Sunday, December 21, 2008

International Day to End Violence against sex workers

Bringing sex workers into the light

See media related to Sydney-based activities to commemorate this Day (17th December)

Originally conceived in 2003 as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle, it has become an annual international event.

The day calls attention to hate crimes committed against sex workers all over the world, as well as the need to remove stigma and discrimination perpetuated by sex negativity, conservatism and prohibitionist laws that has in effect meant that violence against sex workers is treated less seriously as violence against other people.

Personally, I haven't experienced much in the way of violence in my sex work, and I have experience more stressful work environments in community health organisations than in sex industry workplaces. Most of the sex workers I have met have not experienced violence at work, and many of us go along with the belief that we have just gotten lucky, and all the other hookers must be regularly dealing with hideous stuff.....

I think the myth that sex work is inherently violent has emerged from anti-sex work rhetoric, and every time something happens - like one of those 'Ripper' killers, it reinforces this belief. The reality is that most sex work clients want no-strings-attached pleasure, touch, company, without drama; a very understandable desire, that doesn't make anyone a dangerous psychopath, however, hate crimes committed against marginalised communities have a nasty habit of not being as vigilantly prosecuted as other crimes, so it is really important that these issues are discussed, and our communities losses are mourned.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Adventures with gender

As one of my femme identities is that of drag queen - emphasising that there is nothing natural about most people's performance of femininity - regardless of what is on their birth certificates, I don't mind not passing as a woman - I do most of the times, but in particular environments (particularly about a decade ago in Adelaide, where dyke spaces were a sea of jeans, waistcoats and short hair), with very big eyelashes, heels and hair, I have had people approach me and tell me that I tuck really well, and ask if I'm on hormones yet.

.... I am going somewhere with this.....

Some of the definitions I've heard for the term woman/ womyn/ wombmoon from separatist feminists leave me out - sometimes the definitions end up being more a list of 'acceptable' sex practices, uniforms and political views, more than anything else. I certainly don't fit those definitions - despite an "F" on my birth certificate, XX chromosomes, a menstruating uterus and other traditionally associated body parts.

Being punched once in 'women's space' (it's a long story) and having a femme ex of my abused for having long hair and a skirt at an International Lesbian Day dance, I long ago decided that 'safe women's space' often wasn't all that safe a space for me. Diversity is occasionally paid lip service to - with perfume-free policies for those with chemical sensitivity, alcohol-free space those with substance use issues, and lip service paid to issues of racism and classism - as long as working class women don't want to work on class issues with working class men, or women of colour don't want to organise with men of colour, homophobia is spoken about but gay men are still men ..... Often women's spaces become hijacked with a particular fundamentalist feminism that is so narrow and prescriptive that it lacks relevance to all but a minority of women.

Those of you that know me well will probably know that I am utterly obsessed with labels. While I am a fan of many aspects of pomo discourse, who gets to call themselves what, and how labels and identity allow us to work together, to unify and to create boundaries are issues I find immensely meaningful. This doesn't have to mean an essentialist world view, with membership of a community being etched in stone - shifting labels and identities are powerful, but I have yet to see affective community development, or activism come from a position of fluidity. Maybe when I do witness thins, I'll stop wearing my many, varied and occasionally contradictory labels on my tee shirts, soap boxes and inked into my skin.

Oh, and don't get me started on the woman-born woman issue! I don't know about you, but I was born a baby. Whoever decided on that F on my documents certainly didn't consult me. Any more that the Catholics that baptised me. Both of them got it equally wrong in my case. If I present gender cues that are consistent with what Western society considers is appropriate with my gender-assignment-at-birth, that actually feels somewhat coincidental. As many femmes who have "M"s on their birth certificate will tell you (not always transwomen, some men, not always gay ID as femmes), this works, it makes sense for us, this is how we feel powerful.

When hideous people like Janice Raymond (who wrote that nasty, mean-spirited piece of trash The Transexual Empire) also started dissing sex workers, it just made the coalition between sex workers, transwomen and to a certain extent femmes as the targets (far more so, often that str8 white, able bodied, cisgender men) of mean spirited fundamentalist feminism, and thus natural allies, on at least some issues. When I was in a long term relationship with a transwoman, I decided to no longer identify as a woman. This wasn't coming from some weird desire to guiltily reject cisgender privilege but more to use labels as an opportunity to create meaningful coalitions - and to reject those that didn't work for me. Being in the same room with a group of transwomen has always felt safer and more affirming than being around anyone with the same views as Janice Raymond, Sheila Jeffreys et al. If anything being in the same space as separatist fundamentalist feminists actually feels oppressive and abusive, as that branch of feminism spends more time critiquing my hair and heel length, my clothes, my sexual practices and my allies and friends than it does doing anything to dismantle institutionalised sexism.

This branch of feminism sees all gendered presentation as oppressive - particularly femininity as it is seen as declaring yourself as sexually available to men, unworthy of equality, fluffy and not to be taken seriously or simply making yourself a rape target. Compulsory androgyny is seen as the acceptable way to present yourself. To this I say - to those that say a binary gender system is oppressive and the way of dismantling sexism is one 'choice' not two is as depressing as that crap song that suggests the end of racism by building a 'great big meltin' pot' and producing 'coffee coloured people by the score'. I am really not resigned to the only chance for equality is when we are all exactly the same.... that isn't harmony or equality to me - it's some creepy fascist fantasy! To me the answer always feels like more choices, not less. A different gender identity and presentation for each person on the planet!

So when I have to fill in a box on forms, I put a W for whore, or - if pressed, an F for femme. I find most of the time official forms that ask people to declare a letter, do it for no purpose whatsoever, simply convention. I encourage you, gentle reader, to ask why the collection of this information is relevant, or to start coming up with your own gender identity - might I suggest wonky (just cause I really like the word) asparagus (as you then have a great opportunity to wear loads of green clothes) or 9..... because it's a really nice number.... my point is that humour, complexity, queering bureaucracy and being wilfully obtuse is more fun, and less oppressive than fundamentalism, and might just change one or two small things.

