This very important meeting of international sex workers was organised as a space for us, as current and former sex workers, allies, activists and advocates, to engage in dialogue around the manyfold aspects of our work, and our lives and to identify what impacts directly and indirectly upon them. I felt the bubble of excitement brewing as I arrived on the Friday two days prior to registration, and found myself surreptitiously looking at every person I passed in the hotel complex, wondering silently "are you one of us?"
Gradually, as delegates started to arrive and we started to identify each other in that instinctive way us hos are so good at, we found our kinsfolk. It's fair to say that a strongly developed sense of intuition has probably saved many of us in the course of our work, and the 'why' in that last statement is actually a very serious issue, and one for the agenda several times over this last week. Why do we face the violence we face? Why do so many project so much onto such a marginalised group and what's it all about? Are we still so hung up about sex that dreadful things still happen as a result of these prejudices?
Our hope is that in speaking out about our experiences and in subsequently organising, networking and sharing, that we may transform some of these harms.
I can tell you now that I have RARELY met such a wonderful group of people. I sat on that plane journey hugging moments into my heart, breathing in so much of the last week. New friendships made that I've no doubt at all will last for life. New allegiances to build stronger coalitions. And new ways of getting there.
If there's one thing I would ask you readers it's this - LISTEN TO US talk about our experiences. Don't assume, don't pre-judge, just listen a while, and as the great St James Infirmary tee-shirt says so succinctly "NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US"
I will be writing a fair bit about the conference and my Sex Worker Speakeasy Project over the coming weeks. Thank you to all who already shared their voices, more to come and meanwhile remember....