Luna Allison / Ottawa / Friday, December 02, 2011
UPDATE – Nov 28: Twenty years ago Gerald Hannon described himself as a satisfier of human need, whatever that need may be, in a poetic love letter to sex work.
He read the essay on stage at his retirement party Bone Weary: A Fond Farewell to the Sex Trade at Goodhandy’s Nov 25.
“Prostitution has been the splendid discovery of my middle years,” he says.
Nov 27: As Gerald Hannon cheerily welcomed friends to his retirement party at Goodhandy’s Nov 25, video of a younger Hannon, wearing only a balaclava while masturbating, appeared on a screen behind him.
The backdrop to Hannon’s party, Bone Weary: A Fond Farewell to the Sex Trade, included a video montage of images from Hannon’s life during his years as a sex worker, put together by friend and video artist Peter Kingstone.
“They’re not all of me jerking off,” Hannon grinned. “There’s soft-core videos, art films, gay wrestling. There’s another of me on a pogo stick. I’m fully clothed in that one.”
By Niresha Velmurugiah——
I recently attended a workshop by Vancouver-based sex worker support and advocacy agency, PACE, on providing health care for sex workers. PACE is a sex-worker driven organization, and the guidelines at the workshop are based on firsthand experiences with service providers. I left the session content with the progressive care for workers in such a marginalized profession. Then my friend remarked, “Isn’t it messed up that treating people with respect has to be such a revolutionary idea?”
The advice from the workshop was a sad reflection on the status quo. Don’t treat sex workers like they’re dirty. Acknowledge the interplay between sex work and drug use, and how intertwined the two often go. Don’t brush off sex work as illegitimate. Don’t talk down to sex workers or treat them like they need saving. Respect the terms sex workers use to describe their profession. The underlying themes of respect and sensitivity to the context of a person’s life are basics of health care provision. There is, however, a discrepancy between theory and practice, because current health care fails sex workers.
In a perfectly “free” labor market, everyone theoretically has the right to exchange work for commensurate compensation. But a free market is not necessarily a just one. And when the commodity is sex, how free is too free?
Sex work, and its attendant culture wars, have moved over time from traditional brothels of urban lore to online marketplaces, raising new questions about private and public freedom. In the digital world, how should trust and power be negotiated between provider and client, both encircled by systemic gender and economic inequities?
On this slippery battlefield, anti-trafficking advocates are campaigning against Village Voice Media’s Backpage, an ad portal featuring “adult” ads notorious for facilitating sexual services involving minors.
“This is such a prestigious award — an award I thought a group like POWER could never win,” she says.
For the past decade, I have had the great fortune of working closely with sex workers in the DTES and across the country who are fighting for safety, equality, legal rights and social protections for women and men in the sex industry. When I first began campaigning on this issue, I thought that, as a lawyer, I could make a particular contribution to this movement by bringing test cases that would advance rights and protections for sex workers. I thought that by providing pro bono legal representation, a major access to justice hurdle was overcome. However, what I did not know was that one of the biggest struggles would be for sex workers to simply get their day in court, and that there are many other systemic barriers for sex workers who want to engage the legal system to assert their rights. A long struggle for access to justice for sex workers continues and, in January 2012, Pivot will continue this fight at Canada’s highest court.
Maggie’s is having a party! Here’s all the info you need:
Maggie’s: Toronto sex workers action project is celebrating 25 years as on of the oldest sex-worker-run organizations in the world & we want you with us at our big $exy bash!!
Join us as we celebrate our activism, advocacy and successes. There will be door prizes, performers, cabaret and much more!
JUST ANNOUNCED! Performances by Lucas Silveira, Ill Nana, Coco la Crème, the Pole Club, Sabrina (you know her from the Russian version of Wife Swap) and MC Jazz Kamal.
Chester Brown reads from his john memoir Paying For It. DJs Cozmic Cat and Secret Agent keep everyone grinding till the wee hours. And, of course, Filmore’s house dancers are around to do the business at hand.
WHEN: Sunday October 30, doors at 7.30 PM
WHERE: Filmore’s Gentlemen’s Club, 212 Dundas Street East
HOW: Advanced tickets are available now at Good For Her, Maggie’s Wednesdays Noon – 5pm, otherwise by emailing us for ticket purchase at pick up at email@example.com
Tickets: $5 for sex workers (no one turned away for lack of funds) | Allies: $15-20 sliding scale – Additional generosity welcomed from all!
