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My Anger is a Gift: Sex Worker Rights, Strategies, and Knowledge

Livestreamed on May 30th, 2021 

Full Transcript:

Mercedes Eng:  

Representation of Sex Worker. I am not a CSI style forensics TV show. I am not DNA evidence on a Port Coquitlam farm. I'm not a mug shot. I'm not a pair of legs for you to look at and rent. I am not a subject object of your intellectual discourse. I am not a future you fear for your wayward teenage daughters. I breeze, I shout and I get mad. Someone told me my anger is a gift. And I'm going to knock your teeth out with this gift.


Larissa Lai:  

Thank you Mercedes. Good morning, everybody. That was Mercedes Eng reading from her book, Mercenary English. Greetings from Treaty Seven territory. I'd like to begin by paying my respects to the people on whose traditional lands this event is being hosted today. The Blackfoot Confederacy comprising the Siksika, the Piikani, and the Kainai First Nations as well as the Tsuut'ina First Nation and the Stoney Nakoda, including the Chiniki, Bearspaw and Wesley First Nations. Mohkínstsis, also known as the City of Calgary, is home to the Métis nation of Alberta, region three. 


I'd also like today to acknowledge the mass grave that was discovered yesterday. I think it's really really important. I think a lot of us are sitting today with this grief of the mass grave discovered on to Kamloops and Secwepemc territories. I express my grief and solidarity with Kamloops and Secwepemc people. 


Alberta is a province where historically many Black people came to work as fur traders and cowboys in the early 1900s. Many also came on into a mass exodus from Oklahoma. My name is Larissa Lai, I'm Hong Kong Chinese with roots in the Pearl River Delta. I arrived in Calgary by way of Kumeyaay, Beothuk, and Coast Salish lands. I'm a prof, a writer and an occasional cultural organizer. And I'm truly honored to have been invited to moderate on this panel in particular. I'll be facilitating today, with the lightest touch I can muster, just enough to keep us on track. 


I'd like to acknowledge all of the people who made this event possible today. Thank you so much to Rajean Hoilett for taking care of the tech. Thank you to Lokchi Lam for web design and communications. Tremendous gratitude to Beverly Bain and Min Sook Lee for hosting the project through Scholar Strike Canada. Finally, much respect and appreciation to the organizing committee, comprised of Richard Fung, Shellie Zhang, Monika Gagnon, Robert Diaz, and Min Sook Lee. It's an honor to be part of this event that's been so intelligently and compassionately thought through. 


The speakers today are Mina Do, Mercedes Eng, and Elene Lam. I had the pleasure of having a preliminary visit with Mina and Mercedes last weekend to get to know them and to plan this event and meeting Elene for the first time today. Last Saturday, Mina and Mercedes gave me the bulk of their morning and generously shared thoughts and experiences around sex work, activism, writing and art. I was blown away by the depth of their knowledge and their generosity. For me as a kind of head person, a professor, writer, occasional cultural organizer, it was a tremendous honor to be in the presence of these two, now three extraordinary humans who have done the work, and share so abundantly and with such grace. 


I grieve the women who were shot and killed in Atlanta. This is not however, the first time that brutal violence and death have been visited upon sex workers. If we are to prevent more such death, and more such violence, we must attend again to how racism, misogyny, and sex worker violence intersect. I won't say more than this, as I'm here to learn as much as anyone else in the audience. Our speakers are the ones carrying the expertise. And there's so much to share with us, and for this reason, we will not be entertaining a Q&A at the end. I'll just tell you something about each of them. And then I'll let them take the floor. 


So first of all, Mercedes Eng is the author of Mercenary English, Prison Industrial Complex, which is the winner of the BC poetry prize, as well as my yt mama. Her writing has appeared in Hustling Verse: An Anthology of Sex Workers’ Poetry, Jacket 2, Asian American Literary Review, The Abolitionist, and r/ally, published by No One Is Illegal.


Mina Do has asked me not to read her bio. So I would just like to say that I'm blown away by her intelligence, it was so wonderful to meet you last weekend Mina, and I'm blown away by your intelligence, your generosity, your articulate ess, and of course your gravitational pull. She's been a wise teacher for me already, and I suspect will be so for us today. And for me so much more, I hope for a long time, Mina.


And then Elene Lam is the Executive Director of Butterfly, Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Networks. She has been involved in sex workers, labour, migrant, gender and racial justice movement for over 20 years. She is a PhD candidate at McMaster University, and you can check out her work at 


So we've agreed that there's five ideas, which are also practices around which we're going to structure the event today. And the first one is mutual aid. So I'll give the floor to the three of you to begin talking about that. And I'm just going to go and close my door. I'll be right back, but please start.


Mercedes Eng:  

Well, I guess I had wanted - Oh, my name is Mercedes Eng, I am joining you from the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples, whose territories I live on as a Chinese settler. I had wanted to talk about mutual aid, something that I think is relevant to all of us, maybe most of us, particularly at this moment where we've seen, particularly in the United States during the pandemic - mutual aid come to the fore, something that's been practiced for a long time, but something that maybe some of us became more aware of during the pandemic. 


I think about my time in the survivor sex trade in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside neighborhood, back in the 90s. And I think about the kind of mutual aid that we sex workers were engaging in. So sometimes a girl would show up to work. And if we had a we had extra condoms, the single serving size packets of lube, the bad date sheet, which is a sheet that lists the physical descriptions of a person and a car who might be threatening or abusive to sex workers. So I remember girls arriving at the stroll and sharing condoms, sharing lube, sharing these bad date sheets, but also sharing this information about dates amongst ourselves as well. I think about the concern that we workers had for younger girls, when they showed up and what it was that we could do to support them, so they didn't start working at the age that they were at. So it's just that mutual aid is something that I have been thinking about a lot lately, thinking about how long that we have been engaging in these practices, and how heartening it is to see it occurring more and more and more.


Mina Do:  

Thanks for that. I like the way you mentioned too, maybe this pandemic, maybe the concept - I mean, I didn't know the term mutual aid. It's one of those grassroots things. You don't know you’re grassroots until someone explains, right, you're like, Oh, that's what we've been doing. Like, oh, it's called mutual aid now. Okay, so we've been doing, we're experts on mutual aid. And sex worker organizing has, again, out of necessity, out of necessity been doing this, creating communities before, you know, creating a website, out of need and necessity. 


A shout out - I'm going to do shout out to this whole thing, because yesterday's panels were so good. At this moment, I'm going to shout out Deena Ladd, who when speaking with Winnie Eng - they were talking about, I know that the Workers’ Action Center knows about mutual aid, and I know they know about Butterfly, and have done like this cross learning. I think of mutual aid too amongst us as organizers. Like, how do we support each other? This is our topic today too, sharing also in knowlogy, sharing and strategies that we can share in support. And then also on the ground, the practical. When the people you are serving are us, and we're working together, It's all of us, then you just naturally you consider like okay, let's feed this meeting. You're coming in for this reason, for needs. This might also be the moment you get politicized. I mean, I see that this is how Butterfly has been always, always organized, every meeting, every organizing. I don't know if Elene, you want to talk about that. Was it a planned thing? It's just this way?


