Victims of the night: Stories of trans sex workers
by Victoria A. Brownworth
Jun 20, 2013 | 8915 views | 52 52 comments | 340 340 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<b>GERMANTOWN AVENUE IN NICETOWN</b><i> Photo: Maddy Gold</i>
GERMANTOWN AVENUE IN NICETOWN Photo: Maddy Gold
slideshow
First in a series

Tiffani and I are standing a few feet from the doorway to Club Upscale, a big, almost block-long taupe-colored building with curved black awnings over blacked-out windows. The streetlight a few yards down from the club door is out and it seems excessively dark on the block. I shiver slightly, but I’m not cold. Tiffani’s smoking a cigarette and talking. I’m leaning against my car. I’m trying to listen, but I’m feeling a little bit nervous and a whole lot white. We’re near the corner of Germantown Avenue and some little side street without a sign, about a block from Broad and Erie in Nicetown. It’s Friday night and no one knows I’m here with Tiffani except Tiffani. Suddenly I feel scared, remembering what happened the night I met her.

People go in and out of the club. The music blasts, then ebbs, but there is always that kind of thumping reverb surrounding us. Occasionally, Tiffani will call out to someone she knows as they head toward the club and they wave and then make some sign in my direction. Who’s that white lady with you? I wave slightly back, then run my hand through my hair when I’m ignored.

Tiffani looks nice. She’s dressed up like any other girl going out to the clubs on the weekend — super-high patterned platform heels, patterned tights, short-shorts. Her hair is a mass of braids swirled together around her head in another intricate pattern. Everything on her is big — big earrings, big bracelets, long, fake eyelashes, long nails in a black-and-white pattern. On her left ring finger the nail has gold instead of white. She tells me one of her friends does nails. She could get a good manicure for me, cheap.

I laugh a little, glance at my unpainted nails. I’m still shivering.

We are waiting for Tiffani’s friend, Mo’Nique, then we’re all going to have a drink at the Eagle Bar at Broad and Erie. Tiffani wants a cheese steak at Max’s, which is as famous as Pat’s or Geno’s except white people don’t come up here, to Nicetown.

Tiffani wants Mo’Nique to tell me her story. Mo’Nique, Tiffani says, is in trouble.

I met Tiffani on a crisp night in early March. I was taking a walk near my house in Lower Germantown, about a mile from where she and I are now. Tiffani was standing at the bus stop in front of the church behind my house. She asked me if I had a cigarette. I told her I don’t smoke. She asked me if I would buy her a cup of coffee. I said I’d give her money for coffee, if that’s what she needed, but I didn’t feel like walking the two blocks to the nearby pizza place to get it.

I pulled some bills out of my skirt pocket and she had suddenly started to cry. Not a few simple tears running down her face, but real sobbing.

Where I live, you don’t strike up conversations with strangers. You answer politely if someone talks to you, and you move on. Quickly, but decisively. Bad things happen in the 39th Police District, which is one of the most dangerous in the city. Bad things have happened to my friends and neighbors. Very bad things have happened to me. Last month, there were three separate shootings within two blocks of my house, including one where police killed the suspect after he shot two men and a pregnant woman and her 2-year-old boy as they sat on their stoop.

Bad things happen here.

That particular night — a lovely night when you could smell spring in the air, perfect for a late-night walk — something very bad had happened to Tiffani.

Tiffani is one of Philadelphia’s many transgender sex workers. Police call them prostitutes, neighbors call them streetwalkers, pros, whores. Tiffani’s worked out of bars and clubs along Germantown Avenue near Wayne Junction and near the Erie subway stop. She’s worked the streets doing what’s called “walking dates” — having sex in an alley or park or abandoned building or in cars. She’s even worked out of her grandmother’s house when her grandmother was at her job.

The night I met her, Tiffani had just had sex with a man in an SUV parked behind The Germantown Cricket Club, a block where sex in cars is not unusual and where used condoms litter the sidewalk, which is across from an elementary school. After Tiffani had given him oral sex, the man had reached under her skirt and said he wanted to touch her.

“He got all upset,” she explained. “He said he wasn’t no gay, he wasn’t into no gays, he wanted his money back, he was gone hurt me bad for lying to him, he was gone mess me up.”

The man had grabbed Tiffani’s purse and taken not just the money he’d given her, but all the money she had, as well as her cigarettes. He’d punched her several times and twisted her arm, shoving her out of the SUV onto the sidewalk. She’d broken a couple of nails and torn her stockings. One of her shoes — a black platform heel with glinting silver accents — was badly scuffed with some of the silver pieces torn off. Up close, I could see her eye makeup was a mess.

