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 with branches in London, Leeds, and Glasgow.
We welcome the news that Stonewall is consulting with trans groups and individuals. We hope that, whatever the outcome of these meetings, the trans community will be further strengthened to fight discrimination and stigma and gain full respect and equality in UK.
However, we urge you not to forget a section of the trans community that faces very high levels of stigmatisation, discrimination, violence and very limited access to justice: trans sex workers.
Our organisations are sex worker-led and include or work with many trans sex workers. Just as with cis sex workers, we trans individuals who work in the sex industry have many different lives and stories, and no one can be reduced to a simple stereotype. However, as confirmed by TUC reports, members of the trans community face higher levels of unemployment and higher risks of bullying at schools and work, pushing them to leave education early or formal employment more frequently than cis people: the sex industry can then become an economic alternative to transphobic workplaces and many trans people, including those working in more formal sectors and students, choose to work in the sex industry.
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 expensive reassignment surgery, for example. Though 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, with whom we are in contact through our outreach and are members of our organisation, are often at greater risk of violence and many feel unable to report abuses to the police due to their trans identity or history, race, immigration status or involvement in sex work.
Though this reality can be uncomfortable for some trans groups and individuals who might feel that advocating for sex workers’ rights might reinforce negative stereotypes about the trans community, we ask that, in your quest for equality, you do not leave the most vulnerable and discriminated against members of our community behind.
As sex workers’ organisations, with very limited or no funding, we wish the issues of trans sex workers, including migrants, would become an important and integrated part of the campaign for LGBT equality by Stonewall and trans organisations.
Never forget: most of the trans people murdered every year worldwide and commemorated on the Transgender Day of Remembrance are sex workers.
Never forget: the Stonewall riots were led by trans women of color and sex workers such as Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson.
In their memory and in the memory of Kellie Telesford, Destiny Lauren, Robyn Browne, Andrea Waddell and the many other trans sex workers murdered in UK, we ask you to:
- actively include trans sex workers, including migrants, in your consultations and organisations
- develop resources that addresses the needs of trans sex workers including access to health care and justice
- consult sex worker-led organisations when developing research and resources on trans sex workers
- support the advocacy efforts of sex workers in UK, Europe and worldwide, by calling for the decriminalisation of sex work, so that sex workers can report violence and abuse to the authorities
Or email Contact@swou.org
Sex workers members of Sex Worker Open University, English Collective of Prostitutes, X-talk Project and Scot-Pep