Elene Lam:  

I think when we talk about mutual aid, there's different aspects. One is before any organization, workers themselves, and particularly for the marginalized people - they have been isolated, marginalized, they have been using the network to support each other, they already use the resources to have that mutual aid. So for example, you can imagine how brave the woman just come to Canada without knowing the language, you don't know anyone, is just by feel connection. Some people may pay for the arrangements, some people may not pay for the arrangements, there is already a network to support each other. How to find a place to live, how to find a place to work doing advertisement, having a driver to drive them to TNT to buy some Chinese food and Chinese cooker that can cook any kind of food, right? Also trying to find a place where I can have good client. 


This is already the strong network, people already using their support network to tap that kind of mutual aid. But unfortunately because of the law, it actually make this mutual aid become illegal, so that when worker work together, when someone helps other people to do advertisement, is become illegal. And when we talk about mutual aid, so that is like different parties, So for example, workers themselves help each other, I may come here a long time so and I may help other worker, they're just new to here. And some people they may be having the other rules, some retire worker they answer the phone call for other worker, but that is all being criminalized because all the third party become illegal. And we also find there is also important people, just like the driver, or the people help them to set up the day, is all being criminalized. 


And also very important mutual support is also from client, right. Client working with the worker, they get a lot of support, is not only sexual service, but also emotion support, the sense of care. This is amazing powerful, a kind of mutual support even there maybe it's money exchange, right? Sometimes we see more than money, we hear the story when there is a client need to do the surgery, no family member is here, she's the only person visit him to bring some soup. Soup really is good for health, it also is the sense of care right? So and when the woman being deported, he's the only person went to the, you know, detention center to visit her to buy her a ticket too. So I think this is a powerful, powerful network, but client again is being criminalized right. So that is how the mutual support that is important for the community, is being seen as organized crime, and criminalizing activity is very clear, the purpose is very clear - just take away the power, take away the resources, take away the support system. 


So, this is how we see that the worker already self-organized have the support, but because of there are so many barriers and also of course, like any kind of relationship, there is a lot of power dynamics. So why Butterfly jump in is because if someone only know one person that is in the relationship there, maybe have complicated situation, there may be power dynamic. So Butterfly wants to provide a platform, so information is power, but also help the worker to connect to different people. They do not only know one boss, they may know more boss or agent, or they may know how to book the Airbnb themselves so that they can gain the agency. By this mutual support, by share the information and also create the network so that we have the outreach worker to reach out to them and share the resources information and support each other, and how to connect them with the social resources. 


And I think Butterfly is using a very different model because now we see so many peer program in the social service organization, but the peer is always being looked down by the social service organization, they're being seen as not professional, because of the funding requirement. They just need the people in the industry to help them to do the work. But I think that genuinely believe the power of the community is important. So that's why Mina say, the grassroots powers is important, it is not the social service organization offer the service, the service is important to make the people can get resources and power, but this is not come from the up-down relationship. This is the network, and then some people and as the organization that we may have more network. 


For example, best thing that we can connect to the doctor, the OHIP for all, we know that some vaccine services are for people with no documents, so that we can help to bring that and the community can do it. Of course they will share the message to other people, right? So I think this is very powerful mutual aid, but we see how this system oppress the people by taking away the mutual support. They know this mutual support is powerful. That's why they want to criminalize it and isolate. And the most horrible thing of the social workers, is they make you be more marginalized, and you need to dependent on them. So that create a marginalization, that no support system, and then they are only the safe one that they can help you. So I think this is a very problematic, to see how the institution behind to make particularly Asian community and many other racialized and community be marginalized, and particularly sex workers.


Mina Do:  

Hence the specific need for grassroots mutual aid. We're going to talk about the problems for that - I'm sorry, I’m suddenly moderating, but I just want to point out something so bold, like, there was so much in there. But can I just repeat one thing that you said, that I don't know if everyone's going to be ready to hear, who might not already understand around the politics of this - Elaine said that the client-worker relationship in itself, whether you identify as a sex worker or not, or just have some relationship where sex is traded, and that is a way that you are accessing resources - that that relationship in itself is mutual aid. So whether it is with your peers and colleagues, or with your client directly, that that is a relationship of mutual aid, and for the matter of being a criminalized person, that that mutual aid is criminalized. Just have to repeat that thought.


Larissa Lai:  

That's so important. Thank you, all three of you. I mean, what I'm really kind of learning from listening is how rich relationships are among all the folks involved, and I think particularly what Elaine said about, if every all the relationships are criminalized, except for the relationship with a social worker, then that really damages that rich set of relationships in really, really destructive ways. So thank you for that. And I also think that this discussion segues really beautifully on into the next topic we wanted to discuss, which is the decriminalization of sex work. Could I invite you to speak a little bit about that?


Elene Lam:

Yeah, I just want to say because I think that many anti-trafficking organization and anti-sex work organization, they promote the illusion, say that sex work is not criminalized, only third party and client is criminalized. But it's not true. by the law, sex work is still being criminalized. And in addition, so that when the client or third party just like what I say the example, and the agent and the people help the sex worker is criminalized, is make the sex worker is not able to operate. And this affects on so many level, one is actually, why the police had come in, why the people being arrested, detained, and deported? It’s because the criminal law actually made them become illegal, or make the criminal system can enter their life, that endangers their life, so that no matter you've at the beginning, frame that as a victim. 


So, Butterfly has published a report called Behind the Rescue, so that before the sexual is being criminalized, say that you're the bad woman, sex work is a bad thing, you should not do it. But now because sex worker movement was successful in last 20 years, they push back, now they do not say I criminalize sex worker. They say, I criminalize trafficking, and we criminalize the perpetrator, and the violence against women, they frame the client as violence against sex workers, so that is making more people do not see the real picture actually. The criminalization is still come from the moralistic view, think that sex is bad, need to be control and need to be ending of this industry. And then the criminalization is so powerful to bring in the policing surveillance to shut down the business. 


And because sex is being criminalized, so many anti-trafficking groups they say no no no, we are not criminalized sex worker. But it's not true, any place if you work there, because client is illegal, so that that the place has become the scene of the crime. So that like the landlord can kick you away, and then the police is using the investigation of anti-trafficking to investigate. But again, who is being arrest? Is the worker themselves, supporting each other, is being arrested. You can see who is being arrest, many women themselves as a sex worker is being arrest, or the people connect with the sexual worker is being arrest, and also the client. 


All this measure is just make the sex worker be more marginalized. As we say, client is important support system, but now client has been criminalized. The good client is hesitate and not able to offer the information. It is difficult for screening, but also difficult for the client to get the support to the worker and so but because of that beautiful name of protecting the woman, make the people do not see the real picture. 


