Sex work is highly regulated by law and often criminalized entirely in the United States. Those involved often lack an understanding of what these laws are and what their rights are if they find themselves to be victims or labeled criminals. Sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups across the globe and face a disproportional amount of violence and discrimination. The lack of knowledge that this community has only further adds to this marginalization. For my activist project I decided to do something to increase awareness around this issue as well as provide legal education to sex workers and sex work advocates.
I am a board member of the Sex Worker Outreach Project (SWOP) Baltimore chapter and with the help of this organization we organized a legal rights clinic. We partnered with Power Inside who graciously donated time and space to help us put on this event. We all either came with relevant experience and knowledge or researched a specific unknown topic to bring new information to have a roundtable discussion on sex work legal rights. Topics that were included were; the policing of transwomen, Maryland state specific rights, current nation wide legislation pending, victims rights, and harm reduction laws.
We were low on time, which made promoting the event difficult as we are fairly new and the effort involved in spreading the word about our solo events can be extensive. We also had planned on making zines during the event with knowledge that we learned there, but nobody was interested in ending the discussion for a different activity. Our turn out was modest but we were able to have the voices of people of color, trans sex workers, former underage sex workers, survival sex workers, and LGBT sex workers. One of the people who showed up to the event is now a member of SWOP-Baltimore as well.
This event was my brainchild and I did most of the planning and organizing around it, as well as hand drawing our flyers. I am extremely proud of the event for its ability to boost recruitment for our organization and strengthen our ties to organizations doing similar work in Baltimore. We also made future plans to put together a larger event in the future covering harm reduction 101 to be a collaborative effort with several local organizations.
As far as how this changed my relationship to activism, I would say that it gave me much more of a sense of what I am doing in planning events. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found that I am fairly skilled at the organizing side of activism. It is certainly something I want to pursue more in my activism. I think this started my process, which I am still on, of learning how to work together with other activist groups to achieve common goals. I am currently still meeting and brainstorming with other organizations and am incredibly excited about what the future holds. This project was such a wonderful foundational learning experience for myself that I am positive will lead to bigger and more effective future activist projects.
To learn more about SWOP or Power Inside here are some links: