We've Still Got Curves Waiting To Be Flattened
As the world has continued to amaze and befuddle, little has changed in the status quo on the issue of sex work. As many states consider what the immediate future looks like for quarantines and lock-downs, sex workers still remain largely left out [OpenDemocracy] of response considerations, and many continue to rely on mutual aid [The Nation] and ingenuity to meet needs.
But sex workers are also being vocal and demanding they not be ignored, like this California-based Sex Worker Town Hall which was held to talk about impact and needs, and is leading to a call on CA Gov. Newsome to address direct asks, including financial support to trans-led organizations. Sex workers are moving into new areas of the industry [the Bold Italic], and one strip club has embraced the end of the world with a super hot post-apocalyptic approach to stripping [the Cut].
But moving into camming has also created new challenges, including oversaturation [Newsweek], and the problem of individual performers being more visible and accessible, including to other or future jobs [BuzzfeedNews].
The issue of sex workers' exclusion and resulting economic strife has been discussed from Belgium [Brussels Times] to Uganda [Global Press Journal] to Japan [CNN], and in publications including the Washington Post, Miami New Times, NewNowNext, and the South China Morning Post.
Unsurprisingly, New Zealand – the only country with full decriminalization for its citizens – is the only country handling this thoughtfully [Guardian]. Even Pope Francis has offered support, specifically making a donation to an Italian organization for trans sex workers [Them.us]. In the US, Rep Ro Khanna, who sponsored the first bill to ask for a study on the impact when sex workers are booted from platforms, has also pointed out that this is an oversight to be corrected:
While we may not be talking as much about decrim right now, many other issues with direct impacts on the diverse lives of sex workers are still moving forward and rapidly shifting.
Sex Workers' Rights are Workers' Rights
After the third Federal COVID response package gave states the option of expanding unemployment insurance and pandemic unemployment assistance to gig workers and independent contractors, there has been a rush to make huge changes to existing benefits systems (find your state here). At this point, many states have begun, but there are already pushes for more for workers. But there have already been flurries of reports about the problems [Forbes] with the astounding thirty million workers who have applied for unemployment insurance [NBC News].
If you'd like to explore benefits options, one place to start is this webinar with info from the National Employment Law Project, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Reframe Health and Justice (that's me!).
Across states and industries, labor organizing has spiked in recent weeks [LA Times], and last Friday, the Labor holiday May Day spurred numerous strikes [NPR] as workers demanded hazard pay, protective equipment and changes in working conditions. More and more conversations are beginning about what it means to support gig workers, and that is finally a conversation that is actively including sex workers.
Sex Workers' Rights means Decarceration
Another important conversation has been about the federal and state pushes to release incarcerated people, as infection rates in jails and prisons explode, conversations which have also included people incarcerated on sex work-related charges. But just as some cities are making progress, others are lagging behind. Just as advocates call for release, New York's Governor Cuomo rolled back a brand new law [Filter] which would have banned the use of cash bail for numerous charges. The budget amendment, signed April 1, reinstated a dozen charges which would be subject to cash bail, meaning thousands may be eligible for incarceration during the pandemic.
But pushback and protest continues, as many car-based protests have popped up in cities across the country [Charlotte Observer]. Federally, a bill was also introduced to push the federal Bureau of Prisons to release vulnerable individuals.
Perhaps this bill would have saved the life of Andrea Circle Bear, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, who passed away in BOP custody four weeks after giving birth to her daughter, Elyciah. A week after Circle Bear gave birth, a whistleblower complaint had been filed with concerns about the treatment she had been receiving [VICE] while in custody. Andrea 'Andi' Circle Bear is remembered as a loving mother of six who liked to bake breads and pies. Elyciah is doing well and is, fittingly, already a big eater, according to her grandmother.
Sex Workers' Rights are Reproductive Justice
As all of these things overlap, the pandemic has also created an opportunity for states who wish to further restrict access to who and what health care is available. Multiple states across the country have taken the opportunity to close health clinics which provide abortion [Rewire.News], saying that they are not an 'essential service.'
Federally, there have also been efforts to curb access as part of the emergency funding made available expressly included what is known as the Hyde Amendment, banning any support to go to providing abortion care. The Hyde Amendment is a government provision in funding bills and a longstanding fight which blocks federal funding to go to abortions – including healthcare funding for low-income women. Hyde doesn't expressly bar the right to abortion – it just makes it inaccessible to poor and low-income folks. All of this is also on top of the relaxing of religious exemption rules, which mean that some of the emergency loans could also go to funding "Crisis Pregnant Centers." Previously, these religiously-based centers – which provide deliberate misinformation to people seeking information about their pregnancy options – would have been unable to apply because of their religious affiliation, but under the new regulations some of these restrictions have already been lifted (remember the SBA Loans with the prurient sexual performance ban? That money).
But to end on a high note, this #DontRushChallenge is my favorite thing on the internet today:
Sex workers are magic. Back to the grind!