So that's why Butterfly is calling for the full decriminalization, it’s not just decriminalization because we see the anti-sex work group will appropriate this language, right? We found that they're so powerful, they call themselves abolitionists, they call themselves support decriminalization of women. But it's not true. The full decriminalization of sex work includes clients, third party and sex worker. So in the Ontario court, the sex worker, there is the judgment already say, criminalization of sex work is unconstitutional. So this is aligned with the Bedford case, the Supreme Court case. But what we see in Ontario and many city, that police still using anti-trafficking as the excuse, but they still enforcing this criminal law to against the sex worker. And because sex work being criminalized, of course it's increased the stigma. And also, we enforce the anti-sex work hate because they're being seen as crime. It also gives the strong initiative to shut down all the massage parlor because massage parlor being associated with sex work, so that the impact is huge. So that's why what we call for is the full decriminalization of sex work.


Mina Do:  

People are probably already getting the impression from our panel, that all of the things we want to talk about, like Scholar Strike is the perfect place to play this, to have this conversation, and especially at this time. Because we're here talking about labor rights - we're talking not to list all of the topics we want to talk about. But Elaine just brought up so many things and how they're connected, that really, we need like a day to break down each of these, like minimum 90 minutes, actually a semester to cover all of this and how it's related, but how it's related to prison abolition, when we're talking about criminalized people - and this is why it's related to all of the other topics that are on Scholar Strike, because we're talking about criminalization of Black people, criminalization of undocumented people, of poor people. Just the criminalization of people trying to figure out how to survive, and how that feeds into prison system. And that's why we talk about prison abolition and how it's related to this. 


And then Elene bringing up all of this, the point of it, of criminalization, it's not just to control, also to be the entry point, so that we can come in and say, show us your documents, and then now on an immigration level as well. It's also a way to control these bodies, police these bodies, but use it to do the stigma, because as long as there's stigma coming down, then people who would be on our side. Or see - I mean, I was there at the Supreme Court, the Bedford case, in the Supreme Court, and I'm listening. And anyone can - the facts are so plain, that absolutely on this side, we have human rights, harm reduction. It's so simple. And over here, who is showing up for this. So, religious groups, abolitionist groups, and really, to call yourself abolitionist, like Elene said, to co-opt this word, feminists who want to come without like - check where your understanding came from. It didn't come from listening to people who are in the sex trade, it also didn't come necessarily from people who have experienced being trafficked and levels of this. But often that story is stolen, co-opted to use against. 


So sitting there listening to this, it's so simple, and I thought there's no way we can't win. And I thought I was the naïve one, being so optimistic, but boom, we won, absolutely every single one shut down. And for a moment, sex work was decriminalized, as it should be, as it is becoming in other countries, nations, in this world. But then all of it, the moral agenda, and it's based on this stigma, and people just not understanding yet, that this is why we're having this conversation. It's why I'm still again, kind of fueled, I’m back in that optimistic place, this moment in this movement. You know, horrible tragedies that prompted this current focus. But look, now we're rallying also with our Asian organizing communities. And it's always been tied and related, and so we're here to - maybe you don't know how to use this language, or where, and it seems complex to you. But that's why we're here. So like, connect with us again, and we'll plug all those spots for you. It won't just happen in 90 minutes. Like really, I'm thinking everything Elaine just dropped - it's going to take hearing it multiple times, but listen to the articles places to read just go to Butterfly, read the reports. It's going to come across very straightforward when you open and learn.


Elene Lam:

Yeah, and I want to add some examples. So one of the example is when there is a worker being murdered, so that all the friend is come forward, try to provide the information because she has been assaulted and sexual assault by a perpetrator and her ex-partner.  But what happened? The police instead of investigate the reason of her death and the perpetrator, they investigate all the friend come forward. And then they asked, why she's here, right? So and also, who is renting the place for her? So this all turn into the criminal investigation of the network. 


And the other thing, I really need to name the organization. So for example, when we talk about abolitionist anti-policing movement. So for example, Aboriginal legal network clinic is the big advocate of anti-policing. But then, like the trafficking get the language, and then even then they support the policing for Bill 251 so that anti-trafficking actually is expanding the police power. 


So the other organization is called Elizabeth Fry. Many of you know that they support a woman in prison. I hear that they say, oh, they doing is help a woman to remove the criminal record. And we asked, why you advocate for a woman to remove the criminal record, why you don't advocate that the people will not be get criminal charge at the very beginning? Why you advocate at the parliament to criminalize this woman when you work with the woman in prison?


So this is so important message, i don’t know if anyone listen here connect with Elizabeth Fry, that is something that you really need to revisit, right? That their survival is relying on woman, if no woman they do not have funding to support that. But why you produce the system and support the criminalization of women? I think that is why that system is so powerful. And because it makes so many people support the criminalization, and also support like the policing. Criminalization and policing cannot completely separate. Criminalization, what we want to say, is not only criminal law, but now the bylaw, even the Ontario acts on so many level, is the law and policy used to police and control the sex worker. I'm so sorry, I interrupt so.


Mina Do:  

It's time to revisit. It's time to revisit. I hear - Mercedes.


Mercedes Eng:  

Yeah, yeah. I just wanted to speak to what Elaine and Mina are saying here around criminalization and decriminalization. I think a lot of sex workers are prison abolitionists. Not that other kind of abolition. And I think, given just the really astute analysis that Elen and Mina have given us in terms of these interlocking overlapping systems, it is clear that the police do not protect us, it is clear that it is we who protect us. And when we think about who it is that is doing sex work, who are often victims of violence, there are also other populations that the police, that the state is trying to control.


Larissa Lai:  

Would you like to think that through? Mercedes, I'm just trying to think about how to extend the analysis that you're providing into what the connections are to those other populations? I don't know if you'd like to say a little bit more.


Mercedes Eng:  

Yeah. Well, just speaking to my, my own experience of sex work. A lot of the women that I worked with were Indigenous. Not all, of course, but the women were all poor. A lot of them had substance abuse disorders. And we see that in the downtown Eastside, and many other places, that a lot of folks who have substance abuse disorders have a comorbid mental illness. So what we see, or what I have seen in the downtown Eastside is disabled women, mentally ill women, Indigenous women, being victims of violent crimes, of murder in the darkest situations. And at the time that I was working, there was a person that was actively killing women from the neighborhood. And unfortunately, that person is not the first person and distressingly may not be the last. 


I think if we go across the border to the States, we see that there have also been women that have been targeted. We see that a lot of, again, low income women, women with mental illnesses and disabilities, women trying to support their families, a lot of Black women working in that trade. So when I see who it is that's working in the survival sex trade, that's where I have experienced, I can't speak to other places - but I think about those intersect kinds of oppressions that that folks are are dealing with. And just to speak to my own experience, I think that the police and the RCMP were aware of what was going on in the time that I was working, certainly the community knew and shared information. And what resulted, in fact, was the largest criminal investigation in Canadian history. Millions of dollars spent mining this gruesome forensic evidence that folks want to talk about endlessly in the media. Sorry, I'm going on. 


