Sex work: The queer cost

Please welcome Michelle Boyce, a writer, psychotherapist and radio show host, as a contributing writer to LGBT Perspectives.

Michelle Boyce hosts a weekly radio show called Between the Margins (http://www.betweenthemargins.ca).
Michelle Boyce hosts a weekly radio show called Between the Margins (betweenthemargins.ca).

By Michelle Boyce

There is money in them thar hills! A few creative right-wing feminists have discovered how to steal a page from the left and provide social support while making money off it.

It is not a new concept that hate is a profitable game. So when a “Women’s Centre” starts spewing hate toward sex workers, justifying themselves with thin arguments of male dominance, and their need to rescue one and all in the name of feminism, you have to wonder:  When did “My body, My choice” become optional?

So many people I have looked up to for their work in women’s rights are now looking down their noses at sex workers, and removing the small veils of security the industry has left. They are not listening, and have crossed the line to the judgmental and closed world of the right.

Womyn are being divided over an issue catalyzed by Slutwalk, but that is not where it began.  It has been brewing in the background as the right-wing mentality has crept into our institutions that we thought were sacred.  Feminism and Queer have been connected since the dawn of the movement, but that leaves the right shut out of the support business.

How does a right-wing conservative handle the sexual assault of their child? The answer is by creating sexual assault centres outside of feminism in our hospitals. Ironically, as a footnote in the process, they created a safe haven for trans people and men not normally in the catchment group of feminist SA centres to also receive care.

There is pot of gold available to those sliding right, and we all know that very little of that gold is there for us remaining on the left.  The anti-sex work campaigns have stopped short of screaming out of the book of Leviticus, but “Moral decency” replaces the biblical passages.

In the trans community there are four ways to get major surgery you need.  You can offer yourself up to CAMH’s Gender Identity program in Toronto and be degraded and humiliated while hoping for government-funded surgery.  You can fund it yourself if you are fortunate enough to have a job/benefits and the financial resources to do so, like Caitlyn Jenner.  You can establish enough credit limit to charge your surgery. Or you can do sex work.

If you happen to be in the 50 percent of the trans community making more than $15,000 per year, you have options.  For the rest, sex work is the most positive of the choices and for a large number is the road to their oasis.  Hence the connection between the trans community and the sex work community.

I am used to being attacked, publicly and privately, for my views.  We develop this thick hide that protects us, and our community that supports us also gives us strength.  What is so damaging in all this is that the attacks are coming from within.  Our soft underbellies are exposed to these allies and they hurt us.

We are scrambling as a community to shore up our personal defenses and redefine friend and foe.  Sex workers are among us.  They are in our families, our friends,  our allies, and this attack from within has damaged those relationships and supports, leaving us vulnerable and exposed.

It is horrible and has to stop!  It is devaluing those who are having and have had a positive experience in sex work.  Guilt is creeping in and undermining the value in that work as society and community turns against them.

By the time Election Day (in Canada) comes around, will sex workers be forgotten? How as a community do we deal with those who do so much good; people we look up to, but who are now doing so much harm?  How do we protect ourselves from our own?

— Michelle Boyce, LGBT Perspectives columnist

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“Let harmlessness be the keynote of your life.” — Alice Bailey

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