Quarter of a Million Towards Migrant Sex Worker Rights

Scarlet Alliance funded for sex worker peer education

In October 2007, sex workers around Australia gathered in Kalgoorlie to hear presentations from migrant sex worker colleagues, including Empower Foundation in Thailand. Sex workers at that meeting resolved to take migrant sex worker rights to Canberra. 12 months later, Canberra is listening, and has granted $250,000 to Scarlet Alliance to extend peer education to migrant sex workers in Australia, with the aim of improving working conditions.

"Migrant sex workers are working in legalised, decriminalised and tolerated workplaces in Australia," Elena Jeffreys, President of Scarlet Alliance, said today. "Trafficking is not characteristic of sex work, but it may be characteristic of workplaces that don't have access to the same rights as other people. Prevention is better than prosecution. By improving working conditions, we can prevent trafficking."

The funding was announced by the Hon. Bob Debus, Minister for Home Affairs, on the 23rd of October 2008. Scarlet Alliance acknowledges Mr Debus' long standing support of the sex worker community response to HIV, and welcomes his office as a new funding partner on the issue of trafficking.

"Scarlet Alliance is looking forward to using the announced funds to improve workplace conditions for migrant sex workers in Australia, to co-ordinate policy work that has previously been unresourced, and to assist our diverse membership in Australia to better meet the needs of migrant sex workers through peer education."

"This money by no means will solve all issues for migrant sex workers in Australia," Elena Jeffreys reminded supporters today.

"Scarlet Alliance will continue to lobby for adequate resoucing and policy, but in the mean time are celebrating what a succeful year we have had in 2008. The Rudd Government has done considerably more for trafficking prevention and migrant sex worker rights in 12 short months than the Howard Government achieved in 12 years."

Another new initiative by Mr Debus is a policy roundtable to better inform the Government on trafficking issues. Scarlet Alliance is a member of the roundtable, and has participated in the roundtable sub-committee that has prepared a new set of Guidelines for Non-Government Organisations who work with people who may have been trafficked.

"Scarlet Alliance is committed to working from reliable evidence to promote
migrant sex worker rights and prevent trafficking of sex workers," Elena Jeffreys concluded today. "The next step is to deliver a more equitable, accessible and transparent visa framework for sex workers wishing to travel to Australia, and we are confident that with broad community support, the Rudd Government will deliver."

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Labor's new gay senator Louise Pratt calls for same-sex marriage,25197,24259191-5013871,00.html

Patricia Karvelas, Political correspondent | August 29, 2008

LABOR'S new gay senator Louise Pratt, who makes history as the first member of parliament with a transgendered partner, has used her maiden speech to break from ALP policy and call for gay marriage to be legalised.

The former West Australian state MP is the third openly gay member of the current senate, along with Greens leader Bob Brown and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong.

In her speech, Senator Pratt, 36, revealed that her partner, who was born female but has changed gender, faces discrimination that she wants to end.

"I look forward to a time when we will have removed at a federal level all discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and sexuality, to a time when my partner is not denied a passport because his gender is not recognised under our laws; to a time when my friends' children all enjoy the same rights and protections under commonwealth law regardless of whether their parents are straight or gay; to a time when if my gay friends wish to be legally married, they can be."

She told The Australian she understood Labor policy was opposed to gay marriage, but her situation meant she wanted to see change.

"As a person personally affected, I can't help but be disappointed," she said.

Senator Pratt's partner of two years, Aram Hosie, was born female, came out as a lesbian at 15 and began transitioning to male in 2006 at the age of 23.

In her maiden speech, Senator Pratt said: "Conservative forces in this country do not offer the kind of leadership we need to face this and other challenges. Far from it: they have a history of fostering division."

Senator Pratt's advocacy for gay and lesbian rights will challenge the Rudd Government.

Kevin Rudd, a conservative on the issue of gay marriage, pushed for watered-down gay marriage laws in the ACT and scuttled a plan to introduce civil unions for same-sex couples.

The ACT Government was forced to scrap its bid for gay marriage laws after the Rudd Government refused to support the move on the grounds the arrangement mimicked marriage.

In her speech, Senator Pratt said that as a state MP she fought against homophobia in Western Australia.

"I was, and I remain, very proud to have been part of the West Australian government that completely removed this discrimination against same-sex couples and their children in all state laws," she said.

Senator Pratt's partner is the founding president of the WA Gender Project. He has challenged the policy position of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade regarding passports, which restricts transgendered people to having a passport in their original gender, and lobbied the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission to conduct an inquiry into rights issues for
gender diverse people in Australia.

Linky Links 4 whores

Great links about sex worker activism:

Online videos posted by APNSW (Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers)

And the blog of Crimson Coalition, a network of Brisbane sex workers who are a member organisation of Scarlet Alliance.

Great to see sex workers doing online activism

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Latest Get Up Campaign.... please sign on for this.

You may not realise this but there are still hundreds of people in immigration detention across Australia.

Finally however, the Government is ready to listen and has launched a genuine Inquiry into detention. This is our chance to call for a more humane system, and it is vital that we give the Government a strong mandate for change.

Join me in calling for an end to a regrettable chapter in Australian history. With a click below you can put your name to this petition - the inquiry closes at the end of this week so please add your name now:


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Much ado about a small segment of the global sex industry

A problem that has captured the imagination of our time is the international trafficking of women for sex. It's on the increase because of globalisation, and has become a presence in popular culture. Often the theme of books and television drama, it was the subject of last year's good Australian film The Jammed.

But while trafficking, which involves force and deception, does occur and is a terrible crime, its extent has been hugely exaggerated. This is because the so-called rescue industry often deliberately confuses it with another and far more common activity: voluntary travel by women who want to work in another country's sex industry.

