Organizations in the United States working for the rights of sex workers face significant barriers to funding including a foundation sector dominated by the belief that sex workers need saving rather than rights and limits because of priorities. Sex worker-led organizations in the United States received just 1% of global non-governmental grantmaking for sex worker rights in 2013.
Sex worker-led organizations in the US have continued to exist–and have achieved tremendous victories–through the personal sacrifices made by sex workers who have worked for years at a time as unpaid volunteers. The death of Sharmus Outlaw, a renowned black transgender leader for the rights of sex workers, in July 2016 reminded us how unsustainable this approach is. Her friends and colleagues had to fundraise to make up a shortfall for her funeral expenses.
Sharmus story is not an exception. It is not unusual to learn that some of our most important transgender leaders of color do not have enough to pay their bills in life. Nor is it unusual that we have to pass the hat to raise funds to bury our leaders when they die. What we have learned in 2016 is that it never was possible for transgender leaders of color to live for years without fair payment for the incredible work they have done for sex worker rights. Here are some suggestions for this #givingTuesday2016 to invest in transgender leadership of color for sex worker rights.
- send a tax deductible donation to BPPP to support program work led by Monica Jones and invest in the development of her new organization The Outlaw Project. All individual donations received between today November 29 and December 1, 2016 will be earmarked for this purpose.
- donate to this private fundraiser to ensure that #GigiThomas, local D.C. hero for sex workers and the trans community, has legal representation that conveys her experience as a transgender woman of color who fought for her life.
- and lastly, maybe you’d prefer to pay someone for their work, rather than donating? A suggestion is to hire a sex worker. Next time you or anyone else you know would like a sex worker to speak to a class, be a panelist at an event, present as a keynote or give a training, pay that person with a speaker’s fee, honorarium, and provide–if you can–a per diem and accommodation. US sex worker leaders don’t get paid (remember only 1% of global funding reaches US sex worker-led organizations), time spent sharing their experience with you is work. Pay them what you think any expert in their field should be paid. Sex work is work. Presenting to a college class is work.