We are recruiting volunteers for the event (including hostesses, postering crews, attendant care etc) as well as auction items.
If you are interested, please contact us. Priority will go to sex workers and items that are of practical use to sex workers.
ASL interpretation provided | Wheelchair accessible space but only partially accessible washrooms | 19+ ID required by the club
For more information, visit us at: www.maggiestoronto.ca
All proceeds from this event will go towards the legal costs of our joint fight, with other sex work activists for the total decriminalization of sex work in Canada.
Check out this story about our ba$h in this week’s NOW magazine by Sasha Van Bon Bon
See you there!
~Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project
By: Melissa Sontag Broudo and Penelope Saunders
October 27, 2011
In the last four weeks, many have been wondering what has driven people to Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and bring attention to the economic situation that has developed in our country. Critics have argued that so many issues are being discussed and that so many disparate groups have joined forces, that the occupation has no cohesive message, purpose, or goals. As our group of sex workers and allies stood in solidarity with our fellow revolutionaries Wednesday, October 5th at the rally at Foley Square in New York, it was apparent that we were included in that critique or question. What were we doing there? What was our purpose? What was our message? And how do sex workers’ rights connect to the larger OWS movement? Those of us who were there, or who are active in the sex workers’ rights movement generally, have no doubt about how we fit within OWS and how OWS fits within our movement. United, in solidarity, with everyone coming together in Zuccotti Park and in all the plazas nationwide, we can bring about greater change. After the rally, we decided to highlight the points that bring together our intersecting movements and realities.
As a part of GFEST – Gaywise FESTival 2011 activities, a role play and narrative workshop is planned on 17 November at The Cockpit Theatre. This FREE ENTRY workshop will explore the theme ‘HIV and sex work in the UK’ :Not A problem but part of the solution.
Q & A session with sex work activist and workshop leader Thierry Schaffauser:
Can you briefly explain what will happen in the ‘HIV and sex work in the UK’ workshop?
We will introduce different issues for sex workers, and male sex workers in particular, in terms of health and (HIV) prevention.
What do you aim to achieve through this workshop?
The main idea is that sex workers are not the problem but part of the solution. It will depend whether the audience will be sex workers or people who are just curious about sex work issues.
Why are sex work & HIV important issues ?
Sex workers have always been ‘scapegoated’ as disease spreaders even before HIV. We want to question the stigma attached to sex work and its impact on our health and well being.
You had a ‘Sex Worker Open University’ event recently. What were the learnings and why people should be engaged with Sex workers issues?
The Sex Worker Open University was a great event to share our experience, skills and knowledge among ourselves. It was a safe space where we could talk about our working conditions and personal life. Many sex workers feel isolated so we try to create spaces where we can address our own issues without any judgmental approach that we usually experience from the professional “rescue industry”.
How do you best tackle the issues and any stigma around sex work?
Interestingly, male sex workers can be glamorized in the gay community, but often for commercial reasons because sex sells. In practice, many gay people see us as pretty idiots who can’t get a proper job because we are lazy, junkies or just too stupid. We need to challenge these misconceptions and show that anyone can be a sex worker at one moment of his/her life. Having a coming out strategy can help so people realise who we are but it’s not an easy option for most sex workers who may face strong discrimination, lose their day job, flat, family, friends, etc.
What are the future plans for your work?
We are involved in the GMB trade union to try to organise our industry. We also want to build our community by creating social events and safe spaces where to gather. We have a project to create a workers cooperative but this requires a lot of work and means that we don’t have yet.
Any single wish?
We wish that sex work was entirely decriminalised and that we had the same labour rights as any other worker. Sex work can be a very hard job emotionally and that’s why we need better protection.
Thank you Thierry and best wishes from GFEST team.
For more information on GFEST – Gaywise FESTival 2011 please contact: Subodh Rathod, Wise Thoughts / GFEST – Gaywise FESTival
Tel: 020 8889 9555
http://www.wisethoughts.org / http://www.gaywisefestival.org.uk
After being rejected by two billboard companies for failing to meet community standards, an ad campaign advocating sex workers’ rights is running on 50 Muni buses in San Francisco.