I asked her if she wanted me to call the police. I asked her if she wanted me to take her to the hospital. I could see now that there was blood streaked on her hand where the nails had broken all the way up into the nail bed. There was a dark mark where he had twisted her wrist.

“I just want to go home, but I got no money.”

We walked to my car and I drove her to her grandmother’s house, a rundown brick row home near Simon Gratz High School on a street with a pretty 18th-century name, but no pretty houses.

We sat in my car outside the place where she lived with her grandmother, and sometimes her mother when her mother was “off them drugs” and her grandmother — wary, because Tiffani’s mother had stolen from her before — let her stay.

I tried not to look at a dirty stray cat that darted across the quiet street as Tiffani told me that I was the first person to be nice to her “in a really long time, I mean like I don’t remember, that’s how long. You treat me like a friend.”

I gave her my business card and a $10 bill and told her to call me if she needed anything. She wrote her cell-phone number on the back of another one of my cards. Then she leaned over and gave me a quick hug, got out of the car and went into the dark little house. When I saw the downstairs light go on, I drove away.

I’d spent just over two hours talking to Tiffani that night. I didn’t like thinking about what had happened to her. But I couldn’t stop.

There are no statistics on how many transgender street sex workers there are in the U.S. or even in Philadelphia, nor are there statistics on how many teenagers are lured into prostitution each year, although the FBI floats the number of 100,000, with another couple-million adult prostitutes. That number seems low, given the economy and the ease with which “escort” services can be advertised online, and that individuals can advertise free of charge on Craigslist, Facebook and Twitter. A quick search of Twitter under “transgender prostitutes” netted dozens of names and groups and links to websites.

But within the FBI estimates, a percentage of those are transgender, and in Philadelphia, with a large number of street sex workers as well as escorts, and a significant population of homeless youth, the numbers may be in the thousands. Pennsylvania ranks seventh in the top-10 states for most prostitution arrests. There were just under 2,000 of those arrests in Philadelphia last year. Last weekend, six people were arrested in a prostitution sting in the Rhawnhurst section of the city.

Tiffani and her friend Mo’Nique have both been picked up by police, but neither has eve been charged. Tiffani worries that her luck is running out.

“Everybody else I know been arrested a coupla times. So I know I’m just waiting on it.”

Tiffani and Mo’Nique were among a dozen young transgender sex workers I met over several months. Every one had a story of violence to tell.

According to Gender Law Justice at Berkeley in California, transgender women are at increased risk of violence from almost every avenue. They are often victims of domestic violence — first in their families of origin, then in their personal relationships. They are also frequently victims of street violence.

The Women’s Law Project’s information sheet on prostitution is sobering: Prostitutes are commonly victims of crime, but rarely report because they fear arrest themselves. However, 70 percent of all incarcerated women are in jail for prostitution or prostitution-related crimes.

In a paper presented in July, the Women’s Law Project noted that prostituted women were raped on average eight to 10 times a year.

A 2012 study from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that trans women of color like Tiffani are at extreme risk for hate crimes, rape and other violence, including homicide.

LGBTQ people of color represented 53 percent of the total reported survivors and victims of all hate crimes, but they represented a full 73.1 percent of homicide victims. In all reported homicides, the victims were women.

Like Tiffani.

Tiffani dropped out of school when she was 16. Slender and slight, she says she had always felt like a girl. By the time she was 13, she had been trying on her mother’s clothes and stealing clothes from local shops. She had grown her hair out and started wearing eye makeup to school, then more feminine-style clothing and started calling herself Tiffani. She gradually stopped going to school, even though she liked it, because the taunts from other students had become untenable.

“All the time it was ‘he-she’ and guys getting all up on me trying to get me to suck they dick or something else. I just couldn’t take it.”

Tiffani says teachers didn’t do anything to stop the harassment she endured and some even made comments themselves about her gender.

Tiffani doesn’t like hooking — it’s risky and dangerous — but she feels it’s her only option right now. She’s been doing it for three years, since she was 16. She says men like her, and she says it with pride. She says that she dresses nice and that men like her body; she has small, high breasts and a slender waist. She says she pads her ass to make it appear rounder and more feminine.

Tiffani also says she lets men do almost anything they want with her as long as it doesn’t hurt. She says she’s not into pain, but she’s been anally raped at least a dozen times in the past three years.

The risks of violence for transgender women is high even without the added danger posed by sex work. But violence is not the only risk; HIV and other STD infection is also high.

A study from the University of Pennsylvania on HIV infection, published May 30 in the journal “Clinical Infectious Diseases,” found that transgender women were more likely to have the most risky sexual contacts: MSM, or sex with men who do not define as gay or bisexual.