But so I see these intersections, mentally ill people, disabled people, Black women, Indigenous, Indigenous women, women of color, poor women, women who have experienced complex traumas, these are the folks that I see being managed by the police, the prison industrial complex, the justice system. So that is why I think a lot of sex workers are prison abolitionists. They’re not focused on all sex work being sex trafficking, they’re focused on sex work as a form of labor with, as Elene and Mina were saying - networks of mutual aid. But yeah, I think there's very a much connection between between prison abolition and sex work.


Larissa Lai:  

Mercedes, thank you so much for that. We were indeed going to talk about prison abolition next. But I wonder if, before we go there, if Mina and Elene might like to weigh in on the work of coalition building, and solidarity. I know that this was something we had talked about on Saturday morning. And Mina, I know that you have thoughts about this, Elaine may have thoughts as well. I think it's really useful and important to have this discussion.


Mina Do:  

Yeah. I can feel my heart beating. I can see it,  I can see how much pain you're holding. You can just imagine how much pain, how our communities - this is why we need practices of healing and organizing like this together. This meeting, us hanging out before, having this conversation here - whether people hear it or not, what they're going to do with it later, hopefully join us - and this is that gravitational pull I talked about that I learned from Mia Mingus. This is a disability rights and justice issue also, it’s all so related. So yeah, and especially after talking about Indigenous people being targeted, I'd love to take a moment. 


Because when we talk about migrant rights, especially migrant Asian sex workers being targeted by social services, by state, by immigration, under the guise of anti-trafficking, which really is anti-prostitution. And it's imperialist, even, it's actually decolonial to talk about decriminalization of sex work. We could have a whole day talking about that and that relationship. And this is why when we want to talk to our communities who are organizing around anti-Asian violence, please you have to center the voices of - what did someone say yesterday, it was so great - who are the coldest penguins? Who are the coldest penguins in Asian communities right now? And careful when you have this conversation, how you're going to focus about what part of anti-Asian racism are we going to talk about and focus, I could bring up so many of my personal experiences, but I would rather like to put someone else in the center right now. 


And the things that I want to say, to community and to organizing and to say to center within our Asian anti-racism discussion, those who are affected by being criminalized - I want to talk about all the other criminalized bodies, and you cannot talk about anti-trafficking initiatives without talking about Indigenous people specifically being targeted, since such a long time ago, by this particular form of state violence, plus countless so many others. Thank you for bringing so much emotion and feeling really in this because it's, we can't just talk about this here. This is such a reality. 


And so if I can just take up space, instead, I'm just going to read the words. Everything I want to say has already been said. Like so much of what we can bring into this fight now, we've been learning from people already on these movements, and that includes especially Indigenous people have also been organizing in this project. So I'm just gonna read this piece. If we're talking about radical organizing, and how we want to be radical about that, and what voices to bring in and who to consider and risk, to talk about what communities left out of the discussion, I think this is just one way we radically center criminalized identities. 


So this is this is a statement from the Indigenous Sex Sovereignty Collective. I'll just read pieces, I very much encourage people to read the rest to also check out and see how you can work with - or not work with, what do they want a need? Ask and support. Also the Native youth Sexual Health Network. So this is their statement. And so to put it in the context - this is a statement from the Indigenous sex sovereignty collective to Indigenous anti-violence organizers, asking them to center the voices of people who trade or sell sex in Indigenous communities. So which is basically exactly what we're here trying to ask our Asian organizing communities to do. But it's already been said perfectly. So how about I just repeat these words? Just to see how - because it is parallel, and if we don't support this fight - okay. 


“People who trade or sell sex, are often left out of anti-violence advocacy, and are spoken for rather than being invited to share their own perspectives and experiences. This exclusion is unacceptable. People who trade or sell sex, especially trans, Two Spirit sex workers, and Two Spirit sex workers, need to be invited wherever violence against Indigenous people is discussed in order to ensure solutions are shaped by their needs and experiences.” I’m to skip ahead, “Organizations that stigmatize sex workers’ lives are not safe or welcoming for sex workers. For sex workers’ voices to be truly heard, communities need to build environments in which people who have previously or are currently trading or selling sex are respected, valued, and seen as experts in their own lives. This means addressing stigma against sex work, and creating stronger relationships among sex workers, their families, and wider communities. We must not forget that people in the sex trade, sex industries, and street economies, and their families and allies have been integral to anti-violence movements across Turtle Island.” And this parallels here as well. And I bet we'll get into this more. “This leadership and community building must be respected as we remember their histories in organizing and mobilizing. In anti-violence organizing, we have observed that state led responses, new laws, increased policing, social services, are frequently seen as the best or only way to create change.” Really echoing everything Elaine has already said. “We instead call for solutions that address personal violence such as targeted murders and disappearances, as well as systemic and legal violence, such as that perpetrated through the actions of police, social workers, and the judiciary in maintaining colonial power relations.” It's designed to maintain colonial power relations. “We call for solutions that move away from protectionist or rescue-oriented policies and practices adopted by colonial governments. Turning away from colonial policies, we must instead value respect, again, center the diverse voices of Indigenous people with experience trading or selling sex. Without these voices and perspectives, any efforts to reduce violence in our communities only contribute to the ongoing marginalization of sex workers. This we say is unacceptable.” 


So I mean, this is paralleling what we're asking for, and the fight is so aligned. Just to say again, and make the point, and I can give so many examples of this, how sex workers - you just might not know, because of stigma, because of being in the background - but have always been at the forefront of movements against gender-based violence, AIDS coalition, so many. Prison abolition, like Mercedes already said, LGBT grassroots everything, really, queer, everything. But invisibilized. And why? Because of stigma. Well, it's time we can move beyond this. What were you saying, Elen?


Elene Lam:  

Yeah, just to give the examples, for example the new anti-trafficking bill 251 actually is what you say. So that they say they're anti-trafficking, they're trying to protect the traffic victim. But all the view is about increase policing. And we should not forget who are the major perpetrator of the violence against sex workers and racialized people, is police and law enforcement are the major source of balance, so and across the country, so there is a lot of evidence to show that. But the bill is giving the power of police can go to the hotel, get all the record of client without warrant, and they can have the inspector enter any place any time to look at any record. And also the have the power to detain the youth for 12 hours without any evidence. That is, again, the example how the policing is using social work and work together. 


But because this is framed as protecting the victim, no one speak against it. So even so many people see this bill is so harmful. So even the NDP will say that they cannot vote against this view and some even will both support it, because they don't want to perceived as supporting the youth engage in sex work. So it is so difficult to push back, because they just create this illusion. This is same as the residential school, so that no one will deny that the children should have the clean water, should have the shelter, should access education, but the name of protection is actually cover all the massive killing, all the violence in their system.


