violence Against Queer and Transgender Sex Workers

To mourn the victims of murder, incarceration, and intimate partner violence in their midst, this past December 17, sex workers, clients, and allies filled New York City’s Metropolitan Community Church and marked the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. The Day was honored by more than 27 cities this year, from Nairobi to Hong Kong. Here in New York, the high-ceiling room of the church reverberated with the names of the dead.

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Will at WBAI’s OUT-FM: Violence Against Queer and Transgender Sex Workers

Listen to this interview with words from Audacia Ray, Chelsea Johnson-Long, myself, and Sienna Baskin on WBAI’s Out-FM. I speak from 1/4 in on, specifically about the mainstream LGBT movement’s relationship to sex work. Thank you to Chris Thomas for the interview, especially the flattering introduction.

From WBAI: “On December 17th at the Metropolitan Community Church, a hundred sex workers and their allies met to commemorate the 7th annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Sex worker activists and members of the community shared their stories and honored the 60 sex workers known to have been killed in the past year. They focused on the different forms violence can take, from the serial killer in Long Island to everyday police violence. Out FM documented the entire event.”

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Will at Research for Sex Work: Sex Work and Violence

The Global Network of Sex Work Project’s (NSWP) 12th issue of Research for Sex Work is now available as a PDF file. Read about how the criminalization of sex work increases the vulnerability of sex workers to human rights violations and violence. Despite oppression, sex workers are raising awareness, working with policy makers, and organizing against this violence.

I was not an editor but a peer reviewer for this issue.

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The ‘Red Umbrella Fund’ Donor Collaboration to Advance the Human Rights of Sex Workers

I’m usually on the outside looking in when it comes to political organizing: scrambling to reach an editor before a deadline, coordinating flash mobs to surprise politicos, or cobbling together press releases and teasing the press, hoping for a bite. I have more recently resumed participating in the only real ‘establishment’ activism that is available to sex workers, which is public health research.

While the majority of the work is focused in a general sense on access to HIV prevention and treatment for all sexual minorities, on rare occasions I’m gifted with an offer to work on sex worker organizing. The ‘Donor Collaboration to Advance the Human Rights of Sex Workers’ was such an occasion. I worked with two other consultants to produce a recommendation for the collaborative donor mechanism, as well as its governance and administration. In the end, a number of donors, both veteran funders and those newer to the issue, and sex worker advocates gathered to commit themselves to additional funds to human rights-based approaches to sex worker movement building. Read this summary from Mama Cash for the outcome.

‘Nothing for us without us’
Collaborating to Advance the Human Rights of Sex Workers

Amsterdam, December 9 and 10, 2010


Donors and sex worker activists from around the world gathered in Amsterdam on December 9 and 10 for a historic convening hosted by Mama Cash and the U.S.-based Open Society Institute’s Sexual Health and Rights Project. Calling itself the Collaboration to Advance the Human Rights of Sex Workers, the group is committed to generating new funds and advocating for human rights-based approaches to building sex workers’ movements.

The sex worker-donor collaboration is unprecedented. One of its first activities will be to set up a fund that will attract new resources for sex worker-led organisations that use a human rights framework. The funding will support core costs, capacity building and crisis response.

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Will at $pread: “The Red Thread: A Time Line”

“The Red Thread: A Time Line,” by Will Rockwell and Christina Cicchelli, an except from $pread‘s Issue 5.3, the Age Issue

In honor of the many hard-fought battles of those before us, $pread has included a special time line for the Age Issue, highlighting the accomplishments of the sex worker movement. We have limited ourselves to the period between the 1970s and the present in order to spare you the Sumerian cuneiform. We have largely focused in on the U.S. and Canada because of our experience-base and that of our readership. We have, however, taken the opportunity to emphasize the very real impact of a globalized movement on the U.S. and Canada, with entries on the Netherlands, India, South Africa, Mexico and Taiwan, to name a few.

In an effort to spice up the onward-ho foot-dragging of whore history, we have included a few of the more infamous showdowns within the movement, as well as a few choice game-changers that have altered the playing field itself. In researching the time line, we have waded through the tremendous highs of the Whores Congress and Lyon church occupation to the extreme lows of sex worker serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer and Robert Pickton, as well as the criminal policies of governments and aid packages such as the anti-prostitution pledge. Here’s hoping we learn from the lessons of the past and hustle them into the future. Our increasingly international movement needs movers and shakers now more than ever. Enjoy the time line and enjoy the times. Onward, hos!

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Will at MotherJones.com: “Lipstick and Elbow Grease,” an Interview

Read the interview here.

I prefer to call this article “Lipstick and Elbow Grease” instead of “It’s Not Selling Your Body, It’s Controlled-Access Rental,” because the latter was chosen by the editors from a quote I explicitly referenced from Craig Seymour that they failed to credit. Additionally, there is a significant misrepresentation in the line “a male sex worker who’s serviced men for almost a decade,” that I have attempted to correct with many phone calls and emails. Let it be said: I worked professionally for more than five years, but while I left home at 16 and pulled my first trick at that time, I only traded sex informally for resources on and off until I started professionally.

Other than these mistakes, I thought the interview was well worth it, and I hope other leftist publications will follow suit. Thank you to Titania Kumeh for the interview and for her continued coverage of sex worker rights issues. In any case, take a load off and read the interview, or just skip the interview and read the very entertaining comments, which I usually avoid but simply couldn’t get away from this round. According to one reader, I have a “VIP mentality” when it comes to sex work. Well, pop open the champagne!

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