An April 23 report from the Centers for Disease Control showed that transgender women were at the highest risk for HIV infection — 41 percent higher than any other group. The CDC statistics, which were also included in the HUP study, reported newly identified HIV infection rates of 2.9 percent for transgender women, compared to 0.9 percent for non-transgender males and 0.3 percent for females.

The CDC report also noted that 95 percent of the cases of HIV infection among transgender persons were among transgender women. Approximately 90 percent of the people were black or Hispanic and were also more likely to have been infected in their teens or 20s. In addition, among newly diagnosed people, 50 percent of transgender women had documented records of substance abuse, commercial sex work, homelessness, incarceration and/or sexual abuse — nearly twice the incidence as that of non-transgender people.

As we wait for Mo’Nique, I ask Tiffani what she does with the men she “dates.” Everything she tells me is terrible. Men jerking off on her face, men forcing her to give them oral or anal sex without a condom, men asking her to undress completely and then examining her like a “freak” when both her breasts and penis are exposed. Tiffani doesn’t like to look at her body from the waist down; she likes it covered.

“I know I’m all woman. I don’t need people getting in my way with that, you know?”

She looks like she might cry when she says it.

Tiffani has also been beaten many times — from “simple” slaps across her face to punching and kicking. One man choked her until she lost consciousness, another pulled a knife on her and cut her arm. She shows me a small scar. She’d like to stop, but she can’t. She can’t imagine a different way of making money.

A tall, curvy African-American woman suddenly comes up behind us and says, “Hey y’all” in a deep, breathy voice. Mo’Nique has arrived. The three of us walk toward Broad and Erie and Tiffani starts talking about steak sandwiches. Mo’Nique turns to me, puts a hand with elaborately lacquered nails on my arm.

“So, can you help me or what?” she says.

This series will continue in next week’s PGN.

Comments
(52)
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shawnafields01
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January 22, 2014
You definitely expose the harsher side of sex workers, especially for trans gender street workers. I just read a compatible story about The Red Umbrella Diaries Gala https://www.slixa.com/under-cover/466-red-umbrella-diaries-gala-celebrates-sex that is a coming together of trans gender sex workers, giving a community feel, to people in this profession. The article is one persons review of the event, and it shares sex workers empowerment and a more positive side of this career. There are seven sex workers that share their stories on a stage but in very real and audacious way. I found it interesting that The Red Umbrella Diaries allowed the performers and the audiences the much-needed space in which to safely continue the effort of being sex workers.

RobbersGlen
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July 05, 2013
Cyber mobbing and bullying other posters is just comes with a day's work for the self-assigned 'trans activists' here. I'm not surprised there's no real discuss here pertinent to the article. A finely written article I'll add.



Gemma Seymour Amper is no woman. I'm not willing to give that designation to someone who has made terrorizing, vandalizing and intimidating women and girls a part of his life's calling. Gemma is one of the men who camped outside of the 2010 Michigan Womyn's Music Festival and through a series of 'offenses' deemed by them to be horrific engaged in a week-long escalation of harassment tactics that ended in gunfire, trespassing and vandalism of fest property. The worst damage was done to the psyches of the women and girls who had to endure this.

These guys came packing for trouble. When you're 20 minutes from the nearest town and so deep in the woods that cell phones don't work you work out your plans ahead of time and you bring your weapons with you. These men started their bullying with a flyer handed out to everyone waiting in line for the gates to open. On this day that is the beginning of a sacred time for the women they are handed a flyer by the 'transwomen' that read--

"'Second-Wave ‘Feminists’, A hot load from my monstrous tranny-cock embodies womanhood more than the pieces of menstral (sic) art your transphobic cunts could ever hope to create. Love, Womyn-born-Monsters"

This was illustrated with the mudflap art of the reclining naked woman. An icon of the white macho culture that enforces male supremacy in the United States.

This is the naked face of male privilege that asserts that if you don't get what you want by asking then you can get it by force. No one should ever dare to refuse or interfere with your self-assigned rights to whatever you want.
Lokadottir
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June 25, 2013
This sounds a lot like the way things are here in Stockton. You're doing a good thing, giving these women a voice. Even my own (white) trans* community doesn't like to talk about this because it's an uncomfortable subject. In this tide of negative feedback, I just wanted to thank you.
Baronesa
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June 25, 2013
Is this a joke?

Bringing someone who calls transwomen men, who completely ignore and misgender transmen to write this is akin to resurrecting Pinochet and having him write about the disapeared under his Governemnt

What is next? Bring an MRA to write about feminism?

Bring a white supremacist to write about racism?
Baronesa
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June 25, 2013
"Victoria Brownworth ‏@VABVOX 34s

@bridgetminamore Then PLEASE don't tell me how I must accept men as women, when they were born into privilege.Privilege is the key here."

