The District, like most cities and states, has long had criminal penalties for consensual sexual exchange. Although widely used, such an approach has never worked – instead it only serves to harm those most vulnerable while fostering violence and exploitation. It is time for DC to take a different approach.
Trans Women engage in sex work at a rate ten times that of cisgender women and 37% of DC's trans sex workers are homeless. Street-based sex workers who are engaged in survival sex work often bear the brunt of criminalization.
On October 28th, the Human Rights Campaign is holding its 21st annual “national dinner,” a lavish $400-per-plate fundraiser at the Washington, DC convention center. Celebrities, corporate CEO’s, bankers, and politicians will come together for a night of self-congratulatory celebration, raising money for an organization that for decades has worked to achieve its narrow vision of equality that ignores the lived realities of most of the trans and queer community.
HRC’s national dinner has been one of the most glaring examples of the mainstream LGBT movement’s myopic attempt to align itself with big corporations, weapons manufacturers, out of touch politicians, predatory banks, and wealthy donors. This year is no different, just look at the dinner’s Presenting Sponsor: Wells Fargo.
“Wells Fargo has demonstrated a high level of commitment to equality,” reads the website for HRC’s national dinner. “Please consider supporting those that support us.”
Support “us”? Who is us? Who exactly does Wells Fargo support?
“Us” doesn’t include 120,000 individuals currently held in private prisons (to which Wells Fargo provides funding and invests in) or their loved ones.
“Us” certainly doesn’t include the nearly 15,000 immigrants who are detained each day in private detentions centers (to which Wells Fargo provides funding and invests in).
“Us” doesn’t include the Native communities whose sacred land was decimated by the Dakota Access Pipeline (to which Wells Fargo provided funding).
“Us” doesn’t include the trans Wells Fargo employee who received an undisclosed settlement after she was harassed and mocked nearly to the point of suicide by her coworkers and managers.
“Us” doesn’t include Black folks in Ferguson, Missouri, (and countless other cities across the US) where the foreclosure rate has risen to 50% because of Wells Fargo’s racist predatory lending.
“Us” doesn’t include people of color in Baltimore, who were targeted for subprime loans – or what Wells Fargo employees themselves like to call “ghetto loans.”
Racism isn’t just a by-product of Wells Fargo’s actions – it is at the core of its practices across the board. From its financing of the private prison system, immigrant detention facilities and the Dakota Access Pipeline to its predatory lending practices that target communities of color, to the way it treats its own employees, Wells Fargo demonstrates a toxic disregard – if not outright disdain – for people of color, immigrants and Native communities.
In the current political climate, when people of color, trans folks, immigrants, and working class folks are under attack, HRC continues to celebrate and promote – of all possible corporate sponsors - Wells Fargo.
For years HRC has worked to slowly kill the dream of radical trans and queer liberation – a vision of liberation that recognizes the vast diversity of the queer and trans community and the fact that none of us can be free until all of us are free. By abandoning the most vulnerable members of our communities and prioritizing the most powerful, HRC has appealed to the United States’ core values: White Supremacy, Respectability, and Capitalist Greed. With this “strategy” they have taken aim at the laws that keep powerful, cisgender, white gays and lesbians from fully accessing their privilege.
But HRC doesn’t just ignore the rest of us. Instead, they partner with institutions like Wells Fargo that contribute to our marginalization, helping ensure that their corporate partners – like Wells Fargo – appear on the “right side of history.” It’s a win-win: HRC gets money, corporations get a “socially-responsible” façade, while they continue to perpetuate toxic systems of oppression.
In recent years HRC has tried to get with the program. They’ve tried to provide symbolic support to causes like Black Lives Matter and the movement for immigrant justice. But these efforts are in bullshit as long as they continue their partnership with Wells Fargo. HRC needs a wake up call.
At this year’s national dinner, that’s exactly what we’ll provide. This year our radical dream of trans and queer liberation is back from the dead.
No Justice No Pride is planning a fabulous, frightening, and festive disruption of HRC’s annual corporate clusterfuck. Join us outside the convention center on October 28th, where we’ll dress up as Zombies and give HRC something to be afraid of. Let’s show that trans and queer folks will no longer accept HRC’s complicity with institutional racism, Native genocide, and mass deportation. The movement for trans and queer liberation used to be something radical and beautiful - something we could really be proud of. Let’s bring it back from the dead.
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Unfair laws that criminalize sex work strip people of other employment options upon conviction, bar people from housing and lead to unsafe jail conditions for trans women in the sex trade. In order to make our city safer for everyone - and marginalized communities in particular, join us in urging DC Councilmember Allen to hold a hearing on the Reducing Criminalization to Improve Community Safety and Health Amendment Act.