We've seen this linguistic subterfuge before. In the days when the Howard government wanted public support for its efforts to deport boat people, we often heard that this was necessary in order to deter evil "people-traffickers". In fact, most of the boat people had not been trafficked but smuggled, which means they were happy to pay someone who could get them to Australia. Those providing this service were breaking the law but (with the exception of men who provided unseaworthy vessels) they were not in the same moral category as those who trick Thai girls into coming to Australia and then imprison them in brothels.

But there aren't many people doing that, although you wouldn't know it from the publicity the Government's anti-trafficking effort gets, assisted by media-friendly raids on brothels by the Immigration Department. Australia is hardly unique in this regard, and it's time to realise that the world, prompted by the current American administration, has exaggerated the extent of this sort of activity. The victims are often legally employed sex workers.

The Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women has published a report called "Collateral Damage: the impact of anti-trafficking measures on human rights around the world". In the Australian chapter, by the Alliance staffer Elaine Pearson, one learns that "government attention to trafficking, as far as sex workers are concerned, has meant increased immigration raids on brothels, harassment of Asian sex workers in particular and disruption of their work. Three sex-worker organisations providing outreach to migrant sex workers stated that non-trafficked migrant sex workers working legally in Australia have been wrongly detained in raids at workplaces … Sex workers who are Australian citizens of Asian descent have also been subjected to increased harassment."

Someone who has looked closely at sex and migration internationally is Laura Maria Agustin, who has spent years talking to migrant sex workers and those who are paid to "rescue" them in America and Europe. She's just published a book called Sex At The Margins (Zed Books), and I spoke to her about it recently on Radio National.

Agustin says many migrants who sell sex choose to do so not because it's a matter of survival or because they're forced to, but because it's a way of bettering themselves.

In Agustin's view, many Westerners get very upset about this because they believe "people who are poor in the Third World are, almost by definition, not able to make any choices, are forced to do things, have been deceived, cannot possibly know what's going to happen to them and therefore are in need of the help of people who understand the world better. And when the situation involves women who sell sex, this is exaggerated by the belief on many people's part that any woman who is selling sex must have been misled, could not possibly want to do that."

But, based on the many women she's talked to, she says they do want to do that. They've decided working in the sex industry is better than the alternatives, a decision no one but they can make.

One might argue it would be better if they had other options, but they don't. And they have to live the lives they've got, not some fantasy alternative imagined by well-intentioned Westerners.
Agustin is struck by the way the linking of sex and migration exercises such a hold on the Western imagination. Every First World city is full of locally born sex workers, yet rarely is any concern expressed about this. Those cities are also full of migrants being exploited in non-sexual occupations, yet once again, public concern is rare. But when the two are placed together, it creates a sort of moral brain snap.

This is the case in Australia, where, the Global Alliance report notes, the government has been relatively uninterested in migrants trafficked for non-sex work. "From 1999 until the end of June 2005," it says, "159 individuals were identified as suspected victims of trafficking by [the Immigration Department] and/or the Australian Federal Police.

"Of this number, only 7.5 per cent of the victims were in sectors other than the sex industry. This is despite the fact that irregular workers are far more commonly found in sectors such as hospitality, agriculture, manufacturing, retail trade and construction than in the sex industry."

Elena Jeffreys, president of Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Workers Association, told the Herald: "The Australian Federal Government has spent more money on anti-trafficking measures targeting the sex industry than has been spent in the entire history of the regulation of our industry …

"Although the raids on brothels and so on are targeted at Asian women, in a bid to locate those who have been trafficked, they affect everyone else who works there. No other legal industry in Sydney suffers this level of disruption by government officials."

Religious condemnation of homosexuals denies human rights

Michael Kirby
June 30, 2008

A THOUSAND conservative Anglican leaders met in Jerusalem last week, among them Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria who was reported as saying that Anglicans who preach the inclusion of homosexuals in God's church were guilty of apostasy. He is not alone in this view. In Zimbabwe, the former bishop of Harare, an ardent supporter of President Robert Mugabe, withdrew from the Anglican province in May saying he could not co-exist with so many gays and lesbians in the church.

Many of us know the passage from the Old Testament book of Leviticus that declares homosexuals an "abomination". It is one of a long list of denunciations that has profoundly affected the way three great world religions — the "People of the Book": Jews, Christians and Muslims — have responded to sexual minorities. Only in a few countries is there a strict separation of church and state, so what they teach about morality influences secular laws by which most people on the planet are governed.

The problem is that those who believe in the inerrancy of religious texts find it difficult, or impossible, to tolerate those who deny or doubt their truth. Often the reaction against apostates is explained as being for the benefit of those affected. And it is ascribed to a command from God himself.

No doubt there are some in modern Jewish society who still adhere to views such as those in Deuteronomy that advocate the stoning of apostates, but generally speaking, few Jews would take them seriously as a command for contemporary civilian law. Christians have a similar tradition. In the 1250s, in one of the first descriptions of traditional English law, Henry Bracton declared that apostates should be burnt to death. Then, in the 1770s, William Blackstone declared Christianity to be "part of the laws of England", enforceable as such. Such laws have long since ceased to be observed, although occasionally the law of blasphemy is invoked to protect an Anglican concept of God.

It is 60 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations on the recommendation of a committee led by Eleanor Roosevelt. It gave effect to one of the Allied war aims in the Second World War, upholding the right of everyone to "worship God in one's own way anywhere in the world".

For most Jews and Christians today, the thought of punishing people because they abandon or deny their old religion, is unthinkable. Increasing numbers of Australians declare on the census that they have "no religion". So even hardline believers tend to skip over the passages in Deuteronomy. Much easier to single out those of Leviticus and to denounce sexual minorities.
Still, in some countries apostasy is very much a live issue, especially in some Islamic countries. The Holy Koran does not prescribe compulsory adherence to Islamic beliefs. On the contrary, it states that "there is no compulsion in religion". God alone has the right to punish those who do not adhere to Islam or who turn their backs on its beliefs.