Link to the comment for as long as it last...

https://twitter.com/VABVOX/status/349654117024677888

There you have it... in her own twitter in her own words... Transwomen are not women.

Fuck you
Deborah Peifer
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June 24, 2013
What I've observed in the comments could be the dictionary definition of male privilege. Gender is behavior, not biology. In a truly free world, people could behave as they wished, wear clothing of their choice, go with or without makeup. stay home with kids or go without children altogether, work at any kind of job for which they the skill. In our not fully free world, also known as patriarchy, men claim the right (or should I say demand the privilege) to define everything and everyone. Feminists resist male privilege and work for a world where all are free.

The only behavior that is biologically based has to do with having an organ that produces sperm, or a uterus that will grow a fetus. Claiming your penis is a clitoris because you identify as a female is absurd. Demanding the right to define what is female in patriarchy when you hold the ultimate symbol of male privilege. is grotesque.
sarahr
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June 23, 2013
First, thank you to Ms. Brownworth for writing about this; the experiences of trans sex workers of color are among the most ignored, distorted and ridiculed in our population. Their voices need to carry to people who can make a difference. The article even keeps the typical "privileged journalist writing about sex workers" tropes to a minimum, with the exception of "lengthy descriptions of what everyone (but the author) is wearing."

But does the author believe these women to be women or not? She refers to them as women, but even ignoring that decades-old article, just a couple of weeks ago she wrote in her blog that these women ahould keep out of women-only spaces. They're women, but their presence in womens' spaces undermines the goal of a place safe from men. She compares trans women to the notion of her as a white person trying to gain access to PoC-only spaces because she grew up in a black neighborhood. Even while highlighting the increased risk of rape trans women face in this article, elsewhere she suggests that trans womens' presence is insensitive to victims of rape. It just seems inconsistent.

JordanGwendolynDavis
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June 22, 2013
Oh, and this might seem off topic, but it seems to affirm many of the concerns I have had about the PGN in general, note that 8 days ago, Social Security amended their policy on gender markers within the system so that we need not have surgery to change it. Yet, this press cycle, nary a peep from the PGN about this major policy change, even though they have covered other trans related stuff with varying degrees of success.
JordanGwendolynDavis
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June 22, 2013
And another thing, I gave up any semblance of male privilege when I transitioned. Anybody who would even accuse me of having such privilege is laughable and should NEVER be taken seriously.
JordanGwendolynDavis
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June 22, 2013
Over 40 comments already, this is just proof positive that there is a major problem here (usually when PGN is doing something right, there are only a few comments at that).

I have been affected by the toxic ideology of Brownsworth and her types. I have been thrown out of women's rooms and forced into the rapey men's rooms. I have been forced out of women's shelters, and as a result, had to move away from Pittsburgh as a result. I still can't get adequate transition related treatment on my medical assistance. I am just one step away from being forced into sex work. We are women, we are best in women's spaces.

And also, I attended disability pride today. A common theme is "nothing for us without us" and to allow a person with a history of transphobia to write about trans sex workers and other challenges our community faces is a derogation of our rights to self-advocacy.

Sincerely,

A feminist, lesbian, transwoman with disabilities (invisible).
across nybackl
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June 22, 2013
Cue the TERF that links to this article and says "SEE. WE AREN'T THE ONES OPPRESSING YOU! MEN ARE THE REAL PROBLEM, THE ONLY PROBLEM!!!1=eleventy1. (Also since you are men, it's your own fault)" in 3... 2... 1...

Which might even be what the author had in mind when she wrote this.

Regina Kleinzeller
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June 22, 2013
PGN, This is a quote from Ms. Brownworth's blog from earlier this month (June '13) about the exclusion of trans women from the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival:

"if you are a transitioned woman, why can’t you assimilate with other women for one week and allow your femaleness to predominate? It is the remnants of your male privilege that the women of Michigan are objecting to. As transwomen, can’t you stop fighting with other women long enough to feel what it is like for women at Michigan? Women at MWMF have been damaged and brutalized by male oppression and male privilege–street harassment, homophobia, incest, rape and just “simply” making two-thirds of what they make for the same job. Why isn’t it okay for them to be safe from men and just relax, celebrate, listen to women’s music and dance their hearts out for one week of their lives?"

Ms. Brownworth is calling trans women 'men' and saying that any trans woman who is unable to afford $20K for SRS should not be allowed in the festival and making assumptions that trans women will be flashing their genitalia at the festival or even attacking other women... so much for her supposed solidarity with poor trans women of color.

