Activist

I’ve been making trouble in grassroots movements for sex workers rights and racial justice for nearly two decades going back to 2000 when I helped organize the Pussy Palace, a Toronto queer bathhouse that was raided by police. It was a trial by fire for an inexperienced activist that led to a three year court battle and human rights complaint–plus my first time screaming “pussies bite back!” into a bullhorn*. I wrote the first sex advice column for Chatelaine and founded the Feminist Porn Awards. I currently work with the Toronto chapter of Showing Up For Racial Justice and am a trainer and mentor for organizers.

From the moment I was born to poor teenage mom, I’ve never been far from the front-lines of debates surrounding sexuality, justice and power. My family has a multi-faceted relationship to the sex industry and to the damaging effects of criminalization.

One night in 2004, while visiting Vancouver, I saw a home-made poster on Hastings street covered in dozens of photos. On it were the faces of about three dozen missing women of the downtown east side. I stood there in shock, scanning their faces, reading their names. Each one was listed as being in the sex trade. More than half were Indigenous. It was a catalyzing moment that changed my life.

I returned to Toronto and immediately joined the sex workers rights movement. Later that year I helped organize Canada’s first Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Since then I’ve lobbied municipal, provincial and federal governments, given evidence on Bill C36, presented to the National Anti-Trafficking Forum and worked with bad-ass sex work organizations in Canada, Australia, the US and Thailand. I am the co-founder and former co-director of the Migrant Sex Worker Project, north america’s only organization of migrants, sex workers and allies.

At the centre of my work are people in the sex trade facing violence and discrimination due to multiple oppressions and the criminalization of their lives, sex work and communities.

I am a prison and policing abolitionist and co-edited the blog Everyday Abolition with Lisa Marie Alatorre.  I was formerly on the advisory board of the  Transformative Justice/Harm Reduction Project and for Use The Right Words: A Guide to Media Reporting on Sexual Violence in Canada.

I’m powered by a ferocious, insatiable desire for transformation and joy. And I know that there will be hustlers after the revolution.

I’m grateful to call Toronto home, the territory of the Haudenesaunee, Mississauga of New Credit, Huron-Wendat and Métis Nation of Ontario.

 

*The policy change we won was the introduction of a set of mandatory protocols around how police conduct searches on trans people–the first of its kind in a North American police service. I don’t believe however that it was meaningfully implemented by the police. Activists in NYC then used the policy that we’d helped craft to advocate for and win similar changes in the NYC police service.

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