On the other hand, the Hadith, a secondary source of Islamic law, records the prophet as saying that whoever rejects Islam must be killed. This has become a source for civilian laws and stern punishments in some Islamic countries. Occasionally, as in Sudan, those laws appear to be used as political tools for removing outspoken opposition personalities.

In Malaysia, the constitution contains standard guarantees of freedom of religion. However, in 2007, a decision of that country's highest court, in the Lina Joy case, by majority, denied the applicant the right to record a change of her religion from Islam to Christianity on her identity papers so that she could marry her Christian fiance.

One of the foremost critics of the Malaysian court decision on apostasy was Dr Thio Li-ann, a professor of law and a nominated member of Singapore's Parliament, a Christian who took a leading part in persuading the Singapore Parliament to reject proposals to repeal the old British laws against homosexuals, based on the teachings in Leviticus. For her, refusing to permit Lina Joy to have freedom of religious conscience was an abomination, notwithstanding Deuteronomy. But the abomination in Leviticus had still to be enforced. Like most non-Western countries in the former British Empire, Singapore maintains its criminal laws against gays.

On the 60th anniversary of Eleanor Roosevelt's Declaration, we need to promote tolerance and acceptance of diversity among all the People of the Book. For the sake of the planet and survival of the species we must embrace the universal principles of human rights. It is no accident that they were promised as a foundation stone for the New World Order created by the United Nations. Without respect for such basic rights, peace and security will always be at risk.

Most of the world's great religions are founded, ultimately, on simple principles of loving God and one another. It is from those principles that religious tolerance derives.

The Nobel laureate and religious leader Desmond Tutu recently wrote a foreword to the life story of Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Church. Tutu declared his acceptance of the authority of Scripture as the word of God. But he has not forgotten that the Bible had been used to justify racism, slavery and the humiliation of women. He declared: "I could not stand by whilst people were being penalised again for something about which they could do nothing — their sexual orientation."

The big challenge before us is to telescope centuries of experience, law, culture and tolerance in the West into a few decades in the rest of the world. Unless we do so, the mixture of religious intolerance and weapons of mass destruction will be a great threat to the world and everyone in it.

Michael Kirby is a judge of the High Court of Australia. This is an edited version of a speech he will give tonight, at the invitation of the La Trobe University Centre for Dialogue, at the Asia Centre, Melbourne University. He will speak at 7pm and the lecture is open to the public

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Moving On

I’ve had some time away from blogging as I’ve moved to Melbourne and not been online much. Through the three and a bit years I spent in Sydney, some part of me was always somewhat critical, somewhat held back, as the cultural differences between Adelaide, where I grew up and Sydney were often too stark. Although being a very out, extremely visible sex worker in a small place like Adelaide was eventually draining and the smallness of the queer scene meant fringe groups and minority queers were isolated; moving to Sydney made me appreciate so many things about the city-of-white-picket-fences-and-a-scarily-large-amount-of-churches-without-even-archetural-justification that I had left.

While I loved so many things about Sydney – Gurlesque and SLIT Magazine, that femme dykes were visible and that in some queer community spaces, being a whore was no big deal, the persistent lack of etiquette of the too-large-too-fast-and-too-easily-distracted-big city never stopped rankling with me. From the first few months when I was constantly blown away by people repeatedly bumping into others on footpaths, and never apologising, through to people’s crap behaviour within queer and alterna networks, including bullying and harassment, general online crap behaviour and high school mean girls behaviours in venues. For me, this was neatly summed up in a story I heard from a friend a few weeks before I left town, of a woman in the punk scene who broke up with her girlfriend, only to find that the ex had dealt with her post-break up feelings by producing a zine that spewed hatred and negativity at the woman, and distributed it at every gig she went to. The second aspect of this story is that no one ever seemed to challenge the embittered ex on her crap behaviour, and were happy to get their copy of the zine, for all the juicy details. I don’t pretend that this kind of behaviour is an exclusively Sydney phenomena, but that it can be easier to get away with things in a bigger city. I guess even though I hated that everyone always knows your business in a smaller city, that because in Adelaide everyone pretty much knows everyone, or at least only one degree of separation, that I felt that people didn’t try to fuck each other over quite so overtly.

Either way, I’m hoping that Melbourne will be a happy medium. So far I’ve been overjoyed at seeing manners displayed on a daily basis in my travels, but with the things I enjoy about bigger cities: butch-femme, trans and gender queer communities happening and putting on events, large ethnic and cultural communities coexisting and doing their own thing, and lots and lots of options for places to go and things to see.

My time so far has been spent getting lost, then finding my way back to somewhere I know (my technique for learning about new cities and new computer programs alike), learning about the local public transport quirks and finding my way in a new sex industry, governed by different laws.

The other day on the train I put together the reason I think I have experienced more weirdness from random strangers than usual. The person I am involved with is a transman and is at that stage of transition where he is passing a significant amount of the time, but passing as a teenage guy. So while I’ve long been used to getting filthy looks by elderly women, it’s usually when I have tattoos on display, or when I’m wearing something low cut or short, lately I’ve been dressed for a Melbourne winter, with nothing but my face and hands visible. The penny finally dropped, and I became aware that he is occasionally mistaken for a 16 year old, whereas I am far from looking like a teenager – so when we are behaving in amorous ways, it can confront some social mores, to say the least. As someone who is used to being involved with significantly older partners, it was an odd feeling to be pegged as a dirty old woman preying on a teenage boy…. Good thing I have a sense of humour, a healthy ego and that I celebrate each year further away from the tumultuousness and instability of my 20s. I just hope no one reports me to DOCS!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Truth and visas will set Asian sex workers free

Elena Jeffreys
April 4, 2008

The stereotype of the Asian sex slave captures the Australian imagination. When Puangthong Simaplee died in immigration detention in 2001, a story emerged of a girl trafficked to Australia at the age of 12 and forced to have sex as a slave. Her story was given under duress, after the Department of Immigration had taken her into detention, during the first phases of the pneumonia that eventually killed her.

