DSW Participates in Woodhull’s 2019 Sexual Freedom Summit

August 18, 2019

DSW’s Kaytlin Bailey attended the 10th annual Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit hosted in Washington, DC. She connected to sex worker rights activists and sexual freedom advocates from all over the country. Attending panels, presentations, and performances, Kaytlin was able to get a broad perspective on the issues plaguing sex workers and their allies in different states.

Kaytlin was especially moved by DC’s Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS) and the transgendered women willing to speak to the systemic issues that bar them from fully participating in some advocacy organizations. She connected with criminalized sex workers in Nevada, got to hang out with living legend Carol Leigh, participated in an incredibly informative discussion about using a human rights framework to advocate for sex workers’ health and safety led by Dr. Jill McCracken, and had many conversations about strategy and pushing for a better future for all of us.

Sex workers are not a homogenous group. We come in all colors and creeds, we come to this work for different reasons, and we have wildly different experiences—but allies from across the political spectrum can work together toward a future where our lawmakers listen to sex workers and stop the arrests.

Kaytlin Bailey smokes a cigar with Ceyenne Doroshow, strikes a pose with Carol Leigh, and hangs out with Amber DiPietra & Ceyenne (clockwise from L, August 15-18, 2019).

DSW Makes Its Case at National Conference of State Legislatures

August 6-8, 2019

Melissa Broudo, DSW’s general council and RI coordinator, and Kaytlin Bailey, DSW’s communications director, met with state legislators from all over the country at the National Conference of State Legislatures annual meeting, which was hosted this year in Nashville, TN.

DSW handed out fliers, t-shirts and buttons, and we started conversations with lawmakers pressing the point that the best way to end violence and exploitation within the sex trade is to stop arresting consenting adults engaged in sex work. To demonstrate the difference between trafficking and sex work, we compared the high-profile cases of Jeffrey Epstein—a serial predator who preyed on children and should have been stopped years ago—and Robert Kraft, a single 70-year-old man who payed a 40-year-old legally licensed masseuse to rub a different part of his body.

DSW was very well received. We ran out of t-shirts within the first hour and ran out of buttons on the first day. Legislators from across the political spectrum and country were ready to talk about decriminalization. Many lawmakers seemed to understand that this is not a problem we can arrest our way out of. Several legislators pledged to begin forming coalitions and pressing their colleagues using the information we presented.

Kaytlin Bailey & Melissa Broudo mind DSW’s booth at the National Conference of State Legislatures meeting in Nashville (August 7, 2019).

Nevertheless She Existed: Kaytlin Bailey Presents a Sex Worker From History

July 31, 2019

DSW’s Kaytlin Bailey participated in Nevertheless She Existed, a live show and podcast produced at Caveat Theater. She told the story of Phryne, a famous courtesan in the classical Greek period who defended herself against blasphemy charges by disrobing in front of the all-male jury and declaring her perfect body a gift from the gods. She won her case.

This show specifically highlighted the contribution sex workers have been making to their communities for literally all of human history. Junior Mintt reminded us what an undeniable powerhouse Josephine Baker was in her lifetime. Solange Azor talked about one of the founding mothers of the sex worker rights movement, Margo St. James, who created COYOTE, and Anna Bianco talked about the incredible achievements of Theodora, who became empress of Rome in 527 after spending some time in a brothel in the Roman Empire.

Kylie Holloway, Kaytlin Bailey, Junior Mintt, Anna Bianco, Solange Azor & Molly Gaebe at Caveat Theater perform for Nevertheless She Existed (from L to R, July 31, 2019).

“Gay Panic” Defense Can No Longer Be Used to Excuse Murder, a Win for Trans Sex Workers

Just before the June 30, 2019, kickoff of the World Pride March in New York City, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed A2707, a new law that bans the "gay and transgender panic" defense from being used in murder cases prosecuted in New York State. The panic defense has historically been utilized to lessen charges in the case that the defendant alleges his or her violent actions with in response to the unwanted advances of someone of the same sexual orientation. The defense has also been used in the murder trials of transgender victims. New York is the sixth state to ban the use of such a defense, the first being California in 2014.