That you would allow someone with offensive opinions like this to cover any part of the trans community is absurd. PGN, you should be ashamed of yourself.
Gemma Seymour-Amper
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June 22, 2013
"It may be politically expedient to hold people to what they wrote in college, but it's not politically or intellectually honest."

No, actually, it is the height of political and intellectual honesty to hold people to account for their published views. What is intellectually and politically dishonest in the extreme is to whitewash those published views with a blanket statement of "that was in the past" without any kind of acknowledgement that those views were in error. In any case, this isn't about what happened in the distant past, it's about what the author published mere days ago, and about what is going on in our community, right now.

Sue Hyde at least had the brains and the decency to issue an honest apology for being wrong.

The readership of PGN may not realise this immediately, but I am probably well-known to a healthy percentage thereof. 20 years ago, I was the buyer at Taws Artist Supplies, where I served a significant proportion of the Philadelphia LGBT community simply by virtue of interacting with so many creative professionals. Those who might remember me may also remember my overtly feminine appearance at the time. Without people like Victoria Brownworth, I might have been able to come out 20 years ago, and live my life as it should have been lived.

People like Victoria Brownworth took that life away from me, and that is not something that I am likely to forgive or forget easily, especially when, when called out for their past errors, they double down, and resort to further attacks on trans women for standing up for our inclusion in our own community.

Perhaps it is no accident that Pennsylvania now stands as one of the only two states in the entire Northeast not to have passed comprehensive statewide legislation that protects all people against discrimination of the basis of gender identity, if this is the treatment that trans women can expect in the year 2013 from an LGBT news outlet in the most progressive city in the state, a city which recently enacted its own anti-discrimination legislation that leads the country in its scope.

What is politically and intellectually dishonest is presenting a person with multiple intersections of privilege over the subjects of her discourse as an authority on their lives. There are a multitude of trans women of colour in the Philadelphia area who could have written on this topic. Why Victoria Brownworth, who is not only race privileged, class privileged, and cis privileged, but a known transmisiac of several decades evidence? Criticism of her transmisia is not the same thing as hatred of her, despite the common TERF defence mechanism of claiming baseless hatred against them, instead of recognising their hyperbolic hypocrisy for what it is.

Never mind the condescension to the trans women here, as if we "just don't understand" women's issues or women's concerns. Never mind that fact that I'm sure that if I, a lesbian trans woman of colour, am commenting on this, there are sure to be others like me also commenting here. I would laugh at the level of arrogance required to speak so, did it not evidence the fact that these views, which have been literally responsible for the deaths of countless trans women since the rise of radical feminism in the 1970's obliterated anything even remotely resembling responsible scholarship on women's issues for over 20 years from having any substantial influence on our community.

Shame on you, PGN. Shame on you, Victoria Brownworth. We all deserve better.
Gemma Seymour-Amper
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June 22, 2013
Second to last paragraph should read:

Never mind the condescension to the trans women here, as if we “just don’t understand” women’s issues or women’s concerns. Never mind that fact that I’m sure that if I, a lesbian trans woman of colour, am commenting on this, there are sure to be others like me also commenting here. I would laugh at the level of arrogance required to speak so, did it not evidence the fact that these views, which have been literally responsible for the deaths of countless trans women since the rise of radical feminism in the 1970’s obliterated anything even remotely resembling responsible scholarship on women’s issues for over 20 years from having any substantial influence on our community, still carry a certain prestige in the darker corners of the reality of our lives.
herwickedness
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June 22, 2013
(1) Why is it that M-F transgenders are (a) quick to assume the position of martyr and victim of bigotry and bias than anyone else (especially including F-M trans. The women transitioning over don't seem to feel this need to cry victim and everyone is out to get me at every opportunity, in case you weren't paying attention) (b) the first ones to try and reassign gender identity labels. I used to be a woman now I am suddenly a CIS because THEY want a way to identify as women that isn't the factual label (trans-gender woman)and (c) overwhelmingly the most angry, vocal contentious and "victimized" members of the trans-family.

Say what you will about women, biological ones - even when we transition over to male identities, we take our history and our genetics with us and you don't see us standing around turning everything into a game of domination by martyrdom and argumentativeness. This is either because we aren't transitioning over with a history of male defined behaviors or a lifetime of testosterone wired brain cells OR some of you aren't really women like you think you are but frustrated, attention needy gay men who can't even own your own homosexual identity.

You can call me hateful all you want. I am not the fraud standing in the room crying foul play at the other folks who were, up to the moment of that insult, trying to help in spite of the fact that you are still acting like men with a victim complex and a gender identity issue.

