Do you support trans rights? Support sex workers too


“You literally can’t support trans people while supporting criminal laws that target them massively,” adult performer Lorelei Lee tweeted Tuesday. “[F]or a group called the National Organization for Women to tell women and working women that we cannot be believed because we are controlled by men, this is just the height of hypocrisy.

Lee’s tweets, while true, were not without provocation. On Monday, the New York branch of NOW, the famous American feminist organization, held a rally at Manhattan City Hall to protest “the decriminalization of pimping and buying sex,” calling for “a pitch agreement that protects people engaged in the sex trade ”. without legalizing pimping. The protest came just two weeks after Launch of Decrim NY a coalition for the “global decriminalization” of sex work across New York. The group hopes in particular “[repeal] offense of prostitution for transactions between consenting adults “and”[erase] prostitution cases ”for sex workers and survivors of trafficking.

For many, Decrim NY is a sign of the times: the next fight for gay rights is that of sex workers. But feminism has a long, complicated, and deeply uncomfortable the story with sex work. SWERF (Sex Worker-Exclusionary Radical Feminists) believe that sex work empowers patriarchy and ultimately seeks to shame and punish sex workers; they don’t see sex workers as autonomous human beings over their own bodies, which is the foundation of feminism.

The NOW rally is just the latest example of this oppressive understanding. Anti-sex worker rhetoric can be found throughout her announcement, arguing that decriminalization will lead to “pimping” – despite the fact that pimps are increasingly targeting sex workers since the adoption of the law known as “against trafficking for sexual purposes” SESTA-FOSTA Last year.

But something else happened during the NOW protest. Whether the organization expects it or not, transphobes have shown up to join in the bashing of sex work. On the one hand, a UK-based group called “Object Now” came up with explicit anti-transgender language: a photo capture de Grant shows two women from Object Now holding a banner that reads “NO to sex work, surrogacy and transgender”. Also there: The London Abused Women’s Center (LAWC) of Canada, which signed a letter of support for writer Meghan Murphy, who has been called repeatedly for her TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist), according to the journalist of the Appeal Melissa Gira Grant.

While the LAWC website remains relatively silent on trans topics, visit the Object Now website official web page reveals that the organization is fiercely against “transgender ideology”. Among other claims, the British group argues that trans men’s gender transition is a “form of lesbian conversion therapy”, that trans women commit “invasion of sexually protected spaces reserved for women” and that cisgender lesbians are “forced to accept These men [referring to trans women] as “women” and to have sex with them. “

Of course, neither of these unfounded ideologies makes sense if you perceive sex and gender as existing on two separate spectra. They are not supposed to do it. Transphobia and whorephobia – or anti-sex work beliefs and values ​​- begin and end with hatred of women. Nothing more than that is just a cover.

Don’t take my word for it; Grant has spoken about this subject in depth before. In his job Playing the whore, she points out that TERFs and SWERFs are marching hand in hand against a “form of reliably disposable income” for gender non-conforming workers.

“Anti-sex work feminists, on the other hand, don’t see sex work as a place for any woman,” Grant writes. “It is telling that many feminists who wish to abolish all forms of sex work, such as The transsexual empire author Janice Raymond and author of The industrial vaginaa Sheila Jeffreys, refuse to accept that trans women are women. They seem to believe that those who engage in sex work are not yet capable of being real women.


SWERFs benefit from a society where those who do not engage in sex work are seen as pure, chaste, and sexually valuable. During this time, cisgender women deserve to be seen as the default form of femininity in the world. Unsurprisingly, both of these beliefs are consistent with white, heteronormative, and Eurocentric gender roles for women. It’s for a reason. As a writer Sophie lewis explains, this is because SWERFs and TERFs see bodies as “ahistoric” and unaffected by the culture we find ourselves in.

If you treat your identity as timeless and innate, it silences the criticism. The privileged are becoming the norm, enforced by the biggest enemies of sex workers and trans people: the police, the transphobic and prostitute state, and violent fanatics. This is one of the reasons black trans women who engage in sex work are especially the most vulnerable, and why their voices should be raised.

“The upward movements of sex workers are not primarily besieged by SWERFs and TERFs, nor even by [bioconservative trans figures like] Caitlyn Jenner, but terrorists and cops, ”writes Lewis. “It is only with this meaningful qualification that we should turn to attacks coming from the right, from both anti-feminists and feminists.”

In queer and feminist theory, we talk a lot about intersectionality as a form of solidarity between the oppressed. But there’s a darker side to intersectional thinking: Sometimes oppressors band together too, from lawmakers who hate sex workers to academics who hate trans women. This is why it is so important for sex worker rights groups to elevate their trans membership and for trans rights organizations to vehemently support the decriminalization of sex work. As Lee mentioned on Tuesday, their struggles are the same.

Decrim NY has understood this well. When contacted for comment by the Daily Dot, Nina Luo of Decrim NY explained that the organization has “worked to elevate the trans members of our coalition to leadership positions” and that in the board of directors of the A consensus-driven organization, Decrim NY prioritizes its trans voices.

“Everyone has internalized transphobia, just as we have internalized racism, sexism, classism and homophobia, and it is our duty to constantly work to transform ourselves in order to be better allies in the fight against criminalization, discrimination and violence against trans people. Luo told the Daily Dot via email. “Trans communities often face economic, social, criminal and other barriers to participation. We try to fundraise to overcome some of these obstacles, but it also means that we must continually do political education to make our space as welcoming as possible to trans people.

It is difficult to say for sure whether Decrim NY will succeed. But he speaks the truth to power, and he has powerful people by his side. Look no further than the New York State Senator from the DSA Julia salazar, who is working with Decrim NY on introducing legislation to decriminalize sex work. When contacted for comment, Salazar expressed support not only for sex workers but trans people as well.

“Decriminalization of sex work is a trans justice issue as well as a criminal justice issue because trans people, especially low income trans people, are more likely to use sex work as a means of survival. in a hostile society, ”Senator Salazar told Daily Update. “The feeling of transphobia and anti-surrogacy shown by opponents of the Decrim NY coalition is worrying and shows how the elements of this coalition are not concerned with the lived experiences and the real testimonies of sex workers in general. and trans sex workers in particular. “

Salazar also called on Decrim opponents to distance themselves from transphobic statements made at the NOW rally.

“I hope that other opponents of Decrim speak out against transphobia and find the opportunity to listen directly to the perspective of trans sex workers on policies that will make their lives easier and safer,” Salazar continued.

For the record, NOW-NYC tweeted Monday that “we strongly support transgender rights and are fiercely opposed to @ObjectUK and the odious views and language it puts forward in its anti-trans agenda,” noting that the group apologizes “for not having recognized their presence and having closed them. . “

But in the case of NOW, moving forward with SWERFs ensures that TERFs are not far behind. Supporting trans rights also means supporting sex workers: there is simply no in-between.

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