Friday, May 22, 2009


Queensland Health is planning to fund health services sex workers –
what do YOU want to do with the money?

Queensland workers have not been adequately represented since the
demise of SQWISI, and the new group - United Sex Workers Queensland -
will fill that gap. United Sex Workers will be managed and staffed by
past and present sex workers to deliver education and support on
sexual health and other issues relevant to sex workers. It will be
open by summer 2009. The time has come to have your say!

We are inviting ALL Queensland sex workers to tell us what you want
and need at consultation meetings in North and South Queensland. These
meetings will be a forum for all workers and former workers to meet
and decide how their organisation will be run and what services will
be provided.

Regional planning days are being held in:

Townsville (June 1) and Brisbane (June 30).

If you are unable to attend but still want to have your say, a
feedback form is attached and can be returned via email or phoned

To RSVP for the North Queensland meeting contact Jackie at USNQ on 4724 4853

** please distribute to sex worker communities **

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


#amazonfail: With book monopolies like these, no-one is safe


Overland editor Jeff Sparrow writes

On Easter Sunday, weird things happened at uberbookseller Amazon.

Inexplicably, the site suddenly reclassified certain titles as containing "adult" content, meaning they lost their sales ranking and became much harder to find. Hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of books became, without warning, well-nigh invisible.

Even curioser, this outbreak of Grundyism seemed to impact most on titles with gay and lesbian themes. The author Mark R. Probst contacted Amazon querying why his bookThe Filly (a gay cowboy romance) had lost its ranking. He received the following response:

In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude "adult" material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.

Best regards,

Ashlyn D

Member Services Advantage

As Probst -- and then just about everyone else -- apoplectically noted, great swathes of heterosexual material still turned up. But suddenly, Amazon wouldn’t list Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle or EM Forster’s Maurice or Radclyffe Hall’s lesbian classicThe Well of Loneliness (with its famous s-x scene lasting a whole seven words: "and that night, they were not divided").

Rather than pointing you to, say, Heather Has Two Mommies or Who’s Who in Gay and Lesbian History, an Amazon search for ‘homos-xuality’ brought up A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homos-xuality, followed by You Don't Have to Be Gay: Hope and Freedom for Males Struggling With Homos-xuality or for Those Who Know of Someone Who Isand then, in third place, For the Bible Tells Me So.

Great news if you wanted to read Christian fundamentalists explaining how, by playing the piano and spending too much time with his mother, eight-year-old Jimmy "was […] already showing many signs of pre-homos-xual behavior"; not so great if you weren’t a complete lunatic.

The episode did, however, allow Twitter to demonstrate that, contrary to all previous evidence, microblogging does actually serve some purpose. Quickly #amazonfail became the number one tag, as users shared news about the latest title to vanish. Gore Vidal had gone. So too a biography of Ellen DeGeneres. You could no longer find The Essential Book of Gay Manners & Etiquette. And so on.

When Amazon eventually issued a statement, it blamed the kerfuffle on a software glitch. But the company’s oddly hesitant response only added to the speculation. A hacker has since claimed responsibility, on the rather deranged basis that he wanted to "cause a few hundred thousand queers some outrage" because the personal ads he placed searching for girls to take heroin with kept getting rejected (uh huh). Elsewhere, posted correspondence from an unidentified Amazon rep admitting that the bookseller was, in fact, trying to protect conservative buyers from ‘offensive’ titles.

Meanwhile, most, though not all, of the delisted books seem to have regained their rankings.

Even if #amazonfail turns out to be a storm in an i-Phone, it should draw attention to the huge monopolies now dominating the book business. Amazon is currently spending zillions developing its Kindle e-reader, an application intended to do for books what MP3 players did for music. Although e-books still remain fairly marginal, Amazon’s prepared to subsidise the Kindle on the basis that, when digital book publishing eventually takes off (as it surely will), ownership of the default e-application amounts to a licence to print money.