Enough with the "I am Trans, hear me roar, you bigots!". How about you settle yourself into what it REALLY means to grow up female before you start trying to tell us how hard it is to walk around in the world with newly installed boobs and a history of male privilege first.
danah gaz
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June 22, 2013
"You can call me hateful all you want"

Don't flatter yourself, hon. Hateful at least implies there's some sort of purpose or method to your ridiculous and clueless rant.

Reading through that screechy wall of text that passes for your commentary, there's no evidence of that at all.

So how about we just call you an idiot an instead?

/big kiss

PS: "Transgender" is not a noun.
anonymous
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June 22, 2013
Transgendered women have committed the ultimate crime against patriarchy: rejecting their inherent privilege and choosing to align themselves with the "other" the "lesser" the oppressed. So, it shocks and saddens, but does not surprise me, that they are especial targets of violence and retribution.

Legalizing sex work might solve some problems, eliminating the fear of arrest, for one thing. But it also raises other issues, and legitimizes exploitation. There are no easy answers, here.

What's clear is that we need safe places for these women to come to, and pathways for them to get off the streets and out of a life of vulnerability to violence and abuse. Articles such as this can do a lot to raise awareness and begin to find solutions.

Thank you for writing it.
MargotLeFaye
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June 22, 2013
Sorry! The anonymous post to which I am replying, came from me. The site seemed convinced I wasn't human, so on my umpteenth attempt I managed to leave off my name. Essentially, we need to find a way to get people off the streets and away from being vulnerable targets of patriarchal violence.
Cristan
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June 22, 2013
The problem is that:

A.) Without her coming out and explicitly rejecting her anti-trans bigotry, we have a known anti-trans bigot writing about those of us who are most vulnerable due to anti-trans bigotry. The cis writer/editor see no irony here.

B.) If she's not willing to reject her past anti-trans bigotry, we know that what she's written is BS because it in no way represents the reality of her convictions.

C.) Would this behavior be tolerated in any other arena of discourse? If an anti-semitic fool who had, for decades, supported Jew-free zones and appealed to the same anti-semitic propaganda pushed by folks like the klan - if Christian organization paid her to write a piece about poor Jews - how do you think it would be taken? Is that behavior suddenly okay because we're just talking about trans folks?

Whether or not this piece (that she and the editor shaped) is good isn't the point. That's altogether a separate issue. The point that people are making is the irony and cisprivilege is stomach-turning.
Kathy...
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June 22, 2013
Isn't it precious? Someone who supported giving a Lambda Literary award to a book by a guy who stated it was science! that trans women are uniquely well suited to prostitution as a career now gets to write an article on trans women forced into prostitution without ever examining her own role in fostering the attitudes that lead to these same women only having those options.

Without even a trace of an apology or at the very least irony. That my friends is entitlement. It's a lack of self awareness on a magnificent scale. Brava!
Superqueer
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June 22, 2013
I saw no transphobia in this article, and thought it was moving and quite well written, whatever this writer said or didn't say about us decades ago. People's views change over time and we should embrace any sympathetic person trying to help us tell our story. Patriarchy is TOTALLY the problem people!!
danah gaz
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June 22, 2013
I was particularly moved by her heartfelt apology for the harm she caused a particularly marginalized and maligned group of people in the service of her own career.

Oh.. that's right. That never happened. Silly me.
RealityKat
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June 22, 2013
"People's views change over time and we should embrace any sympathetic person trying to help us tell our story."

Please explain why it is that no amount of espousing of trans-exterminationist dogma by non-trans LGs is ever too much to expect trans women to forgive and forget (how many decades now has Sue Hyde, signatory to the letter demanding that Olivia Records fire Sandy Stone, been collecting paychecks from NGLTF, the alllegedly-more-trans-friendly of the Gay, Inc. organizations?) in order to not be branded as psychotic screaming trannies, but that no amount of working for LGB-specific goals (alongside the trans-specific and trans-inclusive ones that we had to also expend our own time, energy and money to get LGBs to accept as legitimate) is ever enough to qualify trans women to not be shown the 'trans women need not apply' sign when we apply for employment within Gay, Inc.
RealityKat
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June 22, 2013
"I saw no transphobia in this article"

No? Then try this one, from the May 29, 1981 PGN:

"Transsexuals in the Lesbian Community: The Ultimate in Male Power-Tripping?

by Victoria A. Brownworth

On May 2, 1981 approximately 150 women met in West Philadelphia to vote in an emergency community meeting. The issue, which had been raised in March, was whether or not a post-operative transsexual, Leslie Phillips, could be a member of the leadership collective for the Lesbian Feminist Weekend (LFW) 1981. In a two-part vote it was decided that Phillips could neither be a member of the leadership collective nor could Phillips be a member of a committee for the LFW.

...

