Last week was a really hard week for me. I am away at a pre-law program designed for Indigenous students and to help them excel in law school. You can read more about that program here.
Coincidentally, I also received my first assignment last week and boy was it a slap in the face (no biggie, I took it as a learning opportunity). But it wasn’t this assignment that made last week hard though many thought it was. What made it difficult was the Department of Justice introducing Bill C-36, which is in response to the Bedford v. Canada decision (I also wrote about it here).
On Tuesday, which was the night before the Bill was to be introduced, I spent trying to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for what was to come tomorrow—the Bill. I was definitely on edge and felt really isolated and alone not being able to talk about what was about to happen.
That’s the thing with sex work activism and being out as a former or current sex worker, it can definitely feel very alienating and isolating (even if you are out as a former sex worker). One must take into consideration how others will perceive them: will I be judged for my choices? Will I be further stigmatized? Will I have someone to talk about what is going on in my life without being judged? Just to name a few…
Tuesday came and went. I knew I could expect the worst because of the government’s previous statements to the media: prostitution is inherently dangerous and prostitution is violence against women. Yet after the Bill was released on Wednesday afternoon, I didn’t expect to be it even worse than I had imagined. I spent the day in and out of the bathroom getting sick and also crying. That night I went out for some wine (alone—not the brightest thing to do but I didn’t know what else to do…I also have a hard time reaching out for help). That night I also cried after I returned from home. I just wanted to scream, “These are people’s lives you are messing with!” Like actual real people who will be forced to put themselves into the pathway of danger if this Bill is enacted! People like my friends and their families…
Today, while I was out walking and getting some of the things I needed for next week, I started to think of another sex work activist, Wendy Babcock. She was also a law student. However, she committed suicide in her third year of law school. An article commemorating her memory (and also talking about how students rallied together to remember her) reads,
Halfway through her second year at Osgoode Hall Law School, she was struggling with money, housing, her health, and loneliness…“I don’t belong here,” she told me over lunch at the graduate students lounge that day. “They come from really nice upbringings and I come from the gutter. They’re not engaged in the same issues as I am.”
I definitely don’t feel out of place in this program as I am sitting aside other Indigenous law students. But after last week, I definitely felt alone and isolated. I even met with the director of the program and I admitted that I don’t feel like I belong here–it was because of the fact I was a former sex worker and I wasn’t sure who I could talk to about this Bill. So when I re-reading these articles, I noticed I shared Wendy’s feelings—loneliness and not belonging. I didn’t know how to say to the director though, “Yeah I don’t feel like I belong here, as a (out) former sex worker, and because of this Bill that came out today and this Bill is worse than I ever imagined.” There really isn’t much of a sex work community in this city either. However, after talking to my sex work friend on the phone today, I was a little bit relieved. The response elsewhere in Canada to the Bill has been positive (or on the side of sex workers) and people are beginning to realize the realities of sex workers’ lives and how laws affect their livelihood and safety.
I thought, what was going through Wendy’s mind during her final year. Did she feel alone? Did she feel isolated? Did she feel alienated? Then I thought, “If this is what law school was like for her, do I have to look forward to something similar?” Then I was reminded of my best friend’s words to me on the day I said that I wanted to give up on my undergraduate degree at Western, “If you give up or drop out, I will slap you.” She would have slapped me, literally (lol). I miss her dearly. She was also a sex worker who committed suicide. In a previous post I shared a note from my personal journal. That entry read, “I had a dream I was going to U of Ottawa.” In the rest of the original entry which I didn’t post to my blog, it reads, “But there were a lot of obstacles and it was really hard to finally get there.” If this is just one of those obstacles, then I (hopefully) will be able to overcome what else is to emerge.
Rest in Power Wendy and Michelle