Dear sex work movement,
I am sad. I don’t know why. I was told from the beginning, “be careful.” Be careful, it’s not everything you’ve signed up for.
I am one person. But I am not the only person, the only Indigenous person, the only Indigenous woman who supports decriminalization of sex work. Yet, when I hear over and over again, “Decriminalization is the only way to end violence against sex workers,” I know we have failed. We ignore other laws that intersect into the lives of Indigenous sex workers, like child welfare legislation. And, more importantly, we ignore how decriminalization would have never saved women like Cindy Gladue.
Nothing Cindy did was criminalized and everything she did do, from having a driver, to doing outcall, to having a safety call, did not save her.
Decriminalization is not the only way to end violence against sex workers.
I am writing this after being told to “be patient” after being the only Indigenous woman in the room sometimes. The only Indigenous woman to be challenging these notions that “Decriminalization will end violence against sex workers.” The only Indigenous woman to be remembering the stories shared with me from others: We must not forget about the youth and we must not forget about the trafficked, the people who do not have any choice or who would prefer not to be in sex work anymore. Or, remembering the ones who have gone missing or murdered. Or, remembering the ones who don’t call sex work a job. I am sometimes the only Indigenous woman in the room, not because I am the only Indigenous woman who has experience or who can speak to the hard issues. Rather, I am sometimes the only Indigenous woman in the room because I am privileged. I know this and I have always known this. This is the burden I carry but I am left to sit in the room, to carry it all on my own…as the only Indigenous woman in the room to survive, to carry the stories other’s share with me, to honour the stories by speaking up and speaking out. Survivor’s guilt.
I guess I wasn’t patient enough.
This letter isn’t about what has been said or what hasn’t been said. There is still lots to say but I will be stepping back from “sex work activism” forever…
Of course, I will still be writing on things publicly (and things that are available publicly – but I won’t be holding back…I’m not here for your comfortability).
Still, I feel sad because I remembering having conversations with other Indigenous folks, and Indigenous folks who I admire and look up to, early on in this journey that must come to an end. Now, I feel let down for how much trust I put into others including others who said they “valued” my opinion but turned out to be condescending/patronizing (welcome to whiteness). I feel used and obviously, not listened to despite people saying “We are listening to you.”
All the indigenous folks I had conversations with said, “Be careful.”
And, here I am, I gave too much trust and I gave too much hope into others, hoping that they would prove what I was told … as wrong.
With how the current Justice Minister has moved forward on parliamentary responses to Section 7 jurisprudence, I predict c-36 won’t change much.
But don’t let me tell you I told you so; now it’s truly your turn to prove me wrong about everything that I’ve been told about sex work activism.
The bar is set low; so, you don’t have to do too much.
Sadly, the opposition to decriminalization? This is what they want…one less indigenous woman who understands the law and politics behind it all who supports decriminalization of sex work but not supporting decriminalization as the end all and be all; rather, supporting decriminalization as an essential step to ending all violence against all people in the sex trade, regardless of their experiences, forced, coerced, consenting…publicly, openly, and wholeheartedly.
Don’t let it be one more.