When we talk about the role of male-to-female transsexuals in the women’s movement as a whole and the lesbian movement in particular I feel we are talking about the ultimate in male power-tripping. It is difficult for me to believe in the principle of transsexualism in a culture in which the sexes are not equal. I believe that given the male-dominated state of society there are going to be men and women who do not identify with their given roles. But I cannot believe that a person who spends 30-some years reaping the benefits of being a white male in our society can understand what it has been – and is – for me, a woman, in this society. Phillips may be oppressed as a particular minority group but Phillips cannot know what i[t] was like for me or any other woman to grow up in a male-dominated culture where we are the lowest members in the caste system. I could not choose my oppression.

...

I and many – 75 percent – of the women at the May 2 meeting had questions about Phillips’ motives. Why should Phillips want to be involved in the leadership of a lesbian group? Why, if Phillips is truly interested in the concerns of women, was this person not willing to work in a less sensitive position within the ranks of Sisterspace or LFW? Why would only a leadership position be sufficient? Is it because Phillips is used – as a man – to being able to be in power? Does Phillips feel that only a leadership in a lesbian group will be the final qualifies of “her” as a “woman”?

There are many of us within the community who are angry over this issue. The world is a male-dominated space, the minimal changes of the last 15 years notwithstanding. As a woman and as a lesbian – one who is not a separatist, per se, I might add – I feel that my space, my woman-only space, is a very precious commodity. (Not one white among us would consider intruding upon the space of blacks – yet men feel that they can intrude on women’s space, wherever it may be.) To me Phillips’ presence within my lesbian space is a violation. Women need to be concerned with the growth of women, the support of women, the strengthening of women. That is their – my – primary goal. Until we are strong within our own ranks we cannot effect change without. Until men recognize that the oppression of women comes from them and in turn causes their own oppression, there can be no lasting or meaningful humanity."
Victoria Brownworth
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June 22, 2013
Thank you for reading the piece, for reading what was written and for seeing the women in it, rather than the hatred of me personally that is the subject of most of these comments. It should be apparent to anyone that my concern for these women was what drove me to write the series and spend several months literally on the streets talking to women, their friends and those trying to help them get off the streets and into a safer place.Those women seem not to matter to the majority of the people commenting here.

I also appreciate that you recognize that I am sympathetic. I realize everyone is now held to account for their college years--I am certain that everyone posting here has always had perfect politics, but being viciously anti-lesbian isn't actually a positive political stance, unless you are a member of the GOP.

Times change and issues change. I have consistently written about the abuse of women throughout my journalistic career.And while I have been the victim of such abuse, I have never been a perpetrator.

Attacking allies has never made political sense. It never will.I am no one's oppressor. I am, however, a life-long advocate for the oppressed--like the women in my series, the point of which was to draw attention to the violence, poverty and abuse they deal with every day.

It's a shame that hatred for me has superceded concern for them. I hope that hatred is satisfying, because it does not benefit Tiffani, Mo'Nique or any of the other women I profile. It just benefits the haters who take satisfaction in hijacking the very real concerns expressed here for their own agenda.

Cristan
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June 22, 2013
@Victoria Brownworth

Instead of being dismissive of your decades of anti-trans bigotry, why not apologize for it? Do you have any idea how much harm people like you caused? Don't you know the ideology you very publicly supported lead to the trans community losing its access to healthcare? Don't you know the ideology you very publicly supported lead to known suicides?

Own your known bigotry and if you no longer support that ideology, explicitly say that. What you supported can't be dismissed by any between-the-lines statement. Come out and explicitly state that you reject the ideas you once held. Explicitly state that you reject anti-trans views held by Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs). Come out and explicitly support the very things that you - lost to your bigotry - have opposed in the past.

Without doing these things, having a known bigot write about how awful it is that transwomen have to face lives shaped by bigotry, is kinda gross. Can you not read the position of privilege your "apology" is written from? You seem to be actually offended/affronted/taken aback that trans folk still hold you to account for supporting the bigotry that's destroyed their lives. Can't you grasp why even your privileged "apology" adds to the problematic nature of your piece?

danah gaz
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June 22, 2013
@Victoria Brownworth

"I also appreciate that you recognize that I am sympathetic."

You're sympathetic really? Would you care, then, to help some of us, myself included pay for our medical care which we've been denied coverage for since the eighties, despite being insured? After all, you were part of that nasty bunch of campaigners that got us exempted?

No?

How about an apology then? Is it too much to ask for you to actually own up to the damage you've done to our community?

Yes?