In 1944, 19-year-old Lucien Carr used it to excuse the murder of 33-year-old David Kammerer, whom he stabbed in Riverside Park and dumped into the Hudson River. Carr alleged that Kammerer had been following him around the country making continual, unwanted sexual advances. His killing was depicted in the media as an honorable response to such a threat. Though convicted of murder, Carr pled guilty to a lessened charge of manslaughter and served only two years. The defense has been used dozens of times since then, as an outgrowth of the traditional legal doctrine of "provocation," or that the victim is partially responsible for a crime by eliciting it through some offensive action (Suk Gersen, 2019).

The memory of institutionalized violence against the LGBTQIA community lingered as the world commemorated the 50-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots on June 30. In 2018, a federal bill to ban the "gay and trans panic" defense nationwide died in a U.S. House committee. The New York bill is a step towards protecting the health, safety, and very humanity of every individual in the United States, but we still have a long way to go.

The #DecriminalizeSexWork movement has played a vital role in speaking out about the criminalization of trans and queer bodies, especially for women of color and those involved in the sex trade. Grassroots activism has been vital to the passage of this bill. We are fighting against the unjustifiable deaths of those who are most vulnerable, such as Layleen Polanco, a 27-year-old transgender woman who died in her jail cell on June 7 at Rikers, where she was being held, unable to make a $500 bail resulting from a prostitution arrest in August 2017. Polanco is the tenth transgender woman of color to be found dead in the U.S. in 2019. Decriminalization is necessary to combat state-sponsored violence, such as that condoned by the "gay panic" defense. Our path forward is to focus on public health and harm reduction and to stop the murders of innocent people.

After signing A2707 to ban “gay/trans panic” legal defense in NY, Gov. Cuomo marched in the New York City Pride parade. (photo: Brittany Newman/NYT, 2019)

New York Legislator To Introduce “Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act” – June 10, 2019

Protesters advocate for the full decriminalization of sex work in New York State. (Photo: Rolling Stone)
On June 10, Assemblywoman Julia Salazar, in tandem with local coalition DecrimNY, announced that she would be introducing a series of bills in the NY legislature that would fully decriminalize sex work in New York State. While it usually takes years to enact legislation into law, the mere introduction of the NY legislation fits with the trend of good legislation that has been introduced in states like NH, RI, and HI this year — something we haven't seen in decades of organizing.

 

International Whores Day Anniversary Celebration – June 2, 2019

Several of the attendees at the Celebration Picnic in Brooklyn on June 2.

On June 2, 1975, more than 200 street-based sex workers in Lyon, France, occupied the church of St. Nazier to protest police corruption and brutality. They hung a banner declaring, in French, “Our Children Do Not Want Their Mothers in Jail.” Every year since then, sex workers and their allies have celebrated the continued survival and resistance we continue to face.

In New York City this year, DSW hosted a picnic in northern Brooklyn that approximately 40 people attended. Occupying public spaces and celebrating is an act of resistance that honors the hundreds of sex workers who occupied a sanctuary and inspired millions of future activists to do the same.

“Black Trans Lives Matter!!” Rally at Washington Square Park

Protesters stand for justice for black trans women at Washington Square Park in New York City on May 24.

May 24: New York Transgender Advocacy Group (NYTAG) held a rally in Washington Square Park to honor the three black trans women who were killed this year within a span of eight days. DSW stands in solidarity with trans women of color who are fighting and dying on the front lines of the war against sex workers. We joined a coalition of organizations in New York to draw attention to violence against members of the trans community, many of whom are impacted by the criminalization and increased surveillance of the sex trade.

When we listen to sex workers and stop the arrests, we free up marginalized members of our community to advocate for safer working conditions and enable them to report violence against them, reducing the violence. Decriminalizing sex work is a crucial first step toward creating a society in which we are all free to be our authentic selves without shame or stigma.

On Memorial Day Weekend, Trans Lives Remembered (Gay City News, May 26, 2019)