But do we want Amazon as the Microsoft of publishing? To use an old school analogy, monopoly control of the standard format for e-books equates to a single publishing house owning all the paper stocks. If nothing else, events this Easter hint at why that might not be such a great idea.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tranny Panic!

I love the Tranny Panic site – loads of gorgeous radical art from a trans perspective for everyone to print out and use for non-commercial purposes.

I loved these two graphics in particular:

I might have spoken about some of the similarities and connections between sex worker and trans experiences in this blog before. As someone partnered to a wonderful transman, he will often get clueless and offensive questions such as ‘so, what is in your pants, then?’ Whereas I’ll get the ‘so how old were you when you first started working/ had first sexual experience?’ or ‘do you use drugs or were you sexually abused?’ from random strangers. The kind of questions that the person would never think was acceptable to ask a cisgender person or a non-sex worker.

Sex workers, like trans people will sometimes choose, when they can to go stealth, or not reveal their status, not due to a desire to 'trick' others or to be deceptive, but to avoid stigma and discrimination..... and really, really stupid and offensive questions that we've all heard way too often.

From sex worker sensitivity training I've been involved with in the past, it seems that making connections between the experiences of different groups is important for the making of allies, and many of us have experienced at least a few episodes of marginalisation, or unfairness, even if it is simple school yard cruelty or bullying, so if we can tap into a sense of how that has felt, when we consider other communities, there is the possiblity to move beyond that fear of the other, and move towards understanding.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Stupid, Stupid Laws (part 2)

So I first blogged about stupid sex work laws that didn't do what they were meant to, or just had bad outcomes over here. That was a South Australian story, since I've been living in Melbourne for about a year now, I figured I should write a little bit about the travesty that are the Victorian sex work laws, in particular, mandatory sexual health testing of sex workers.

The testing regime in Victoria, according to the Prostitution Control Act (!) mandates swab tests every month, with blood tests every three months. This practice is supposed to occur, if you have any symptoms of an STI or not, whether you have had a condom breakage or slippage or not, whether you provide penetrative sex services or not. So, as this isn't based on any real risk practice, just whether you charge for a sexual service, so there is an huge waste of clinical resources on this practice.

The strain on clinical services becomes apparent when you attend the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre.

Currently, in order to be seen within 1 hour of attending the clinic, you have to be there upon opening, at 8.40 am.

If you attend before midday, you are likely to be seen within about 3 hours (or have your details taken and asked to come back after lunch when they will be seen in order. If you first show up after lunch, then you will not be seen that day.

Obviously this is due to the enormous strain on the services by sex workers, who for the most part will not have experienced any symptoms or breakages since their last test. I presume that the clinic prioritises people who (once determined after the brief interview with the triage nurse) actually demonstrate some genuine risk of being infected; however, it simply isn’t possible for everyone who needs access to have adequate access to the service, under the current system. For most people, setting aside a significant amount of time out of their day to wait for testing is difficult.

There is a major sexual health clinic in (I think) every capital city of Australia, and although anyone is welcome to visit a private doctor if they have a Medicare card, the benefit of these services is that they are free, reasonably anonymous - you don't need to provide a Medicare card, so presumably you can give a fake name), you can drop in without an appointment, and get testing and treatment by medical staff who are more used to diverse lifestyles, sexual identities and practices than some suburban doctors might be). I’ve now worked in three states, and this is the only time I’ve had to wait longer than about an hour to get in to see a nurse in the major metropolitan sexual health clinic. I can only assume that this bares a direct relation to the fact that this is the only state that does mandatory sexual health testing of sex workers.