So that instead of like asking, putting the youth in the childcare system is so harmful, we need to ask why so many youth think that the brothel is safer than the childcare system. What actually happened? And I think what you say is so important, but we can see actually in this political power imbalance, the sex worker voice is not being heard, the racialized people not being heard. 


And so and I want to follow up with the allies building piece, and I think for Butterfly, doing the organizing, there is a few stage. So at the beginning we trying to help the society understand the issue migrant sex worker facing, right so that's why Butterfly is building a lot of allyship so that as Mina said, Workers’ Action Center, the workers rights, and migrant rights come to support the sex worker movement. But actually we want to see is not like this. Is as you guys say, sex worker is in every movement. So, every movement should also include sex worker, but what we see, so for example, at the beginning, when we really want to find the activists to support that workers, they have been abused, the massage parlor worker abuse by the law enforcement. The first question is asked, are they a sex worker? So, what does it mean? So if they are the legitimate massage worker, so they will feel more comfortable to advocate for them. If they are sex worker, that is a kind of hesitation that they think that is typical to support them is being perceived as they are supporting trafficker. So this keep happening. 


So that's why when you say coalition building is very important to see sex work is part of any community. They are part of any movement, they also should have the leadership in those movement, because we can see they are the most marginalized. So the example is, now the anti-Asian racism campaign. We see this panel, so many conference all over the country, say anti-Asian racism is an important issue. Anti-Asian hate is an important issue. But we are so disappointed, in so many platform sex worker voice is being dismissed. The massage parlor worker voice is being dismissed. So even the murder did not only kill the woman because they are Asian, it’s very clear that the murderer killed that six Asian massage parlor worker is because they are the worker in massage parlor is because of the whorephobia, because of the anti-sex work hate. So that's why so many Asian group now is so get so much resources, so much attention on the anti-Asian hate. They should not forget, that they are the Asian community, is part of your community that you need to advocate for. 


And as Mina, and some of you say, when you talk about anti-Asian racism, you should not forget, now have so many massage parlors still being targeted in Canada, so many Asian and migrant sex workers also being murdered in Canada. So I think this is a very, very important message. So this is the allyship building. And this is about the movement that sex worker, and massage parlor workers should be like, in every movement. And this is, for example, Bill 251, it is not only the campaign of sex workers, this is the issue of abolitionists, this is the issue of anti-policing movements, and also racial justice. So this is also the agenda of everyone.


Larissa Lai:  

Elaine, whoa, that is - what an extraordinary, a beautiful, important, analysis, thank you so much. Just so extraordinarily generous and brilliant and right. And I think it's really important for those of us who are doing work around anti-Asian hate right now, to recognize this profound debt, actually, to sex workers broadly. Really, really, really important. I think, also what you said around the way in which the concept of protection is used to perpetuate the violence, and that there's a kind of reverberance of violence through this term that’s supposed to put a stop to it, it's really important to recognize how that term gets politicized. Oh, my gosh.


Mina Do:  

Shout out to Red Canary song, who can you imagine, in a moment of that kind of mourning, what it was like to have to manage that kind of influx of everybody? Like this is the shift that we're now seeing, not every article, opinion piece, organization, they jumped on this to talk about anti-Asian hate, and some knew - and it's not because they knew, it was with the guidance of Red Canary song, talk about generosity, and the debt owed - how much in a moment of grieving, they needed to labor to rush out statements. 


So when you're looking for articles, or notice which ones you did read based on the recent violence - and it was not the first time a massage place was targeted because of whorephobia and anti-sex work sentiments, not the first time, but first time on a big national, and it became in the media, so other people what we've already been fighting - so Red Canary song already existed, right? It didn't develop out of. So just shout out to them for that kind of work and labor that they did do. So when you look for articles, make sure, did that article know somebody? Did they get a quote from the perspective of Butterfly, you'll see Elene’s name in there? Did they get someone from Red Canary Song to say - if not, huge gap and missing. And let us ensure that this gap isn't missing again. 


And if you don't know how to have that conversation, maybe this is the first time it's coming to you, just like maybe mutual aid came to you for the first time, this concept as a way of doing your political organizing because of the pandemic. Okay, and now the shift is moving. And this is that moment and to make that shift and if you’re not, and we will help you like we've been doing. And we've always been in all of the movements. But as stigma decreases, maybe now people will be able to say they're out there. And it's not - like, sex work has been resistance. So if you want to talk about resistance movements, of course it's always been aligned and workers have always been in there, as queer people, as young people, especially as queer young people of color, my goodness, as trans women. This has been a mode of survival and also resistance. It's a political act in itself. And if I can just say a quick - did you want to move on?


Larissa Lai:  

No, just there was something on Saturday that I wanted to make sure that you had a chance to speak to. Could you talk about lessons learned from Black women in particular? Because that is something you’d spoken quite passionately and articulately about when we talked on Saturday, and I didn't want to let that slide.


Elene Lam

Mercedes Eng

Mina Do



Larissa Lai

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Mina Do:  

Yeah. I mean, actually, this ties into what was just said, I think we can stress also, as you write, as you speak to the violence that happened. One wants to not just be careful to say that actor, that violence wasn't targeted, just because those women were Asian. It was gender-based violence and specifically whorephobia, anti-sex violence. So the same conversation people being careful not to say, it's not just about, well, it's racist to think that they were sex workers, or had anything to do with sexuality, or even putting a sexual gaze on them. That is a racist act. Yes, absolutely. But be careful not to just say not all Asian women, not all massage workers are. So do not, because we're not whores - careful, because some people are workers, sex workers, work in sex trade, don't throw them under the bus. 


And to me, it just parallels the same way that Black feminists and organizers have been saying, do not - the answer is not to desexualize. Or like, victim-blaming Black women. If you’re a sexual woman, then that is why. And the way to get away from this is to reduce this, and not create them as - not make yourself a target. Be careful not to create that distancing. And in that way, throwing people under the bus. And if we do that, if you do that to Asian people now, out of respectability politics, to try to distance, to say no, no, we're the good Asians, then you are repeating that exact targeted argument to Black women. If you say that to Asian women, then you are repeating what has been said and what people have been fighting against. 


Elene Lam:  

I want to follow up on what Mina just said, is because we also need to be careful that when we look at the anti-Asian hate or anti-migration racism, the intersectionality, who is affected most? So that people being affected differently because of the class, the economic status, and also their background and their work, right? So that's why as Mina said we should not throw them away from the bus. But we're so disappointed, after the murder, so Butterfly was being invited by like different organizations, but when we call for their support, they disappear. So that we have been token in the way that is showing we are concerned, but when we asking for decriminalization, asking for not policing, they shut up.