Even when the federal police uncovered the Thai woman's high school diploma, proudly displayed in her family home, and discovered she did not arrive in Australia until aged 21, the image endured of pre-pubescent Asian girls chained to beds in back rooms with barred windows.

Media reports of a thousand sex slaves working in Australia have proved unfounded. But even when the coroner found no evidence that Simaplee was trafficked, the sex industry, not the detention system, continued to be the focus of coverage of her death.

The sensationalism surrounding the sex slave issue has created a government-funded rescue industry. This has diverted the focus from actual cases of trafficking in Australia and prevented an evidence-based response to the problem.

The federal police's transnational sexual exploitation and trafficking team, with the Immigration Department, has swept through the Asian brothels of Australia's capital cities, aided by an anti-trafficking package of tens of millions of dollars since 2003. The Australian Tax Office joined in and media were invited to the raids.

Non-English-speaking sex workers became the most overscrutinised sector of the sex industry. But the "sex slaves" remained elusive and trafficking was difficult to prosecute.

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission chimed in with the suggestion to make "consent" irrelevant, but even that could not create victims that did not exist.

The time has come for a new kind of response to trafficking, grounded in labour rights rather than moral hysteria.

While pictures of brothel raids make big news, labour rights for migrants, a less glamorous issue, are ignored. As the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women noted last year, Australian figures on trafficking "do not seem to take into account cases of labour exploitation".

If the Federal Government wants to improve the conditions of migrant sex workers, it needs to protect their rights as workers.

Introducing a visa to allow migrant sex workers to work in Australia legally for short periods of time would pull the carpet from under the trafficking nexus by allowing women to travel here independently to work. Greater access to generic working holiday visas for sex workers from our region would enable travel for work, without having to resort to a third party or "agent".

Treating migrant sex workers as a legitimate class of worker will get to the core of the trafficking issue. Decriminalising the sex industry in all states, and protecting workers from discrimination, would improve conditions in the long term.

Punitive approaches have been unsuccessful. The health, safety and human rights of the migrant sex workers in Australia must be prioritised.

Elena Jeffreys is the president of Scarlet Alliance, the Australian sex workers' association. She will participate in the "Security and future prosperity" stream of the 2020 summit.

This story was found at:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Exciting times, but more changes needed.

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd declared Australian Workplace Agreements "dead and buried" as Parliament today passed legislation dismantling the Work Choices laws.

Mr Rudd has told MPs that today was a landmark day for struggling families across the country and the first step to restoring fairness in the workplace.

The Workplace Relations Amendment (Transition to Forward with Fairness) Bill was rubber-stamped by the lower house this morning after passing the Senate last night. The Bill needs the assent of the Governor-General to become law.

Mr Rudd said the Bill's passage marked a major day for working families across Australia and honoured a commitment Labor gave to the people before last year's federal election.

"Today we declare this shameful chapter in the history of Australia's workplace relations to be dead and buried," Mr Rudd told parliament with the rousing support of Labor MPs in the chamber.

"Today with this legislation we begin the process of buying the rest of that Work Choices omnibus once and for all.

At this rate, I could get to approve of this Federal Government!

However, there is a Get Up! campaign going on - possibly the easiest activism you will be a part of:

Dear friends,

Saying sorry was an extraordinary first step on the road to reconciliation. But now is the time for real action - starting with closing the 17 year life expectancy gap that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

That is why Indigenous health professionals from across the nation are descending on Canberra to meet with the Government this week - our one chance to send a clear message we want a national partnership to end this preventable crisis. What happens this week will help determine the health equality for an entire generation to come - that's why we'll be there with our close the gap petition.

Can you add your name to it to close the shocking 17-year life expectancy gap, before another Australian generation is condemned to third-world health conditions?
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When we joined Oxfam, ANTaR, HREOC and NACCHO in this campaign in April last year we laid out the challenge before us: "we want to give politicians an unflinching new mandate, backed by tens of thousands: to extend the fundamental rights to life and health to every citizen of our wealthy country." Together we rose to that challenge, and saw Kevin Rudd make a commitment to close the gap - but now we need the Government to match their commitment with real action. This week is our opportunity to make that a reality - and that will take bold political will.You have the power to create that will - add your name to the 40,000 GetUp members who have already signed the petition, and we'll take it straight to Canberra with the message that Australia demands real health equality for all citizens:

Thanks for being a part of the solution.

The GetUp team

After more than a decade of feeling very ashamed of the government - and those that voted for them, I've started to feel a bit of hope for Australia moving into a time of compassion and social justice again.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Interesting quote, that picks up some of the themes of this blog

The modern fairy tale ending is the reverse of the traditional one: A woman does not wait for Prince Charming to bring her happiness; she lives happily ever after only by refusing to wait for him -- or by actually rejecting him. It is those who persist in hoping for a Prince Charming who are setting themselves up for disillusionment and unhappiness. (Susan Faludi, Writer)

Check out this article on Migrant Sex Workers...

Why Do Migrant Sex Workers Need Saving?

