Thursday, December 17, 2015

In Remembrance of Lives Lost to Stigma and Enforcement

By Annie Temple

I wrote this poem one night after working a drop-in program in Surrey BC Canada for street-based sex workers. One of our regular attendees came in distraught because she'd been raped by someone posing as a client. Processing someone else's pain can be difficult. It's called vicarious traumatization.

A few months later, this same woman entered a recovery house. She avoided the drugs she was addicted to for two months before relapsing. It was her last relapse. She overdosed and died. I loved her. I will never forget her.

Today is December 17th - International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Today, please carry a red umbrella in remembrance of the lives lost and your commitment to ending violence against sex workers. Today, talk to people about what this day means. It means we will not stand idly by while our most marginalized citizens suffer.

The poem below refers to women in the sex industry, but we all know that sex work is not a strictly feminine occupation. The drop-in I worked at when I wrote the poem, however, was for women only as that was the only funding we could access at the time.

That is also something for you to think about. How we, as a society, prioritize women's programs over programs for men and other-gendered people. And how most people don't even consider sex work outside of a violence against women narrative. This is faulty. Take responsibility for your misconception. Learn. Become an ally so that lives may be saved. Sex work is not inherently dangerous and sex workers are not only women.

In loving remembrance of sex workers everywhere who have suffered, been silenced, and perished due to violence, stigma, enforcement, and oppression. xoxo

I Look Like One of Them
In Memory of Katherine (formerly known on the streets of Surrey as KitKat)

I look like one of them
No hard lines that make my age hard to determine
One of them – my people, their people (in denial)
They cast judgment without any trial.

I look like one of them
Those who pass judgment and condemn
Those who’ve never seen what these women have seen
Or heard their voices even though they scream.

Doctors, nurses, cops, and johns
It always depends which side that they’re on
Those who see past the socially-imposed shame
Or those who ridicule, abuse, and lay blame.

I can barely contain this, my anger, my rage
Every war story told, I lock down like a cage
But my outrage keeps building and alas my heart bursts
I don’t know how to carry this burden, this curse.

I don’t walk in their shoes, roof over my head
I don’t have my things stolen when I go to bed
Each night I return to a warm, peaceful home
I can sit at my desk and type up this poem.

I look like one of them
I’m ashamed some are friends
With their “shoulds” and “get off drugs”
With their “pimps” and “hookers” and “thugs”

Talking like they have a clue
When nothing’s farther from the truth
Cause you cannot understand
If you can afford your Dairyland.

The welfare agents, the landlords, and neighbours
The power they wield, with their conditional “favours”
The sweeping statements they make about worth
To women who’ve lived through much more than childbirth.

I bow down to the strength of these women at war
Standing strong, taking on the hard path of the whore
Even during the times when the pain’s just too great
How these women withstand, overcome, and create.

I’m one person who does not know how to go on
Because losing a war like this is so wrong
They’re winning because all our soldiers are wounded
A world that is blind has so woefully doomed it.

There’s no good way to end this ode that I tell
Sometimes as women, we find things to sell
I don’t think that means that we’re not like the rest
Just they haven’t had to put their judgments to test.

And really what matters is only our souls
The parts of ourselves that no one ever stole
They tried but we begged, borrowed, boosted, and lied
And though some sisters were stolen, many still have survived.

Not one passage has passed with no one to mourn
Though we may not know Jane Doe for the day she was born
And we wage this deadly war against unfathomable odds
Offering up our most burdened moments to God.

#decriminalize #sexwork

About the Author

Annie Temple is the stage and writing name of Trina Ricketts. Trina has 17 years experience as a striptease artist and 15 years as a sex worker rights activist, but she's been a rebel all her life. In 2000, she founded to support other entertainers by reducing isolation, educating about health and safety, sharing information about gigs, challenging stereotypes, teaching etiquette to customers, and organizing in-person events for charity and to promote ethical businesses in the industry. Some of the groups and functions that Trina is associated with are Exotic Dancers for Cancer (now BoobaPalooza), The Naked Truth Adult Entertainment Awards,Trade Secrets Guide, BC Coalition of Experiential Communities, Canadian Union of Naked Trades, as well as several community sex worker supportive organizations. Trina is a mom of three, a lover of writing and dancing. Currently she continues to run and recently she founded Digital Activist Media - a project to investigate digital activism strategies and share them with other change-makers. Trina's activism efforts have expanded to include many issues, but her main activities involve sex worker and health freedom rights.

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