And we also need to look at how Asian community is affected by criminalization, and particularly in Canada, a lot of community leader, they are Christian, right, so they are also have that moralistic agenda. So that's why I think this a lot of work, how to not only push the society outside to recognize the sex worker rights, but how to have more critical push of Asian organization to be more supportive to eliminate that whorephobia within the - and I think that sexualization of the woman piece, we see so many activists and also scholars say Asian woman is not should not be sexualized. But we need to be careful just like Mina said, are they trying to create the hate of sex workers, are they trying to differentiate, I’m the good woman, I'm not a bad woman, they should not be associate. We really see that they are part of the community, need to be an advocate for everyone.


Larissa Lai:

Thank you Elene, so well said, so much within our own communities. Mina, I'm so sorry. I really want to make sure that we get to the topic of prison abolition before we run out of time. Would it be okay? 


Mina Do:  

If I just make one quick statement? Vision moment. Imagine, we can be leaders too! But to say, yes. Not all Asian women - don't desexualize us - not all Asian women are sex workers, yes. But can all Asian people stand for sex workers? Why can't that happen? That's how it should be. This is the vision. This is what to learn, to move towards, to organize around.


Larissa Lai:  

Thank you, so important. So important. Thank you. Could we return to the to the topic of prison abolition, and connect it to the to the violence of anti-sex trafficking? If it would - that was where we'd hope to go.


Mercedes Eng:  

I do want to, as well, speak to Red Canary song’s statement after the murders of these folks in Atlanta, and one part of it that particularly stayed with me was the thoughtful and nuanced way that they addressed increased calls for policing, that some Asian Americans were calling for that, that the police felt that that would be a strategy. So I really appreciated the fact that they acknowledged their understanding of why some Asian American people would call for that increased policing, but at the same time, they could not call for that, that that was not in fact what it was that sex workers needed. So right in their statement addressing these brutal anti-Asian hate crimes, they addressed the police, calls to the police. 


So again, I think so many sex workers are, in fact, prison abolitionists, and many of us, I should say, I am not active in the trade at this time - I think that many of us are our agents, and this idea of protection by the police, again, is ridiculous, because they do not protect us. They harm us. And of course, police are how prisons are filled, a direct role there. Yeah so I think there are conversations already occurring around prison abolition, but I'm certainly hoping that we can keep going with that conversation, and I hope that folks will take the time to meditate a bit on how it is that or what what kinds of knowledge, strategies, and practices that sex workers have been working with, that they can bring to other other movements.


Mina Do:  

I really like what you're saying there too, Mercedes. I mean, I love everything you say. So glad to be here, seeing you and having this conversation and making these connections that maybe to some people are a first time, maybe to some people are like well, we've known, but how do we go there? But how will we do...? How will we speak for, with...? And just to frame this - this is a perfect place to frame this - it's not just “Workers need you! Sex workers need you! Migrant workers need you, need you, need you, need the movement!” Yes. But also we've been there. Not only have you been able to access our knowledge and strategies, you need us. I think I don't want that to get missed. 


You know, when people don't know how to talk about, “But what happens after prison abolition.” Oh, so you mean how do communities take care of themselves and each other? How do concepts of safety within communities happen? Guess what, workers have been doing that out of necessity. Again, you can learn from these knowledges, experiences, strategies, to fold into greater community accountability, transformative justice, and this restorative justice, transformative justice. Again, to speak back to Indigenous people, where do you think we learned those things from? Just like we need the traditional teachings, and knowledge, and experiences, and ways of surviving since colonization, that we all need to also learn from to listen to, for everyone's greater liberation? You better make space for those movements, or we're all going to suffer. 


And I think it's the same thing. I mean, prison abolition being just one example of how our politics are tied to through decriminalization. Absolutely. How Mercedes said, like, criminalization is how you get people to that prison pipeline. And if we're not going to talk about carceral, and punitive and punishment, well, how are we going to take care of ourselves? Yes, there are other ways, and ways to protect, prevent harm, reduce, and then what happens afterwards. Also, again, practices that have been being put in place that you can learn from. 


I mean, the list of things that can also list for what you can benefit from, there's so many different places, that again out of necessity, also because of experience that sex workers can bring this experience and knowledge to the table. In organizing community, and just not even if you're an organizer, everybody, so many ways. Are you an entrepreneur? You want to talk about hustle? Workers are hustlers, know how to, with less means, with less resources. Also in terms of, difficulty talking about having sex? Guess what workers have had to work through issues their own personal issues with, oh my God, sex, let alone issues with economics, capitalism, money, making money, the uncomfortability of that, what to do when you have money and the person next to you doesn't, how to deal with - these are things that we work out and practice, practice, practice. Not just theory or learning or listening from, but out of practice and figuring out and fumbling, learning through and then sharing these knowledges with each. Other issues with men, relationships with men, these are things, like knowledges we can bring from experience and share. It's why Elaine and I - you know, shout out to ACAS. Last week, the Asian Community Aids Services, who had us come in for their Pillow Talk event to teach a workshop, representing Butterfly, about the transformative power of pleasure. We can bring these knowledges and experiences, and we can do in a way that's fun and healing it doesn't have to just be like the struggles, and the struggles and the yes, but - when every day is a struggle, you better do it with some comedy, some joy, some laughter, some food, relationship building friendship - ways that we can't just cut each other down because we need to live another day. 


Elene Lam:

I think this is amazing. And I think that go to the next issue we want to discuss, like how the anti-trafficking movement is so successful to push back so many movement, right. Like the one what you mentioned about the liberation of sexuality of women, but they are putting their moralistic agenda under the anti-trafficking, like to push back - like, sex is about fear, sex is about exploitation, so that like when your sex is not in family that is, everything is harmful, is dangerous. And we always ask, why sex is no problem, when you have money become the issue? I think that is how the moralistic agenda - and they also use it to push back the abolitionist movement, right? Before call them abolitionists, they call them carceral feminists. I don't call them feminists, because they love police more than women. So they are the anti-sex work organization, they hate the sex worker. But they are so successful, we see that even some violence against women organization, they know from their family violence experience, that the criminal system is not the solution. But they are still part of the anti-trafficking circle to support all this harmful policy, is because there are so many money, controlling them. And this is non-profit industrial complex, you see $300 million go to anti-trafficking, that all the organization now they frame everyone homeless, everyone sex worker become trafficked victim in order to support the work. And that how this machine keep producing, and then, as I said, that’s how the social service and law enforcement work together. 


It's a shame for the Ontario Social Work Association that invites the police to train the social worker about how to support the victim of trafficking. This is a shame. So this is a shame of Peel  Region, who is leading the anti-trafficking initiative, it’s the police right? So that's the police can become the hero by taking up the anti-trafficking movement, and push back the different police movement and abolitionist movement. Because then they become the hero, even people do not see the other solution on mental health issues, they did not see that that the solution of the violence is when come to trafficking. They become the hero, they can get so much resources, money, and power again. 


