Sex workers joined together outside of the Stonewall Inn on July 9 to rally against police brutality and send a message that sex work is work.
TS Candi, an activist who has been at the forefront of the movement to decriminalize sex work in New York, led the event, followed by a series of speakers who echoed calls to stand up for sex workers, particularly Black trans folks, and against police abuse.
“We are here to demand justice for sex workers,” said Candii, who stressed that “we need to abolish the police system.”
“I come to you today to let you all know that sex work is work,” she added.
The rally coincided with a growing effort to encourage state lawmakers to move on a bill that would repeal a discriminatory loitering law known as a ban on “walking while trans,” which has been employed by law enforcement to target and harass trans women of color. State lawmakers have gathered enough support in the State Senate to pass the bill, which is led in the upper chamber by out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan and in the lower house by Assemblymember Amy Paulin of Westchester.
Qween Jean, an advocate who spoke after Candii in Christopher Park, also conveyed the point that the “racist NYPD” must be abolished and dismantled.
“This not a moment; this is a movement,” Qween Jean said. “When I talk about whiteness, I talk about that because we cannot only see one color… As we move forward, and for the next week, into the next month, and to the next election, we have to be diligent. We can’t be neutral. We have to speak up. We have to make our voices heard.”
Another speaker, Qween Amor, who is pursuing a career in nursing, highlighted the risk of violence that sex workers face when they are carrying out their work — and she pointed out the vulnerability of women compared to men who do the work. Before she transitioned, she said she did not encounter the same violence that she did when working after transitioning.
“I think it’s the way society views male sexuality and celebrates it and criminalizes us for ours,” Qween Amor said. “We have a responsibility to ourselves and to each other to bring access and other resources we need to provide… so we don’t have to sex work to pay our bills.”
Among others who participated in the event included SX Noir, who talked about how she grew up without her mother because of New York State’s draconian Rockefeller drug laws.
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