Candace Gibson, Resident Blogger (’12, University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law)
The reproductive justice and LGBTQ liberation movements share the values of bodily autonomy and sexual liberation and believe that all persons should have the resources they need to form the families they want. However, many of these desires, including bodily autonomy, are often denied to trans persons, especially trans sex workers, many of whom are trans women of color. At a recent conference that I attended, Cyndee Clay, Executive Director of HIPS, painfully articulated the experiences of trans sex workers and their attempts to survive in our economy. She had mentioned how trans sex workers not only faced violence from their clients but also from the police as they were arrested, how police officers often sexually harassed these individuals. In 2013, a D.C. police officer shot three transgender women in a car after one of the transwomen refused to provide sex for money. Clay also discussed how often young trans persons were forced onto the streets because their families rejected who they were and that trans persons are excluded and erased from larger conversations on anti-trafficking efforts, unfortunately nothing new to many of us in different movements.
Clay’s comments remind me that we still live in a society hung up with gender, body parts, and the selling of sex. Unfortunately, through our regulation and, in this case, criminalization of sexual desire for sale, we often harm and kill the most vulnerable without providing critical solutions and resources for those who are merely trying to survive. Survival should not be the standard for some-we should all have the resources we need to thrive as persons and as members of our community.
Maybe, it’s time for the broader reproductive justice community to center the voices of sex workers, especially trans sex workers, in our conversations. It may be hard at first but we have never shied away from a challenge.