Home' South Florida Gay News : SFGN 090915 Contents 9.9.2015 • 17
This we know at Lambda Legal, from work we and our sister organizations do for people
involved (or profiled as involved) in street economies, including sex work for survival:
- Violence is devastating the lives of transgender women of color.
Members of our communities who experience the criminal justice system — police,
courts, and prisons — face harassment and sexual violence.
- Our young people — when rejected by their families and unsupported by services that lack
competence for LGBTQ individuals — are left to the streets in epidemic proportion.
- Discrimination everywhere from schools to workplaces limits lives.
Following the raid of Rentboy.com ...I told the Daily Beast:
“We know that across our community there are people who are marginalized and vulnerable
due to any number of discriminatory factors. [For example, there are] young people and adults
who have been turned out of their homes. They’ve been harassed or discriminated against in
education and employment. Their options are very limited. There are many people out there
who are using sex exchange as a means of survival and putting food on the table or a roof over
“...when customers are criminalized, there is downward pressure on sex workers to keep
what they are doing hidden, perhaps remote, perhaps unprotected. It makes it more difficult
for people to negotiate boundaries and barriers like condoms and overall to make themselves
safer when they are working in a criminal framework as opposed to a decriminalized
framework. This really affects the whole system.”
hayley gorenberg, national deputy legal director, lambda legal
Sex workers & the LGBTQ community have been advocating for decades that criminalization
and policing of the sex trade and those profiled put communities at risk of violence and
exploitation. Laws against the sex trade have always been used to police the bodies of
marginalized communities, especially LGBTQ and communities of color. When sex workers
are prosecuted under these laws, it can become harder for them to find mainstream work
because of their criminal record. The closure of Rentboy is the latest in a long history of abuses
of people in the sex trade that puts these communities in more vulnerable and sometimes
Rentboy was one of few websites male adult workers could use to find clients. Rather
than the “worldwide prostitution ring” news articles have called it, Rentboy provided an
opportunity for many to find economic security. Rentboy.com also helped form HOOK Online,
a resource for men in the adult industry. This resource provides safety tips, an opportunity for
a college fund, some legal advice and a way for adult male service providers to exchange ideas
and keep each other safe from violence.
sex workers Outreach Project
Rentboy.com is just the latest website to be targeted. Interestingly, unlike MyRedbook.com
(also raided by the federal government) and Craigslist Erotic Services (shuttered by political
pressure), no one has justified the raid on Rentboy as necessary to stopping human trafficking
or protecting any victims. The site simply provided a safer place for escorts to meet and screen
clients and share information with each other. Sex workers consistently say they find it safer
to screen clients online than on the street. Closing down such websites directly increases the
risk of harm to sex workers. That is the effect of criminalization.
For too many LGBTQ people, participation in street economies is often critical to survival,
particularly for LGBTQ young people and transgender women of color, who face all-too-
common family rejection and vastly disproportionate rates of violence, homelessness, and
discrimination in employment, housing, and education. The lack of supports for our young
people is disastrous, and the fact that any of them lack other options than sexual exchange
is a community tragedy. And even LGBTQ young people and adults who are not doing sex
work, particularly those of color, are often profiled and arrested under prostitution laws,
contributing to high rates of incarceration.
Such realities seem to be lost on those who have argued recently in favor of keeping sex
work criminalized. Decriminalization of sex work would “protect the very people that cause
it,” wrote the Washington Post editorial board—but the forces driving people to trade sex for
money cannot be arrested: the need to pay bills, feed yourself and your family, and keep a roof
over your head. If we want to give people better opportunities, it’s hard to see how arrest and
prosecution further that goal.
Joint editorial by the national Center for transgender equality and lambda legal
Anti-Violence Project believes that these types of raids, and the stigma of online hook-ups
generally, perpetuate a narrative that the LGBT communities, and in particular gay men, are
deviant and undeserving of support. Although circumstances differ, this harkens back to the
“false arrests” of gay men in adult bookstores and sex stings in public parks – all targeted at
rooting out “deviance.”
This narrative is inherently anti-LGBTQ and is a part of the foundation of anti-LGBTQ bias
that creates all violence against LGBTQ people. Until we address the general bias, discrimination
and hatred that LGBTQ people face in this country, we will not end this violence.
AVP believes in and uses a harm reduction model when working to prevent violence. That
is, we provide services to all survivors of violence, regardless of circumstances in which the
violence occurs. We believe this is critical to responding to and preventing violence, because
when violence is driven underground by stigma, embarrassment or fear, survivors of that
violence not only fail to get the support they need, but also may face increased risk of future
Anti-violence Project of new york
This action appears to be a blatant, morally-driven discriminatory attack on gay consensual
sex. The New York Times Editorial Board have stated that the criminal complaint that resulted
in this raid was ‘so saturated with sexually explicit details, it’s hard not to interpret it as an
indictment of gay men as being sexually promiscuous.’ Many USA activists, LGBT community
members and commentators have highlighted the increasing climate of homophobia that
they identify as having accompanied the tenures of Mayor De Blasio and the Commissioner
of NYPD, William Bratton.
NSWP’s opposes all forms of criminalization and other legal oppression of sex work
(including sex workers, clients, third parties, families, partners and friends). The term ‘third
parties’ includes managers, brothel keepers, receptionists, maids, drivers, landlords, hotels
who rent rooms to sex workers and anyone else who is seen as facilitating sex work. Sex
workers and our allies actively campaign for full decriminalization of sex work for a number
of reasons, including promoting safe working conditions and labor rights for sex workers;
Increase access to health services and reduce sex workers’ risk of HIV and STIs; Increase sex
workers’ access to justice; Reduce police abuse and violence; Help to tackle exploitation and
coercion when it does occur.
Sex workers need to be able to communicate openly with clients and managers without
constantly fearing arrest, police harassment or worse. Sex workers often use advertising
websites to screen clients for their own safety.
global network of sex work Projects
The New York City Anti-
Violence Project is just
one of many organizations
that stands up for the
rights of sex workers.
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