Sex Work Decriminalization Town Hall Set for November 11

Members of the Red Umbrella Project demonstrate outside City Hall on September 18 in advance of a Council hearing on the city’s Human Trafficking Intervention Courts. | GABBY JAY

Members of the Red Umbrella Project demonstrate outside City Hall on September 18 in advance of a Council hearing on the city’s Human Trafficking Intervention Courts. | GABBY JAY

BY NATHAN RILEY | A new organization dedicated to the decriminalization of sex work is holding its first public meeting at the LGBT Community Center on November 11. According to the new group’s website, it is the brainchild of “a loose working group of people who have advertised –– and people in community with advertisers –– on Rentboy.com, including lawyers, community members, and organizers.”

#HookUp Collaborative started immediately after the August 25 raid on Rentboy.com, when there was widespread anxiety that the federal government would start mass arrests. A hurriedly called meeting–– open only to advertisers on Rentboy –– led to a candid discussion of their rights and what steps to take after this major disruption of their lives initiated by the US Department of Homeland Security.

The group’s name held promise for future organizing activity. And in using the word “hookup,” the group draws attention to the fact that casual sex becomes illegal when one member of the coupling earns money. Hook also brings to mind hookers, the identity that many of Rentboy.com’s advertisers wear proudly but quietly, as well, in the face of social stigma. Collaborative suggest an equalitarian nature to an organization that prefers issuing collective statements and avoiding focus on personalities.

Charging that the “#Rentboy Raid Happens Everyday,” the collaborative is working to bring focus to ongoing police profiling and humiliation of people in the sex trade.

Mitchyll Mora, the co-author of two reports on homeless youth and survival sex, will moderate the town hall, and Monica Jones of the Best Policy Project is coming from Arizona to be one of the presenters. She will be joined by Jenna Torres of the Red Umbrella Project and Brendan M. Conner an attorney who works with the #HookUp Collaborative. Both the Best Policy Project and the Red Umbrella Project are advocacy groups representing those who work in the sex trade.

The town hall takes place at 6 p.m. on November 11 at the Center, 208 West 13th Street. In additional to the collaborative, the Red Umbrella Project, and the Best Practices Policy Project, ACT UP is also a sponsor of the evening.

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