Weekend Demos Focus on Black Sex Workers, Anti-Trans Violence

Activists raised awareness about the hardships facing sex workers in Times Square on August 1.
Aaron Costa-Ganis

Advocates gathered on July 31 and August 1 to shed light on violence facing transgender individuals and call attention to the plight of Black sex workers.

The weekend kicked off with a Friday evening rally at Hudson River Pier 45 at Christopher Street on July 31 that focused on the ongoing attacks facing transgender individuals, particularly Black trans women. Among those on hand for that event were out LGBTQ 2021 City Council candidates Jordana Lusk, Elisa Crespo, and Marti Gould Cummings.

At least 25 known transgender or gender non-conforming individuals have suffered violent deaths so far in 2020, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Sadly, that death toll is already on pace to surpass last year’s total of 27 deaths.

The community huddled again the following evening for the Black Sex Worker Liberation March and Vigil at Times Square, which spotlighted Black sex workers who have lost their lives to police violence and COVID-19.

TS Candii and Manhattan Assemblymember Dan Quart, who is running for Manhattan district attorney at the August 1 event in Times Square.Twitter/ @AMDanQuart

A media advisory distributed ahead of the August 1 event stressed that sex workers are not eligible for government unemployment relief during the pandemic and face disproportionate rates of discrimination in housing and job opportunities. The event also placed a unqiue focus on the discrimination facing sex workers in digital spaces in the wake of the federal SESTA/ FOSTA law, which prompted the shuttering of many online safe spaces for sex workers, as well as the looming threat of the EARN IT Act, legislation pending in Congress that would give law enforcement agencies the ability to gain access to encrypted communications.

Advocates continued to push the State Legislature to repeal the loitering law known as a ban on Walking While Trans due to the way the law is used to discriminate against transgender women of color. Out gay Manhattan State Senator Brad Hoylman and Westchester Assemblymember Amy Paulin, both Democrats, have voiced confidence that the measure they sponsor will win approval in the drawn-out 2020 session disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That event featured a robust slate of speakers, including TS Candii of Black Trans Nation; Bronx and Westchester Democratic congressional nominee Jamaal Bowman; Melania Brown, the sister of the late Layleen Xtravaganza Cubilette-Polanco, who died while in restrictive housing at Rikers Island last year; SX Noir, a sex work activist and sex technologist; Assemblymember and Manhattan District Attorney candidate Dan Quart; Queens State Senator Jessica Ramos; Qween Jean; and others.

SX Noir denounced Big Tech and the NYPD’s policing practices during her speech at Times Square.

“We must defund the NYPD, we must defund Vice, and you know what, fuck that, abolish the police,” she said. “We are asking for money to be divested from policing and the human trafficking intervention court and put instead into housing, education, and social services for sex workers that are not contingent on being arrested first.”

Criticizing the grip that major social media companies have on public discourse, Noir added, “Defund Big Tech, defund Facebook… We need spaces for us, by us. If they can’t make money off of us, they don’t like it. That’s the problem.”

Marti Gould Cummings, Jordana Lusk, and Elisa Crespo, three out LGBTQ candidates for City Council next year, at the rally denouncing anti-trans violence on July 31.Twitter/ @MartiGCummings

Qween Jean, who has spearheaded multiple recent demonstrations — including a July 24 march from Washington Square Park to Lower Manhattan — continued to emphasize the messages she has been voicing in speeches.

“We believe in liberation,” Qween Jean said. “We believe that liberation extends to each and every one of us: Black, brown, white, sex workers, trans workers. We all deserve to live and to hold space.”

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