So that's why any violence against women organization, any human rights organizations should not support that, so that the real abolitionists should not support this kind of anti-trafficking initiative. But why they're so successful, right? So even the NDP politician, they are big on even police, they speak on anti-policing, but they still support this view. So I think that's why we really need to uncover it. I need to name the organization so - some of the organization, how they do the policing differently. For example in Toronto, Canadian Women’s Foundation, in 2012, they are the big advocate of, to impose control of the massage parlor in Toronto. So after that, the police and law enforcement come to the massage parlor to ask the woman to take off the clothes to show their underwear. If they have the sexy underwear, they will say that the sex worker, they give a lot of ticket and shut them down. 


When there is the anti-trafficking organization they claim the care about the violence of the woman, they keep silence of that, and keep calling more and more policing. One worker received five ticket in one day, right, and also the workers been ordered to dance to sing, and they keep silence. But the shut down massage is not stopping. So in 2018 Center to End Human Trafficking - again, so they come in, that white feminist - not feminist, white anti-sex worker woman that is doing lobbying, because before the consultation they already can connect the mayor, so that to work with the media and politician to shut down the massage parlor. And what happened now is Newmarket. Again, we see this anti-trafficking group and police and very racist politician, how they work together to shut down the business.


But then what is the name? One they frame that is illegal, you see this woman does not have credential, they do not know how to do massage skills, because they do not go to massage school, that they do not have this credential, that they are illegal. But at the same time they say, this woman speak little bit English, they must be trafficked, we need to do something. So that to make so powerful, to bring in law enforcement, but at the same time shut down the business. So this is a very we call it racist attack. So that is like killing the industry, killing the people, and make people be more dangerous. But we are unfortunately see so many of this organization got huge funding. 


But we are so disappointed many violence against women organization keeps silence of that. Many people in abolitionist movement, silence of that. So that's why so many people in anti-Asian movement, they keep silence when the Asian massage parlor being shut down. Right so that's why I said this is so important to include the sex worker movement and massage parlour movement in this movement. This is also their issue, they should not join as the ally This is their people, they should advocate for that. This is just like the example how bloody this organization is harmful. 


I also need to name other organization called Defend Dignity. They even produce a menu to teach you how to lobby the city to shut down the massage parlor. So again, they are the leader of this organization, is have the law enforcement background, they've got huge funding. But the mission is very clear, their purpose is ending sex work. But they will not get a lot of support, right. That's why in all the publication and all the message, they say anti-trafficking, right, so that's why they get so much.


Larissa Lai:  

Elene, thank you. Wow, what an incredible analysis. So important. Thank you for that. Friends, we've been cycling through the conversation around the violence of anti-sex trafficking, as well as sex workers’ rights as labor rights. But is there more that you would like to say on these two subjects? Or shall we move towards the close? We're gonna we're hoping to talk about pleasure a little bit, and we had also wanted to make some direct asks to our communities. So those are the things on my mind. Where would you like to go?


Elene Lam:

Yeah, I just wanted to network the pleasure piece and also how sex work actually is so powerful, or working in massage parlour is so powerful for many worker. One of the example is like instead of washing the dish everyday, or cutting the meat everyday, working in massage parlor or sex industry is really make the worker feel more connected to the society. They can use the expertise and also very interesting, very important what the worker feel about the work, they feel very fulfilling by that they feel they are helping other people. No matter offering the massage, help the people relieve the pain, or make the people feel respect, or being cared. 


I think this is a very powerful, fulfilling part that is missing and also that how sex work and massage is so fun, and there is a lot of creativity in the work, and I think this part is also missing. And also we have some workers that they never get any orgasm with the ex-partner, but in sex work, they even can have like different partner to have different adventure, that how many workers actually tell you that they because of the influence by like the concept of the sexuality idea, they may never be naked even in front of the mirror. But how does that work that make them feel proud of the body, and the feeling of being wanted, that is the desire, and I think that is so powerful, but this is also missing. 


And also sometimes it's being seen as the bad thing, woman being sexualized, but actually for some, that is a powerful way that you feel attractive, you feel being wanted. And I think this is also a very powerful side that is missing. But of course, the other side is how economic social status can be changed. And how as Mina says, sex work actually is a very powerful way for any worker resist of the capitalism, right? If you are the migrant, you don't speak the language, that is how racism play out, that you only allow to work in some low-paid job, the world is just repetitive. But then sex work and massage can actually give the good economic opportunity, they can move to different social level, and also the children. I think that is something also important to mention.


Larissa Lai:  

Thank you so much. Mina or Mercedes, would you like to speak to the pleasure?


Mina Do:  

I mean, I could speak on that for a long time. If I can just say one quick note to make sure - as much as I want to say, don't raise our voices, especially when they've been screaming, even when you do repeat it, to notice - I want to make sure not to make it seem like we're minimizing other people's voices, too. We want people to know that when you see anti-trafficking, what they're really seeing is anti-sex work. That's not to say that people aren't in complex situations, we don't care about them receiving the support that they need and how they want it also. But we're here to say that, actually, within sex work communities, we might have the most access to hearing those stories, those experiences, and being able to give that support and care, again, perhaps through mutual aid, perhaps through these other safety measures that we can provide ourselves. 


And also to say that the way these anti-trafficking organizations have been trying to do their work, it isn't always the most effective to reach those communities, or help people looking for those services anyway. With this extra focus on exiting, exiting sex work, is that really your focus anyway, on supporting anyone who has been in a difficult position? You know, I've been in those meetings, and they wanted to give me like, a consent lesson that actually was very ineffective. Sex workers can teach you much better. It's something that we do too, to teach you about consent and consent for real, the complexity of it, what comes in the way, what is the layer of - how does trauma impact your ability to be present in that moment, to receive the person in front of you? The communication skills involved - again, from practice, and practical skills. 


We can talk to this, and teach other greater communities including youth. Oh my goodness, the fear of a sex worker teaching youth about consent. Imagine in a world where of course these skills are valued, recognized, experience brought in, used beneficially. Don't say that the reason young people are vulnerable too is because they have low self-esteem. Really? What young person doesn't have low self esteem? It's economics, it's money. It's because of poverty. Can we address poverty? And absolutely look at it through a lens of what sex workers know about poverty? We can tell you about this. Don't put - victim-blaming don't put it on this, and then give me an ineffective consent workshop, and not actually give me say, a really good job. Or tell me I need to go work in retail when I have so many other skills, but maybe these other layers that factor in that you can't deal with - the disability rights issue, that I'm disabled, that's why I'm here, that these things, that's why I'm here. The time that you need.


