Today is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. You can read more about this day here.
At this point in my life, I’m lucky to be a sex worker with a lot of resources and a strong sense of agency. This was not always the case. During a time when I had far fewer resources, I am very grateful to have had St. James Infirmary. Occasionally, I went to the Wednesday night drop-in for antibiotics or acupuncture, but most weeks I went just to be in a place where I could be surrounded by other sex workers. A place where I felt normal.
Sequoia was a street worker I met there. She was always smiling. She smiled at me in the clinic, trying on silky tank tops from the donation closet. She smiled every time I saw her on Sixth Street, where her beauty was so striking as to be discordant. We exchanged hey girl’s and I was flattered that she remembered who I was. I did not know her well, but I can never forget her beautiful, kind, smiling face. She was nice to me in a way that felt tremendously generous. It seemed to evidence a generosity of spirit that is rare, and fragile. It was a time in my life when I felt very alone, partially because I had a job where I had sex for money, and I hadn’t yet surrounded myself with people who knew that job wasn’t evidence of my brokenness, and so I was afraid I might actually be broken. I was, and am, so grateful for her kindness.
Sequoia was killed, probably by a client, while working in the park. In the clinic that week they made a collage, lit a candle. Another woman said “I should have been with her that night. She shouldn’t have been working alone.”
Today I read this article, and the phrase “sex work isn’t stigmatized because it is dangerous. Sex work is dangerous because it is stigmatized.” There’s a lot I can say about that idea, but mostly, I want to say this: no one should be working alone.
I mourn today for Sequoia, and I light a candle for the men and women who are on this list, and for the ones who aren’t, and for the ones whose names and stories have been forgotten.