Well then, Victoria, you can go soak your head. Nobody here is asking anything special of you. We'd simply like you to own up to your own mistakes. If you are unable or unwilling to do that, then you'll never be taken seriously by the women you've harmed. It's quite simple, really.
Hope125
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June 21, 2013
One, of many, takeaways from the article I am continuing to think through is how women in prostitution need people to be compassionate, kind and provide the amount of help each of us are able. Whether that be a ride home, or something more. There are many good people in the city reaching out to providing basic needs, including a safe space, a welcoming face and a listening ear, to women in prostitution. There need to be many more.
Victoria Brownworth
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June 21, 2013
Thank you for reading my piece from the vantage point it was written--one of compassion, concern and a desire to alert our community--LGBTQ and Philadelphia--to the struggles these women face and to give the voiceless a voice. Once these women's voices and faces are before us, we can't pretend we never saw them.When we speak the truth--that women are victims of patriarchy--it's difficult for people to hear.
RealityKat
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June 22, 2013
How many trans sex workers are sex workers solely or primarily because of the legitimization of discrimination against trans women that transphobic pieces of garbage such as Victoria Brownworth championed 30 years ago? How many trans women have died during those three decades because of that legitimization of discrimination?

Brownworth is no better than Paula Deen - marketing diabetes to people in the form of food and then cashing in by plugging a diabetes medication (and, yes, Brownworth is no better than Deen in another respect - which is increasingly evident given that she clearly is implying that the criticism of her and PGN's stupifying decision to continue to allow her to write for it is some form of not giving a damn about the lives of the women who she is exploiting here.)
Hackez
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June 21, 2013
the extent of the violence Tiffani has endured is just the tip of the iceberg. Her story, and that of other sex workers, trans or not, is the story of deep seated hatred of women bread into men. of how men use their sexuality as a powerful tool to leverage violence against women. and yes, a man has full license to savage a sex worker when he feels he has been fooled by a trans-gender woman.

In fact, he is the fool for he as bought the lies about gender identity so craftfully woven by patriarchy. Lies so embed into our culture that violence and hatred of women and others who do not fit the bull-shit “norm” propagated by patriarchal culture. So Tiffani cannot see options beyond sex work because her education schooled her well. Lessons no one should ever have to learn: self-loathing, shame, isolation. Indeed, her options are limited but not because of who she is but because the culture of hate and oppression.
Victoria Brownworth
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June 21, 2013
Thank you for your intelligent reading of this piece and your acknowledgement that patriarchy is the enemy, not lesbians.

It has long been the action of the patriarchy and those who embrace it to silence women. My intent with this series was to give voice to women who are silenced in some of the most terrible ways.
RealityKat
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June 21, 2013
"I would hope that everyone would actually read what's written here."

I'd prefer that people read the piece by Victoria Brownworth that appeared in PGN on May 29, 1981 entitled "Transsexuals in the Lesbian Community: The Ultimate in Male Power-Tripping?"

The text can be found at the top listing upon googling the terms: brownworth power tripping
Victoria Brownworth
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June 21, 2013
My support for women-only space when I was in college is definitely something everyone should read. They can also read my senior thesis.

I would refer all of you to the other pieces I have done on anti-trans violence as well as the two-part series I did on Babs Casbar Siperstein.

It may be politically expedient to hold people to what they wrote in college, but it's not politically or intellectually honest.
RealityKat
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June 22, 2013
How many trans sex workers are sex workers solely or primarily because of the legitimization of discrimination against trans women that you - and Janice Raymond and Mary Daly and the still-employed-by-NGLTF Sue Hyde - championed 30 years ago? How many trans women have died during those three decades because of that legitimization of discrimination that you championed, legitimization of discrimination that was enshrined into Gay, Inc. orthodoxy before many of the women you're now exploiting were even born?
danah gaz
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June 22, 2013


"It may be politically expedient to hold people to what they wrote in college"

Well yes, and then there's that time when you publicly apologized for enthusiastically participating in the smearing of a vulnerable population to further your career. Oh wait..

Thank you, RealityKat. You speak the truth.

PGN should know better, but unfortunately, giving voice to people that harm trans people to write about trans people doesn't surprise me. It's sport these days.

kelli Busey
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June 21, 2013
PGN! TERF Victoria Brownworth Teaches Us About Transphobia?! What, Julie Bindel wasn't Available?

Victoria Brownworth
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June 21, 2013
I am not trans-exclusionary or I wouldn't have written this series, I wouldn't have written about Brandon Teena,Gwen Araujo and just recently, the tenth anniversary of the murder of Sakia Gunn.

You describe yourself as an "unsubstantiated rumor monger."

Point taken.
RealityKat
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June 22, 2013
"I am not trans-exclusionary or I wouldn't have written this series"

I'll give you this: That is a bit more creative than 'some of my best friends are...'

But, its no more believable.