Last Monday, the sex worker community saw one of our great organizers and true mamas of the movement when Lorena Borjas lost her battle with COVID-19 [The New Yorker]. Lorena was truly a mother of the transLatina community in Queens, New York who fought tirelessly, not just giving of herself, [New York Times], but making sure that others were just as invested in the survival of her chosen family. On Monday night roughly 240 people gathered on a Zoom call to share stories of her generosity and fierceness, with community members sharing memories of what she did for them, lawyers sharing how Lorena was relentless to make sure that people got the support they needed, and many simply sharing gratitude for her presence in the world and in their lives. Lorena was a sex worker who survived trafficking, migration, incarceration, and just made the world a better place. Lorena's passing brings home the personal toll of this pandemic, and reminds us all to love each other a little harder in these trying moments.
There's plenty of articles to read about how incredible Lorena was, but this short video of her, (Lucharé como una perra (I will fight like a bitch)) is my personal favorite:
COVID-19 Updates and Resources
As sex workers knew from the moment shelter in place orders began, the sex industry was going to be hit uniquely hard [KQED], inspiring people to come together and mutual aid funds to begin forming around the country. The majority of sex work in-person and supporting people in varying levels of precarity. The pain of the market is affecting almost everyone under multiple forms of criminalization and legalization. And while many people have once again been de-stabilized, for many sex workers, Laura LeMoon reminds us that this is just more of the same experiences of insecurity [Tits and Sass].
Many things are shifting, and many options are opening up for financial support and relief right now. Because of stigma and discrimination, sex workers are often excluded from many social benefits, simply by virtue of being a cash-based and under-the-table economy. But don't forget: sex work is work, and there are many, many options for folks who are struggling. Many other areas of labor are sharing the same struggles – often with more visibility. Even if they don't say sex work explicitly, we can still use a lot of the information being shared right now. Take a note from the workers in this Bangladeshi brothel [Reuters] and get what's yours!
Big Brother is on Your Zoom Call?
One of the other conversations which has exploded in recent weeks is the connection between surveillance, policing, and public health. Criminalization, especially of sex workers, has long been entangled with the false stigma and myth of sex workers as vectors of disease. We are already seeing articles (not linking to any of those, google if you want them) making these claims around the world. At the same time, there is also a robust conversation happening around the policing of shelter-at-home orders and medical surveillance as being things to fight against. Conversations like #PolicingThePandemic and articles like these are openly raising these concerns [Briar Patch], many with an eye towards how sex workers have been specifically targeted.
In addition, the surveillance of technology is playing a central role right now, and unfortunately Congress may not be interested in stopping the spread. This week Hacking//Hustling organized a social media power hour to push back against one of the most egregious bills sitting in the Senate right now [Slixa Blog], the EARN IT Act of 2020:
Your Health Is About More than Hand Washing
It can be really hard to protect your mental health in moments like this. With all the anxiety, isolation, and collective grief, even the most solid among us are having a hard time. Finding new moments of joy and gratitude can be hard. Here are just a few resources and moments of joy that have popped up that might be worth looking into:
- Disability justice activist Leah Piepzna-Samarasinha has produced the Half-Assed Disabled Prepper Survival Tips for Preparing for a Coronavirus Quarantine
- adrienne marie brown is asking us to envision a future through writing
- The New Yorker just released its 40 best streaming movies on Netflix right now
- If you want to keep moving, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is streaming dance classes every day - and they have been amazing
- The Heaux History Project has been doing a movie night, but they're an amazing feed on Twitter, too - and a wonderful way to learn the beautiful legacy we are living out
- There are a lot of streaming options right now, from ebooks to PC games, to different services beyond Netflix
- The Metropolitain Opera is streaming a different opera every day - tip: if you're new to opera, don't forget to read the summary before you start. Spoilers aren't a thing in opera. This week has one of the most iconic - Aida
- Sobriety might be especially hard right now, and AA isn't for everyone. Here's some alternatives (some free, some with a charge) that might be helpful, and @harlotrecovery on Instagram and Twitter is one of my favorite feeds
- I just found out there are sugar gliders on Instagram - here's one dressed like a nurse to make you feel better:
And remember that times are hard. Do what you need to do to survive and offer yourself the grace we too frequently extend only to others. The survival of sex workers is not only a radical act, it is this commitment to life that binds us all together.
To fighting like a bitch with a bone.
Back to the grind.