Given that their has never been a reported case in Australia of client to sex worker, or sex worker to client HIV transmission, in the more than twenty year history of the virus in this country, given that sex workers have lower rates of sexually transmitted infections than the general population, and higher rates of condom use, this over testing does nothing to protect public health, and only services to stigmatise sex workers. as long as no one is seriously discussing testing clients - or other sexually active adults, this practice is about discrimination based on status. There has been anecdotal evidence for more than a decade now coming out of Victoria that clients are well aware that licensed brothels require sex workers to submit to regular sexual health tests and present certificates of attendance in order to work, and feel emboldened to request services without a condom as a result. So, in fact mandatory testing puts so much more pressure on sex workers, and makes our work so much harder, to keep providing services with a condom, and to protect our OHS.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My new femme crush

is here: sublime femme

because of this quote:

High Femme— Lesbian or queer gender marked marked by a highly stylized and aestheticized form of femme gender expression or identity. Uses exaggeration, artifice, and/or theatricality to denaturalize femininity. When combined with parody or irony, the effect achieved is akin to drag: femininity in quotes. No particular style of dress or external signifiers; may or may or may not wear dresses, heels, and/or makeup. May or may not be a “bottom” or a “top” in a sexual situation; may or may not partner with butches, studs, or stone butches. No particular personality traits. May be passive and demure or aggressive, independent, strong, etc. Not equivalent to a lipstick lesbian or stone femme. *

And discussions of the fact that high femme is not better, more worthy or classier than femme, or low femme, or any other variations.

I also like that sublime femme knows that high femme doesn't have to be an expensive, elitist demonstration of class. Most of my best femme wear include lurid pink polyester negligees from local thrift shops for $6, and hair accessories from the kids wear section of shops because they have cupcakes on them, or home made creations, because everything in the shops were too tasteful and dull for my desires.

Monday, February 23, 2009

More Milk

Sean Penn took home the Oscar for best actor his portrayal of slain San Francisco gay rights activist Harvey Milk in the movie "Milk" and used his win to defend the right of same-sex couples to wed.

"You commie, homo-loving, sons of guns," the sharp-tongued Penn told the audience as he collected his award. "I did not expect this and...I know how hard I make it to appreciate me."

The straight actor's portrayal of an openly gay politician was a timely one -- with "Milk" coming out shortly after California's same-sex couples lost their right to marry in a voter referendum.

"I think it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that way," Penn said.

"We've got to have equal rights for everyone."

Penn, who has a tough guy image dating back to his early career scrapes with the paparazzi, convincingly evoked the legendary charm of Milk, who was shot to death in 1978 at San Francisco City Hall.

"He came in kind of ready made" for the role, openly gay "Milk" director Gus Van Sant said.

In presenting Penn as a nominee, storied actor Robert de Niro joked: "How, for so many years, did Sean Penn get all those straight roles?"

Also winning an Academy Award for Milk was Dustin Lance Black for Best Original Screenplay.

During his acceptance speech, Black said,

"When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas, to California, and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life; it gave me the hope that one day I could live my life openly as who I am and that maybe even I could fall in love and one day get married. […]

Most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he’d want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told they are less than by their churches, or by the government, or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value. And that no matter what everyone tells you, God does love you, and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights federally across this great nation of ours."

Another Milk article.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Milk and Activist thoughts

I saw the film Milk last week, and I was so moved by it, and thought it was so very good. Harvey Milk was someone that I learned about when I first became interested in queer rights as a teenager, but whom I haven't thought much about for about 15 years. I was reminded how much of the core issues of the (1970s) gay lib movement’s agenda was set by Harvey (and probably others). Many of these agenda items are still vitally relevant to queer causes and communities, as well as other minorities today. I’m going to briefly mention three issues that I was most struck by during the movie

The enormous political value of coming out – although I understand why so many of us will never be able to… particularly many sex workers, who are often parents who risk hideous custody battles and other issues – it does seem clear that knowing someone who identifies as gay or lesbian (in the context of the film, and research that I can’t remember enough to site here, but read many years ago) makes you more likely to support anti-discrimination legislation or same sex relationship legislation. Certainly people in my own life seem to grow in support and passion for sex worker rights issues, than if they’d never known that I was a sex worker. So while I don’t think that you have to be out, I stand by the belief that it’s a useful strategy for increasing awareness, combating stereotypes and increasing support for minorities.