And then yes, absolutely, we can talk so much about pleasure and healing. When we did our workshop recently, the point of talking about pleasure was because for the point of healing - our communities, our society. I don't mean we're traumatized and not traumatized from the experience of sex work, like Elaine talked about. Sometimes it is the way to access enough money for therapy, community, time to go to school, to learn about trauma, to learn about healing, to then bring it back, because we know mutual aid and sharing bring it back to our communities in ways that really work outside of a clinical setting, so we can think about how to make it accessible. Because we're always thinking about how to make it accessible for the coldest penguins in the middle. 


No matter how much access, benefit we gain, learn, become professors, become published. I mean, I don't want to out Mercedes’ personal stories, but the things Mercedes told me about ways that she, because of being politicized and understanding and seeing - like you saw how much feeling, that doesn't just leave you, when you managed to exit come out, gain access, other ways. You come back for, you give to, you're here, talking, you give time to me, you give to Butterfly, you write the work that you do, the published works that you do.


Mercedes Eng:  

Thank you, gal. One thing I think that's really - my thoughts are going to be a bit looser, but one thing I think that's really interesting about pleasure, is I think there's this idea that we sex workers are not supposed to have that when with the client. And that if one does, then there's something wrong there. Or at least that's the sense that I had. And I feel like this idea around pleasure, in some ways connects to this idea of good and bad Asians. Or, and good and bad whomevers, and this idea of innocence. So some of us, it's our lifestyle choices. And the reason we end up disappeared, or murdered is because of the lifestyle choices we made. So we are guilty, we are implicated in our own - in the acts of violence against us. But then, from the police perspective of anti-trafficking, those folks that are trafficked are innocent. And I'm not saying that, that trafficking doesn't exist. But this collapse of all sex work is trafficking, it's just ridiculous. But yeah, I just - thinking about the aspect of pleasure and sex work does make me think about these ideas of good and bad folks, and guilty or innocent folks, somehow that seems to really tie into the idea of pleasure, and who gets to have it and in what specific context. So, a lot of morality and ethical stuff that is not ours coming into that.


Mina Do:  

That is not ours. I have a question to every audience viewer out there, who like - this has brought up all kinds of things. We talked about money, oh my god, with sex. Now we're talking about pleasure - you might not have been able to absorb all these things. I get it, lots of triggering topics, lots, because who doesn't have triggers around, hello, being in this society that doesn't know how to deal with being a sexual being? How much - not ours - how much do you think of this fight is just projected onto us, people's discomfort with their own bodies existing at all. With their own pleasure, with their own sexuality, with their own just fun, or life that isn't even about work, work, work. I'm not here to try to even fight for more equal work. I'm here to fight for less work. Work is such a problem in itself. Being of value, being enough, without all of the work.


Larissa Lai:  

No kidding. I hear you on that, Mina, I hear you. Friends, we're running out of time. And I wonder if you might just like to close with thoughts around how to direct our organizing communities to always include people. So always include sex workers, always include people who trade in sex in our movements, would you each like to sort of have a little go with that? And then we'll have to say goodbye for now, but I hope that there'll be many more chances for us to get together again and to speak.


Mercedes Eng:  

If you're not a sex worker, you need to listen. You need to not be speaking, or if the speaking that you're going to be doing is asking questions, and being sensitive and thoughtful and asking those questions, but the role of non-sex workers is to listen.


Mina Do:  

If you are a sex worker and you've been watching, go badass. I bet you've been dealing - I hope you're not isolated. I hope you have friends in this. We're your friends in this. There are ways also to participate and be anonymous, like it's so - this is why Asian leadership are so important - there are ways to do this organizing and be anonymous, you don't have to out yourself. All young queer people should not just go outing themselves, this doesn't have to be the mainstream way to do things too. And then just asking, like you are of so much value. And how can we leverage these different very different experiences? Like, what a spectrum. We couldn't even cover much of the spectrum, I hope we stressed that enough? You can never. 


But how can we leverage these very different and collective experiences for these greater fights and battles that we're in? How do we work together? You know, we brought up the prison abolition, racial fight across Indigenous people, all of this, when we're fighting for queer rights, when we're fighting for disability rights, our lens, our perspective adds so much to this. And even if they don't know how to value that yet, I think the tide is turning, I'm going to stay optimistic. I'm going to ask to be invited in, please invite me. We've spoken at so many things. George Brown Labor Fair, we can speak there.


And organizers, oh my goodness. To organizers out there, because I can't say this enough, it's time to - I know you're scared. But we'll hold your hand, we'll give you the words we'll give you the analysis, the guidance, there's so many things you can read. It's been published, it’s actually very straightforward. I promise you. Even though I get why it's scary to say - because the stigma is so real. It affects you, you're not even a worker. And the stigma is affecting your way of organizing. That's how intense, right? But, please include people who trade in sex, include people in the sex industry in your list of marginalized people who you stand and fight for. Do it publicly, list it, notice when it is being done, see when you can do it yourself.


Larissa Lai:  

Thank you, Mina. Elaine, would you like to turn your microphone back on and then have the last word?


Elene Lam:

Yes, embrace the whore power. You know, like when we talk about different movements, whore movement is also important. And I hope the organizer will also share some of the link in the website of this Scholar Strike event. So one is Stop Bill 251, we hope people will sign. And this is a very important message, especially we call for the organization support to stop the harm of anti-trafficking policy and movement. And so the other is called 8 Calls for Justice. So that is the demand to support the justice of migrant sex workers. So we hope that you not only sign but share with your other co-workers. So this is a very important position to support the full decriminalization of sex work Status for All.


And the other thing is, Butterfly is using different way, today we do not have so much chance to talk about art. But we have an online art exhibition, so that to share some of the voices of the worker, but also the history of how Butterfly do organizing, and hope you will visit our online exhibition and share. And I think as Mina and Mercedes said, it's very important to center the voice of the worker, but your support is also very important to support the leadership of the sex worker in the movement, and show the support, because I think are being silenced is also part of the balance, so that being silenced is also supporting that balance continued. So we need your support.


Mina Do:  

And this is an invitation: contact Butterfly. You can contact me, Mina Do, Invite us, we want to continue this conversation. I hope you have so many questions that we didn't let you ask in the chat so that we can continue these conversations.


Elene Lam:

And also pleasure workshop, right. So if any organization, any people want to do sex pleasure workshop, also can.


Mercedes Eng:  

It sounds like we need to be engaged in a two-day conference ourselves.


Mina Do:

Organize it for us!


Larissa Lai:  

Elene, Mina and Mercedes thank you so much. Such extraordinary generosity, I learned so much, and I'm sure our audience has as well, and I really hope that we get the chance to continue this conversation in another venue and have more time to do a two-day conference. Yes, let's have it. Thank you, so much gratitude, so much gratitude to all three of you. Thank you.


Mina Do:  

And we'll do it with so much dancing. That youth who danced yesterday, Marybeth, and threw it down, that hip hop routine was amazing. I got up, danced, felt it in my body. There were tears.


Larissa Lai:  

So wonderful. Thank you so much.

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