Who do you work with?:
SWAN Waterloo has a current transgender sex worker as its co-chair (Jelena). We provide service and work with other sex workers - including those who are trans, black and indigenous people of colour (BIPOC), street-involved, HIV positive, poor and those who use drugs. We operate in a compassionate, empowering and affirming model.
How are sex workers involved in your organisation?:
Jelena Vermilion is a current sex worker of 7 years. She is of trans experience. Among our other members are additional trans sex workers who have equal voting rights and help provide guidance for overall projects SWAN creates. We encourage leadership of trans and BIPOC folks.
Which of NSWP priority areas does your organisation work on?:
Oppose the criminalisation and other legal oppression of sex work and support its recognition as work
Critique the trafficking paradigm that conflates representations of sex work, migration, and mobility
Advocate for universal access to health services, including primary health care, HIV and sexual and reproductive health services
Speak out about violence against sex workers, including violence from police, institutions, clients, and intimate partners, while challenging the myth that sex work is inherently gender-based violence
Oppose human rights abuses, including coercive programming, mandatory testing, raids and forced rehabilitation
Challenge stigma and discrimination against sex workers, their families and partners, and others involved in sex work
Advocate for the economic empowerment and social inclusion of sex workers as sex workers
What are the two main challenges that the sex workers you work with face:
In Waterloo region, sex workers face a variety of obstacles. Stigma is pervasive, especially for street-involved trans and BIPOC workers. There is a larger threat of violencce to sex workers among these demographics. We also see huge struggles in sex workers ability to obtain secular employment or housing
Describe other areas of your work:
Jelena provides training to businesses and organisations to elucidate the legislative atmosphere in Canada and globally. As a part of this, demystifying the differences between sex work and trafficking while acknowledging the exploitation of wage labour under capitalism.