In the West, in the present, many people believe that sex should express love. This “good” sex is also said to provide a key way to discover personal identity -- who we really are, our innermost selves. It is assumed that feelings of love increase pleasure (quantitatively) and intensify it (qualitatively), resulting in meaningful passion that is expressed through long term, emotionally committed relationships. Other sexual relations then seem wrong, among them anonymous, public, and “promiscuous” sex. Above all, “real” love and sex are said to be incompatible with rationality and work -- at least that is the way many wish it to be.
At the same time, people wonder: Is there a boom underway in the buying and selling of sex, part of a general sexualization of contemporary culture? Since objective data is impossible to gather when businesses operate outside the law, we cannot know whether sex-and-money transactions are going on more than ever, but we certainly know we see and hear about them more. So although we tell a powerful story about sex and love belonging together, we also understand that people want other kinds of sex. We hear about people who buy and sell sex from our friends, acquaintances, the media, and sometimes through reporting on migration -- which is where “sex trafficking” comes in.

Laura Agustín has been studying migration’s links with the sex industry since 1994. Her new book is
Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry (Zed Books) and other publications are available on her website.

The issue of migration in relation to sex work is a huge one for the sex worker rights movement - as abolishionists often try to get anti-sex work legislation and policies through in guise of 'stopping trafficking', in the same way that anti-fornication Christians will target homosexuality rather than saying publically that they wish to outlaw all sex outside of marriage. I myself find so much of the rhetoric of the anti-trafficking movement so obviously racist - oh, it's ok for white, western, university educated women in North countries to talk about choice - but if you are a person of colour, working class, poor, young, female - well, you just have to be a victim of exploitation....

Monday, February 25, 2008

How To Kill A Transperson *Please repost*

Body: How to kill a transperson
February 15th, 2008
By Ceridwen Troy
This article was written on Friday, Feb. 15, 2008.
On Saturday, Sanesha Stewart, a transwoman of color living in the Bronx, was murdered in her own apartment. She was 25 years old. Her accused killer, Steve McMillan, had known her for months, yet when he was arrested, he claimed to have been enraged to find out that she was what the media coverage called not really a woman. He stabbed her over and over again in the chest and throat. She tried to fight him off; there were defensive wounds found on her hands.
On Tuesday, eighth-grader Lawrence King was in a classroom in Oxnard, Calif. He was openly gay, and often came to school in gender-bending clothing, makeup, jewelry and shoes. According to another student, it was freaking the guys out. One of them shot Lawrence in the head. He was declared brain-dead on Wednesday.
It is easy to look at cases like this and think, how tragic. How random. How senseless.
But then, you forget how easy it is to kill a transgender person.
You forget that all across this nation, faith leaders of all stripes, men and women who claim to speak for God Himself, call us sinners, call us abominations, call us evil.
You forget that at best the media depicts us as something to be pitied, something that our families must be strong and overcome. At worst, they depict us as abnormal, exploiting our bodies for ratings, exploiting the publics fear of us for shock value.
You forget that on a good day, law enforcement agents are neglectful of us, and that far more frequently they join in our harassment. You forget the transwomen of color who are rounded up on suspicions of prostitution. You forget the beatings that go uninvestigated. You forget the molestation and rape we face when we are arrested.
You forget the medical establishment that drains our wallets for the therapy and hormones and surgeries they tell us we need. You forget the way we are then refused treatment when we are dying, dying of treatable diseases, dying of easily patched wounds.
You forget that, by the law of the land, it is legal in the majority of states to deny us employment, to deny us service, to deny us housing.
You forget the shelters and the rape crisis centers that will not allow us through their doors.
You forget that many of us do not even have family to turn to when we are at our most desperate.
You forget that the leaders of our own community have told us that it is not time for us to have rights, that it is not pragmatic for us to be considered worthy of the same respect as other human beings.
You forget that in our own circles, it is considered a negative thing to be too flamboyant. You forget the way our pride parades have been derided by our own community. You forget the scorn heaped upon drag queens by other gay men. You forget the fear to be seen in public with a friend who is considered too open, too queer.
You forget the way it seeps into the minds of transgender people, too. You forget the way a transsexual will shout that she is not a crossdresser, as if there were something wrong with that. You forget the catty names we call each other if we don't pass"
You forget how many of us take our own lives every year.
You forget because the noise is always there, a constant drone in the background. Every newspaper piece that calls a transwoman he instead of she. Every talk show host who spends an hour talking about our genitals. Every childish taunt about looking like a tranny. Every transperson who talks about themselves as true transsexuals. Every activist and politician who tells us now is not the time.
You forget too, how easy it is to kill a person of color, with myths about gangstas and lies about immigrants. You forget how easy it is to kill a person living in poverty, cutting off her welfare because she is suuposedly being paid to breed. You forget how easy it is to kill a sex worker, with sex-shaming language, slinging about slurs like hooker and whore.
You forget the message hidden inside every single one of those statements.
You are less than I am. You are not worthy of the rights and respect that I am worthy of.
You are not human.
It is very easy to kill something that you do not see as human.
It is very easy to kill a transperson.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Today, it felt a little better to be a non-Indigeous Australian. I am proud of the Federal government for the first time in many, many years. I hope this doesn't stop here - that all of the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home Report are implimented. And I am very, very sorry and ashamed of how Indigeous Australian families, culture, and human rights have been treated so shabbily over the last 2 hundred years.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

No more comments

Because of a particular person using this blog to contact me as I have blocked them on other things, I've had to disable comments on this blog to avoid continued harassment. Sorry.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Media Release from Scarlet Alliance

Recently a male sex worker was charged in the ACT under the Prostitution Act on two accounts.
“At this stage we do not know if the person is guilty of the charges laid. Mr Scott has pleaded not guilty and deserves and is entitled to a fair trial.” Janelle Fawkes, CEO, Scarlet Alliance.

ACT Health has taken the unprecedented step of identifying the infection. “Scarlet Alliance does not support the decision from ACT Health to release details on Mr Scott’s HIV status. In our opinion this information being released out of court will significantly prejudice a fair trial.”

ACT Health revealed that Mr. Scott was known to be HIV positive, and announced its intention to commence contact tracing – broadly contacting a range of people whose phone numbers were held by the accused. “It must be remembered that 250 contacts in a persons phone or diary does not mean all or any of these people are at risk or have even had sex with the accused.” Janelle Fawkes, CEO, Scarlet Alliance.

