We found out yesterday that Maggie’s: Toronto’s Sex Worker’s Project (where I serve as a member of the board of directors), along with Stella, POWER, Scarlet Alliance, and every single organization that supports decriminalization of sex work have been rejected for intervener status in the upcoming Supreme Court of Canada hearings, which are scheduled for June 13th.
Accepted for intervener status (partial list):
What does this mean for the upcoming hearings? While both lower courts ruled in favour of decriminalization, it is not looking hopeful that the Supreme Court will side with their logic. If the Supreme Court does not rule in our favour, it is unlikely that they will agree to hear a sex work decriminalization case again for the next ten years or so. That means that this is basically our last chance for a very long time.
The climate at the Supreme Court right now is looking pretty bad for all Canadians; in October the Supreme Court ruled to increase the requirements for HIV-positive people to have sex, making it twice as difficult to avoid criminalization. If you are living with HIV, you must now both use a condom AND have a documented low or undetectable viral load, if you are not able to disclose (side note: many are unable to disclose their HIV status, either due to the intense stigma associated with it, fear of criminalization, and/or the unfortunately very real danger of violence). While many organizations do not draw a line between these two issues, those of us who have been, continue to be, work with, support, and love street-based sex workers have to view these two issues (decrim of sex work and decrim of HIV non-disclosure) as inseparable.
Both of these issues disproportionately affect people of colour, trans women, cis women, prisoners, gay men, lower income people, and both documented and undocumented migrants, and those who exist at the intersections of these identities. As I have argued at length in the past, and will probably have to continue to do in the future, the decriminalization of sex work and HIV non-disclosure are two of the most pressing legal issues for trans people in Canada. These two legal issues account for the majority of trans people being put into jails and prisons and exposed to police violence. The Crown (Government of Canada, for you Americans out there) has relied on “expert witnesses” such as JANICE RAYMOND (author of the transphobic screed The Transsexual Empire, which is directly responsible for the deaths of trans women in North America) and now on interveners such as Vancouver Rape Relief (one of the most openly transphobic feminist organizations in North America).
There is, unfortunately, little we can do at this stage, as the decisions are out of our hands now. I feel that it’s important to get this information out into the world, and particularly out to trans communities who are disproportionately affected by criminalization, police brutality, and anti-sex worker stigma.
Debrief of the No More Apologies: Queer Trans and Cis Women Coming/Cumming Together in Toronto, Canada.
My babely friend Jade talks about the No More Apologies conference that I was the working group chair on creating. Check it out!
“Babe can you call me the editor of Xtra is using my boy name on his FaceBook in referring to the story I did.” I saw this in my FaceBook messages. It had been a particularly frustrating day – a hard day at work on top of having just been dumped by the girl I was seeing, and then again by the boy I had my eyes on – and I just couldn’t deal, so I ignored Lexi’s message. Not because I didn’t care, but because I only have so much energy.
The day before I had gotten a call from a reporter I knew from Canada’s Gay and Lesbian newspaper Xtra. Andrea Houston was looking for a sex worker to interview for a story she was writing on sex work – a topic that’s being hotly debated right now due to the constitutional challenge underway in an Ontario court over three of the main anti-sex work laws in Canada. I recommended my friend, trans sex worker/reality TV star/filmmaker Lexi Tronic. Lexi’s a smart woman with an incisive tongue and always an interesting take on things. She doesn’t dress things up all pretty like cis feminist sex worker activists like; she tells it like it is – the positives and the negatives – and that, to me, does more to help the decriminalization cause than any happy Gender Studies grad student hooker can.
Lexi was more than happy to be interviewed by Andrea, and she consoled me a bit on my bruised ego, post-dumpings. Lexi’s a solid friend like that. And then off the phone with me, and onto the phone with Xtra. All was well with the world.
The story went up on the online edition of Xtra the next day with the deeply unfortunate title “The Dangers of Sex Work,” but all in all, it was a decent story. Xtra has a history of being a bit sensationalistic, especially when it comes to trans and sex work stories – their profile of me a month previous described my twelve year old self in the very first sentence as a “lost and confused drug addicted trans sex worker,” for example. But, generally, it’s pretty innocuous.
Then came Lexi’s FaceBook message. She followed this up with a copy of messages sent between her, a mutual friend of ours who had alerted her of her former name being used, and the editor in question – Danny Glenwright. In the messages, a surprisingly calm and polite Lexi explained that it was problematic for him to post Lexi’s former name when referring to the article on his FaceBook wall, gave him a link explaining how to respect trans people, and then wished him, in true Lexi fashion, “orgasmic love” for the holidays.