At the peak of my fame in high school as the maudite tapette, the moumoune, as the fucking faggot, the man-woman, the wanna-be cunt, pick and choose whichever you want, there was one precious moment when I actually saw a spark of humanity in one of my bullies’eyes. He kicked my books, grabbed me by the hair, knocked my head against a locker door; he looked me straight in the eyes and with what to this day I can only read as sincere compassion said: “If I was you, I’d go jump off a bridge.”
Since Victoria Day 1996, every single time I get this almost irresistible urge to destroy myself, I think again about that bully’s words. And with all the strength that I can gather from my loved ones, I reiterate a promise I made to myself: that I will not die as a stereotype. And that I will not die in a way that makes it easy for a bunch of political opportunists to appropriate my death for their own filthy purposes.
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.
Of course, it doesn’t fit well with the genesis that feminists and social workers created for us. I should be here as a whiny needy whore seeking redemption and suffering from the “Poor Me, Poor Little Me Me Me I had no choice but to drop soooo low Syndrome.” I should be telling you tales about how growing up “differently-gendered” in an economically, intellectually, and culturally retarded – Oops! – “disadvantaged stratum” has left me with no other options than to sell my body. And considering most people’s perception of our clients, that equals selling my soul to the Devil. As a prostitute, I am expected to stamp my feet, drool from the corner of the mouth, and shoot an angry finger at childhood abuse, at alcoholic parents, at addiction, at a world of “gender apartheid,” even at my great aunt Rita’s bad breath. Why should I own any responsibility for what I’m doing with my life?
Well the real question is: Who wants to be the one having to face the battalions of feminists, social workers, social justice activists, journalists, and other respectable citizens who are all so furious in their determination to force our lives into that politically convenient and lucrative victim framework? Who wants to be the one having to stand up to all of them and say: “Yes, I would rather suck and get fucked by one or two dozen guys a week than have to work 9-to-5 at 10, 20, or even 30 bucks an hour like you?”
READING AND PANEL DISCUSSION ON TRANS WOMEN WRITERS
WITH IMOGEN BINNIE, TRISH SALAH, MORGAN M PAGE (ODOFEMI), AND KILEY MAY
Wednesday, April 24th, 7 pm - 9 pm
Young Centre for the Performing Arts
50 Tank House Lane
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Author Imogen Binnie is on tour with her new novel, Nevada, and she’s making a stop in Toronto!
Nevada is the darkly comedic story of Maria Griffiths, a young trans woman living in New York City who is trying to stay true to her punk values while working retail. When she finds out her girlfriend has lied to her, the world she thought she’d carefully built for herself begins to unravel, and Maria sets out on a journey that will most certainly change her forever.
Imogen will be joined by local writers Morgan M. Page, Kiley May, and Trish Salah! Together, these four amazing writers will discuss their experiences as trans women and/or femme-of-centre trans writers, and their hopes for the future of trans literature.
Imogen Binnie is the author of the zines The Fact That It’s Funny Doesn’t Make It A Joke and Stereotype Threat. Additionally, her work has been anthologized in The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard, released in Fall 2012. She is currently a monthly contributor to Maximum Rocknroll and has previously written for Aorta Magazine, The Skinny and PrettyQueer.com. She writes about books atwww.keepyourbridgesburning.com. Nevada, her first novel, was released by Topside Press in April, 2013.
Trish Salah is a writer and a lecturer at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. Her writing appears in recent issues of The Volta, Feminist Studies, and The Cordite Poetry Review, and in the collections, Troubling the Line, Selling Sex, and Féminismes électriques. Her current research is on the emergence of transsexual and transgender literatures. She sits on the editorial board of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, and is co-editing the journal’s fourth issue, focused on Trans Cultural Production. She is the author of Wanting in Arabic (TSAR 2002), and recently completed a new poetry manuscript, Lyric Sexology.
Kiley May is a Mohawk Storyteller, Artist, Creator and Shaman. Kiley is also Two-Spirit—a femme of centre Trans person, who happens to also be Queer and Genderqueer and uses they/their/them pronouns. Kiley does creative storytelling with film, photography, writing, journalism, fashion, dance and performance art.
Morgan M Page (Odofemi) is a transsexual performance + video artist, writer, activist, and Santera in Toronto. Her video work has screened in Canada, Korea, and Hong Kong, and she regularly performs and lectures across Canada and the United States. She is the founder and curator of TWAT/fest, the world’s first trans women’s arts festival. Her writing can be found at PrettyQueer.com. Her website is Odofemi.com.
This event is FREE of charge. Brought to you by Topside Press and the Student Association of George Brown College!
The Young Centre for the Performing Arts is wheelchair accessible (accessible washrooms available), and ASL interpretation will be available! One thing to note is that the Young Centre is in the Distillery District, which is largely paved with cobblestones, which might be difficult for some to navigate. If you have any questions or requests for how we can make this event accessible for you, please feel free to contact Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Tips for parking, and for getting to the Young Centre via TTC:http://www.youngcentre.ca/plan_your_visit/index.html
Accessibility info for the venue: http://www.youngcentre.ca/our_venues/accessibility.html
Check out Topside Press while you’re at it! http://topsidepress.com/
For the past few months, I’ve been working on an installation piece/sculpture. I need your help to finish it, though! Do you have empty estrogen pill bottles (estradiol, premarin, etc.)*? Want to mail them to me to be included in the installation?
The installation is a recontextualization of Janice Raymond’s notorious transphobic ‘materpiece’ The Transsexual Empire, and it is one of several responses I’ve made to attacks radfems have made on me and other trans women that I know.
If you’re interested in participating in the installation, email me at morganmpage [at] gmail [dot] com, and I’ll send you my address for you to mail them to me. If you’re in Toronto, we can arrange to meet so I can get them from you.
(As much as I appreciate signal boosts, I’ve felt pretty burned by reblogs and Tumblr lately, so please don’t reblog this post.)
Mirha-Soleil Ross, excerpt from Yapping Out Loud: Contagious Thoughts From an Unrepentant Whore, 2004-2006.
I’ve been thinking about this quote all weekend. (For the casual reader, Victoria Day 1996 is when three sex workers, two of whom were trans, were murdered in Toronto by Marcello Palma who wanted to rid the Earth of what he called “scum.” These women were Deanna Wilkinson, Shawna Junior Keegan, and Brenda Ludgate.)