“The epidemiology in Australia supports our understanding that Australian sex workers are on the whole effectively implementing safe sex practices with their clients on a daily basis. We know that in the majority of cases it is the client that does not perceive themselves to be at risk and the sex worker that successfully negotiates and implements safe sex practices.” Janelle Fawkes, CEO, Scarlet Alliance.

“What we have learnt from our partnership (between Government and communities) response to the AIDS epidemic is that when safe sex practices are implemented, including the combination of condoms and water based lubricant, the risk of transmission or acquiring HIV is very low. And condoms do work, evidenced by the low rates of HIV or STIs amongst sex workers in Australia. But it must be understood that safe sex is a shared responsibility. If unsafe sex has occurred it is the responsibility of both parties.” Janelle Fawkes, CEO, Scarlet Alliance. ‘HIV is transmitted by unsafe sex not because money changes hands.”

Evidence shows that HIV positive people participating in safe sex do not necessarily place their sexual partners at risk.
“The high number of sero-discordant relationships in which the HIV negative partner does not acquire HIV demonstrates that protected sex with a HIV positive person does not necessarily lead to transmission.” Janelle Fawkes, CEO, Scarlet Alliance.

“The high levels of condom use amongst Australian sex workers means there is no need to exclude HIV positive people from sex work. The cultural norms in the industry are high levels of condom use and very responsible approaches to implementing safe sex by individual sex workers.” Janelle Fawkes, CEO, Scarlet Alliance.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I love this site! Using creative mail art/ postcards to explore and make visible queer identities. Check out the diverse range of post cards they've received, and maybe consider sending one in yourself.

What a waste

I read something that made me feel ill today. The war in Iraq is currently costing $250 million a day. I'm sure we can all think of many, many things that money could be better spent on. One that seems relevent to me at the moment, and something to promote economic and political stability, is to put that money into global HIV prevention and treatment. UNAIDS have identified that we need to more than double our global spending in this area to prevent the numbers of HIV-positive diagnosises rising to 60 million by 2015. Oh, and this would entail evidence based approaches to prevention, namely access to condoms, clean injecting equipment, targetted education programs for at risk groups and reliable, non-judgemental sexual health information. Abstinance, prayer and shame doesn't prevent HIV.

Monday, January 07, 2008


When I have nightmares, I really go to town. No ‘clowns will eat me stuff’, I dream of scary, apocalyptic happenings. I dreamt the other night that Neo Nazis were taking over, and were herding up all the queers and assorted freaks, to take us away to the camps.

You might think, with my long hair and high heels, that I’d be relatively safe…. But then there is that *black triangle tattooed on my wrist, with the words QUEER DYKE WHORE bordering it…… Well, I just made it real easy for them, didn’t I? They didn’t even have to take the time embroidering a patch for me.

As the odds were, I was going to be killed anyway, I figured I would just go ahead and lecture them all, stern mummy style: “You do realise, don’t you, that you are targeting minority groups in order to avoid dealing with your own issues. And it won’t help one bit. Once we are all gone, you’ll still be stuck with the same problems!”

I don’t think my finger wagging and ranting made an ounce of difference, or turned any one away from their minority-persecuting ways. Those who have heard this story so far have remarked that this is exactly what they would imagine me doing, under the circumstances. “I’m not frightened of you, you nasty little Nazi brat! What, do you think that gun distracts every one from your insecurities? Have you tried a self help book, or some counselling?”

* Black triangle (badge)

The black triangle has sometimes appeared as a
lesbian or feminist symbol of pride and solidarity.
The symbol originates from
Nazi concentration camps, where every prisoner had to wear one of the Nazi concentration camp badges on their jacket, the colour of which categorised them according "their kind." Individuals deemed "asocial" had to wear the black triangle. The majority of black-triangle prisoners were mentally retarded or homeless. But smaller groups of prisoners were also given this badge, including alcoholics, the habitually "work shy," prostitutes, and others.

In the Nazis' meticulous records there is no word of the black triangle having been imposed on lesbians, or of lesbians as a group being confined to concentration camps. However, some have reasoned that since the Nazis believed strongly in a traditional social role for women, lesbians and other sexually unconventional women might logically have been considered "asocial" from the Nazis' point of view.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Discretion is the better part of valour (bad blogging behaviour, Part1)


Shakespeare, in Henry IV, Part One, 1596:

Falstaff: 'The better part of valour is discretion; in the which better part I have saved my life.'

Someone said to me recently that this blog is all about politics…. This isn’t the first time someone has mentioned this…. My usual response is “What else is there?”

The truth is that who I fuck, how and under what conditions are often less meaningful for me than my politics and what my broader passions are. For example, the sex worker rights movement has been my longest, most committed and passionate relationship. In some ways, as long term romantic relationships have been on the skids, my connection with the movement has been especially helpful, as I can bury myself in the work, and focus on bigger goals than myself, and whatever whirling emotions are happening for me, before I embarrassed myself too badly.

Also, while I am generally always interested in human sexuality, who is fucking who and how is often of little interest. Hence Her Royal Whoreness is all about sex and little about fucking.

I’ve also been on the receiving end of some icky passive aggressive blogging on more than one occasion since I’ve been in Sydney. I don’t know if it’s the middle class Adelaide girl manners I grew up with, but I’ve been a little shocked by incidents I’ve heard about or read about, with people blogging about others in wildly indiscreet and some times totally horrible ways. People using their unlocked, free to anyone to read online journals to do constant character assassinations, to blog about who’s doing who, any random scene gossip, or simply posting personal emails they’ve received. I've heard the people involved use the justification that as it is their blog, they can post whatever content they want - I guess that's like saying that it's my gun, I'll shoot whomever I want with it.

