We are writing this letter as trans sex workers of all genders and sexual orientations, British and migrant, documented and undocumented. We are members of Sex Worker Open University, a collective of sex workers who work together to provide a place to socialise, learn new skills, get support and campaign for the rights and safety of everyone who sells sex or sexual services.
Whilst it cannot be understated that we welcome the news that Stonewall has, through the creation of an advisory group and through carrying out meetings with trans people, created a framework for beginning to advocate for the rights of trans people, we are concerned by the complete lack of inclusion or acknowledgement of sex work within your vision for change.
Trans people who do sex work are some of the most stigmatised and discriminated groups of people, we face violence regularly at the hands of clients, society, our families, partners, and the authorities, yet we have very limited access to justice and support. We are saddened and concerned to see that your vision for the future has decided to ignore us, and instead ask that you seek to include our rights and needs in your activism.
As you are probably already aware from your meetings with trans people and work with the advisory group, as members of the trans community we face higher levels of unemployment, higher risks of bullying in the education system and within the workplace, pushing us to leaving education early, or to depart from formal employment with a higher frequency than those not in the trans community. Whilst there is no one simple stereotype and different trans people face do various different aspects of the aforementioned issues, the problems faced by trans people in education and employment do work together to create an environment where trans people are more likely to seek an economic alternative to transphobic workplaces and education institutions, and that is before taking into account the very real mental health effects that come from living with gender dysphoria and how that can affect trans people’s ability to enter formal employment.
Furthermore, many trans people from around the world decide to work in the sex industry in the UK or in Europe in order to escape high-levels of violence in their countries of origin and/or to pay for necessary, yet expensive, treatments for their dysphoria. Although we do not have exact numbers, we know that members of the trans community are – for these reasons and others – disproportionately represented in the sex industry. Migrant trans sex workers are often at greater risk of violence and many feel unable to report abuses to the police due their trans history, race, immigration status or involvement in sex work.
As trans members of a sex workers’ organisation, with very limited or no funding who work regularly with other trans sex workers to provide support and advocate for our rights, we regret to see that the issues which affect us appear to not taken into account when it comes to your activism. Though we recognise that this reality can be uncomfortable for some groups and organisations, we ask that, in your quest for equality, you do not leave the most vulnerable and discriminated against members of the community you seek to begin to advocate for behind. Specifically, we ask that you:
Commit including full sex work decriminalisation in your platform for trans rights; and
Ensure representation of diverse sex working trans people on your advisory board, particularly including sex working trans women of colour.
Transgender sex workers are part of your community too.
For further information on issues affecting trans sex workers worldwide, please read:
Or email Contact@swou.org
Trans sex workers members of Sex Worker Open University & Sex Worker and Trans