The understanding of the importance of electing openly gay people to office – I think that issue is still own that the sex worker movement battles with. Harvey Milk struggled to get endorsement as a political candidate, in the gay press, who preferred to support str8 candidates who expressed support for gay rights. I think as a movement the sex worker rights movement needs to realise that sex workers are experts in our own lives and work, that when the going gets tough we will still maintain our passion for these issues that impact on our communities. I’m so sick and tired of non-whores being supported for roles in the movement by sex workers, in order to present our issues and organisation with more credibility. Frankly, all of those beliefs emerge from unexamined internalised whore stigma. Before we get another lawyer who understands the letter of the law but not its impacts (or policing), another accountant who is all about sex workers paying tax but doesn’t understand the kind of confidentiality issues that we struggle with at the ATO, another doctor who pays lip service to sex workers as safe sex experts but pushes sexual health testing and sees sex workers as walking genitals, we need to realise that there are many sex workers who have other life and work experiences if we need those qualifications, and that we need to start believing ourselves that we are the experts when it comes to sex work, before we can convince politicians or funders. I see this issue emerge again and again, and not just with the sex worker rights movement, but with most marginalised people. Steps towards self esteem, and regular reality checks by spending time with inspiring folk from your own community can help what unfortunately often just appears to be self hating approval seeking.

The final thing I was struck by in Milk was the power of successfully creating coalitions. Milk worked on making links between union movements and gays – gaining support among the gay community for a union boycott, then got the union support for employing openly gay people. This partnership of support is a really good model for increasing the politicisation for communities and avoiding the divide and conquer approach that minorities can be so seduced by. I think partnerships with clearly defined ideas of how communities can work together to support each other, without stepping on toes are important.

Another of those "Tell us something we don't know" pieces of research

That just reinforces the obvious... but might be worthwhile to back up an argument

Single, Angry, Straight Male... Seeks Same?

Same sex attraction underlies homophobia in young men

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Teens Take Virginity Pledges, and Then Have Sex

I really like this article, it's what we all already know, but it's sometimes nice to have research to confirm...

Yet more evidence that abstinence-only programs, many of which include virginity pledges, do not work.

"In the January issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, there's a new study from Janet Rosenbaum of Johns Hopkins University about the effects of virginity pledges on sexual behavior.

So how do these commitments to abstain until marriage affect sexual behavior? Do teens who pledge to abstain have less sex than their compatriots? Nope. Do they wait longer to have sex? Nope. So what's the effect? Teens who take virginity pledges are significantly less likely to use the Pill or condoms than their non-pledging peers. "

"So what's my hope for the new year?

That we start thinking of sexuality education from a comprehensive, life-long, sex positive perspective. Sexuality education should be rights-based: it should be taught not because it reduces teen pregnancy or STI rates, but because all people, especially young people, have a right to accurate, complete and unbiased information about their bodies, their health and their sexuality. You teach kids about sexuality for the same reason that you teach them history, math, and logic -- they deserve the tools that help them understand and function in the world around them. "

Monday, January 19, 2009

Visible: A Femmethology


Femme–an identity that has caused controversy, celebration and ridicule–is now the topic of a two-volume set from Homofactus Press and editor Jennifer Clare Burke titled Visible: A Femmethology. Femmethology calls the LGBTQI community on its own prejudice and celebrates the diversity of individual femmes. Award-winning authors, spoken-word artists, and totally new voices come together to challenge conventional ideas of how disability, class, nationality, race, aesthetics, sexual orientation, gender identity and body type intersect with each contributor’s concrete notion of femmedom.

Femmethology is a two volume wonder all about femme identity, it's available from March 2008, published by Homofactus Press. I am very proud to say that I have contributed an article, as well as a few other Australian femmes. Check it out, at or on FaceBook or MySpace, as the very diversity of voices, plus the contribution of serious, respectful thought about femme (in some cases minus the lofty academic language) is a valuable thing.