Boundaries such as differentiating between what you might say in a conversation with a close friend, and what you would post for a potentially worldwide audience have seemingly collapsed. However, if you maintain a blog, and all your friends read it, and maintain their own, which you also read, these fine distinctions may be hard to distinguish.

The fact is, you can blog something nasty under the influence of anger, sadness, alcohol, misunderstanding or PMT and then regret it and erase it the next day, but as a large amount of bloggers are also compulsive blog readers, chances are quite a lot of traffic has passed in that time, and even after an entire blog/ journal has been deleted, if you Google the right combination of words, you can access the postings for ages afterwards. Putting somthig out there in writing, online, is very, very different indeed from a bitchy conversation over a beer or a coffee with friends.

SMS, blogging, myspace, etc are being used as tools from primary and high school bullies to torment and harass classmates. Cyberbullying is a huge issue in schools across the world, and I am sad to say that I've witnessed some hideous examples of cyberbullying and harassment from some people abut on the Sydney queer scene who don't seem to have grown up yet. I shudder to think of the motivation behind someone who is too gutless to say something to someone's face, but will parade their mean spirited opinions online, or will use their blog to air dirty laundry to punish someone for no longer being in contact, or for leaving a relationship. The lack of dignity demonstrated by these cowardly, underhanded uses of what can be an exciting medium, - that potentially allows a greater diversity of voices to be heard particularly when considering the concentration of mass media ownership - is astounding. It's enough to make me yearn for the restraint and dignity advocated for in Jane Austen novels, before talk shows, talk back radio, reality television and the blogging/ online networking revolutions took over and the resulting Jerry Springeresque parading of ones life, all big, sloppy emotions, self destructing in public and self indulgence by any means necessary...

I never thought I'd be advocating for mile class decorum, but when vindictiveness and harassment cause people to ignore others' right to privacy and dignity, enough is enough. If you can deal with it with the person concerned, go and speak to them face-to-face like grown up. If they don't want to engage with you, or have any further contact, or if they have broken up with you, this is the opportunity for you to move on, get therapy, join a sculpture class, or take up bush walking. Dragging them (and yourself) through the mud won't provide closure, it just tells them they've made very healthy decision in cutting off contact, and showcases all of your most messy, unpleasant, unethical qualities for the world to see, ensuring that you will be bitter and alone for a for a very, very long time. I have, in fact met people who will not date people who are notorious for spilling their personal lives all over the web. Nasty or simply emotionally sloppy blogging always says more about the blogger than anyone being blogged about. Relationships fail for good reasons, and giving yourself the time and space to lick your wounds and reflect in private gives you an opportunity to work out why you are better off not being in that relationship, and gives the necessary distance to aquire some perspective and rationality on the situation.

Also, let's face it even the use of initials, or pet names won't stop friends and acquaintances on the Sydney scene being able to put two and two together, based upon who you do and don't spend time with.

If something has emerged in a social interaction that has really bothered me, I’ll often hang on to it for months and months before I blog on the topic, and even then, I will usually make damn sure that it relates to a significant issue - mental health, social or political, that this blog focuses on. Even this post has been sitting around in draft form for a very long time, but it felt to me like it needed to be said. I try my hardest not to use this medium for punishing those whom I perceive to have wronged me. I try to find greater dignity and more self esteem in silence.

Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens....

This is sort of a post to to usher in the new year, but for me it feels more significant to commemorate some truly wonderful things that have been going on in my world lately, so these are a list of my favourite things over the 2007-2008 period...

The defeat of the Howard government

I approached the lead up to the Federal election with caution, trying not to be too optimistic, but hoping and burning offerings to the deities that this time, things would be different. I had approached the last two elections being sure that the Coalition would be defeated, only to be left feeling, more so than usual that I am so very out of touch with the views and opinions of 'average, working Australian families' who parrot along with the Liberal Party that social democratic principles, unions, diversity and peace and non-violence movements are indeed the root of all evil...

I'm not celebrating the ALP's win, as much as I am the Coalition's loss.... I am made uneasy by how much more of a formidable political force that the Religious Right have become in Australia over the last 11 years and that the ALP will still try to bow to this extremist lobby group tht simply have more money and organisation than the left, and certainly don't reflect the viws of the majority of Australians. However, I will maintain my optimism that this electoral shift might mean a bigger shift to the left that hopefully will last at least a decade, in order to reestablish services and infrastructure, and repair some other casualties of Howard's messianic backlash against the social reforms of the 1960s onwards.

Domestic Bliss

About a year ago now, I found myself thinking about some of my adolescent decision making and came to the conclusion that a lot of my significant life directions, including sex work activism and extreme outness was much to do with avoiding becoming my mother, at all costs, and that it hadn't worked. I often find myself speaking in her voice, and expressing a similar set of values, particularly in relation to etiquette, in which I clearly haven' t moved far from middle class Adelaide. Since this realisation, I've been increasingly able to enjoy my home environment, cooking more, including recently, amazing chilli, corn bred and guacamole and maintaining a cleaner environment. It has been amazing to be able to pick and choose which aspects I take on and which I don't. I can take on the living comfortably and cleanly in a home I enjoy doing fabby dinner parties in and playing at being the gracious hostess, without that having to be part and parcel of th fundamentalist judgmental fire n brimstone type my mother was. Hooray! I can play at being the Whore of Babylon and June Cleaver, without either being all that I am, or excluding the other aspects.

Growing Older

Some years seem more like baptism by fire than others. I have being working 3 part time jobs in the last 6 months. It has been almighty stressful, and sometimes, some of the balls I've been juggling crash to the ground. However,my coping skills, work ethic and ability to function have never been so obvious. So while sometimes, everything is just too much, there has been other times,I've impressed the pants, erm, frock, off myself. Growing older does seem to mellow and provide increased skill, knowledge and capacity to get stuff done. I'm at a stage where this far outweighs the gray