The Future of the City We Want: Why Sex Work is a Labour Issue

Please see the update to our open letter here: https://noterfsnoswerfs.wordpress.com/2018/05/03/update/


This open letter is written on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples – specifically the sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh), and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) nations, in what is colonially known as Vancouver, Canada.

A closed letter, sent April 25th, 2018, was authored and emailed privately to the groups addressed below by the Coalition Against Trans Antagonism (CATA), a group of individuals who are Two-Spirit, trans, nonbinary, queer, disabled, Indigenous, people of colour, settlers, white, low-income, working class, youth, sex work-experienced and/or a combination of these identities and more. As a result of a lack of response, we have decided to publish an open letter. This letter has been modified to accommodate organizations and individuals in support of our demands.

CATA’s mission is to educate individuals, groups, and society at large, particularly in Vancouver, about the necessity of prioritizing the wellbeing and self-determination of trans women and sex workers. CATA aims to center and support sex workers and trans women, as well as victims of human trafficking. We collectively seek to differentiate between human trafficking/slavery and by-choice sex economies.


To: Vancouver District Labour Council;
Canadian Union of Public Employees;
& Organize BC

We, the undersigned, have become aware of the Vancouver Crossroads Conference currently being organized and promoted by the above mentioned groups, and that Yuly Chan has been invited to speak at the Evening Panel scheduled for Friday, May 4th, 2018. This issue was first brought to the attention of the organizers on April 6th, 2018. Nathan Allen (CUPE) and Organize BC responded the same day to inquire about CATA’s concerns. Since then CATA has not heard back.

Chan is a well-documented Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERF) and Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminist (SWERF), and is known in the community to promote this ideology. Chan is a member of Asian Women Coalition to End Prostitution, and has been recorded speaking on panels perpetuating stigma about sex work and conflating consensual, by-choice sex work with trafficking. Further documentation detailing Chan’s involvement with trans and sex worker antagonistic organizations can be found by following this link: https://noterfsnoswerfs.wordpress.com/2018/04/30/yulychan/.

Chan has also made statements in her housing organizing work claiming that trans people are against feminism. These statements further perpetuate misogyny, in particular transmisogyny, as trans people, especially trans women, have been at the forefront of a more inclusive feminism and opposing cisheteropatriarchy. Discrimination that trans people face at every level of society, especially familial violence and employment discrimination, forces the most marginalized of us into criminalized survival economies, which includes sex work. Therefore, to be against sex work is to be trans antagonist and transmisogynist.

Trans women are women and sex work is real work – the denial, blatant disregard, and willful ignorance to either of these important realities is to be complicit in the violence that harms sex workers and trans women. Each year, the number of murdered trans people rises, with the majority of them being Black trans women and trans women of colour. More than half of all trans people killed worldwide each year are sex workers and/or do precarious work.

Sex work remains predominantly criminalized by the Canadian state. This legislation, paired with attempts by SWERFs (so-called “prostitution abolitionists”) to further criminalization and regress existing laws and protections, impedes the ability of sex workers to hold conversations around unionization and occupational health and safety. Groups such as the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, and the International Labour Organization recognize that sex worker rights are human rights and that sex work is a labour issue. We ask that Vancouver District Labour Council, Canadian Union of Public Employees and Organize BC also take a stand and recognize sex work as a human rights and a labour issue.

While trans people and sex workers would like to participate in discussions around issues such as the precarity of housing and employment the most marginalized of us face, we are stuck having to deal with the bigotry of those who attempt to negate our agency, self-determination and very existence. If individuals and groups who harbour these bigoted views continue to position themselves as the representatives of our collective liberation struggles, those most targeted by their hate will continue to be alienated from conversations and physical spaces.

As people who are affected by the oppression and violence that results from TERF/SWERF ideology, and as people who are working in solidarity with trans women, trans people as a whole, sex workers, and victims of human trafficking, we demand that the VDLC, CUPE, and Organize BC:

  1. Remove Yuly Chan from the Evening Panel at the Vancouver Crossroads Conference;
  2. Write an open letter to the community taking responsibility and apologizing specifically to trans women and sex workers with an actionable commitment to prevent this from happening again;
  3. Implement policy that prevents people who promote any form of oppressive, supremacist, and fascist ideology from being offered and/or provided a platform at any of VDLC, CUPE, and Organize BC’s future events;
    • Develop this policy with the guidance and approval of trans women and sex workers

Trans and sex workers lives are not trivial or negotiable. We demand that these points be acknowledged and rectified.

Coalition Against Trans Antagonism


SIGNATORIES

If you or your organization/collective would like to add your name to this letter, please email againsttransantagonism[at]protonmail[dot]com.

ORGANIZATIONS

  • Spartacus Books Collective
  • SWAN Vancouver Society
  • BC Coalition of Experiential Communities (BCCEC)
  • Genderfest Winnipeg
  • Queerview
  • The Anti-Oppression Network
  • viet* collective for community justice
  • Vancouver Trans Day of Remembrance Society
  • Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Group (SWWAC)
  • Vancouver Status of Women
  • PACE Society
  • Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) Out on Campus Collective
  • SFSS Women’s Centre Collective
  • Canadian Autistics United-Vancouver Chapter

INDIVIDUALS

  • Audrey Wolfe, zinester and sex worker rights advocate
  • Lisa Kreut, union organizer and transgender rights advocate
  • Meenakshi Mannoe, Prison Justice Day committee
  • Sean Orr
  • Ian Moram
  • Srishti Roy
  • Meagan Bristowe, disability studies student, researcher in sex worker rights, and harm reduction activist
  • Claudyne Chevrier, member of Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition and PhD student
  • Sarah Sheridan, Prison Justice Day committee
  • Kai Rajala, Prison Justice Day committee
  • Abby Rolston, Prison Justice Day committee
  • Franki Harrogate, graduate student in counselling psychology
  • Jonny Mexico
  • Kathryn Rhodes
  • Jaz Papadopoulos
  • Minh Truong
  • Vivian Ly
  • Nathan Dawthorne, PhD candidate, Sociocultrual Anthropology, University of Western Ontario, Thesis: Intelligible variability: Narratives of Male Sex Work in London Ontario
  • Anlina Sheng, sex worker and member of Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition
  • Charlie Huntley
  • Mareike Brunelli, member of Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition
  • Andrea Thompson
  • Kerry Porth, former sex worker
  • Dávid Danos
  • Judith Nguyen
  • Jigme Datse Yli-Rasku
  • Sam McCulligh
  • Ysabeau Wills
  • Vanna Lodders
  • Simran Randhawa
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