Hey Queen! A Benefit for Two NYC Sex Workers Groups to be Held this Weekend

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A high profile event benefiting two organisations working with sex workers will be held this weekend in Brooklyn.

Hey Queen! is a monthly dance party that is a regular on the New York City scene. Its May event, on Saturday May 17th, will benefit both the PROS Network and NSWP member Persist Health Project.

The PROS Network(Providers and Resources Offering Services to sex workers) is a coalition of sex workers, organisers, direct service providers, advocates, and media makers. PROS works to improve the conditions of people engaging in the sex trade in NYC through strengthening connections between sex workers, their direct service providers, and advocates.

Persist Health Projectis a peer-led health organization in New York City, which links sex workers, trafficking survivors and anyone who has traded sex for money, food, drugs, or other resources with nonjudgmental health services. Persist recently released a guidefor service providers seeking to shape their services to the needs of sex workers.

The event will feature live performances, a raffle, lapdances and a spanking booth, and the Queen of Honor is Janet Mock, author of the bestselling Redefining Realness and founder of #girlslikeus, a movement for trans women living visibly.

Ticket prices start at $10 and are available onlinenor at the door.

We spoke to Persist’s Executive Director, Sarah Patterson via email for more information on the benefit:

Where did the idea to hold a fundraiser come from, and why Hey Queen?

We (members of Persist and PROS) began talking about doing a fundraiser with Hey Queen back in 2013, after the success of our first PROS/Persist event at Stonewall Inn in 2012. Timing wasn't right for 2013, so we all settled on 2014 as a great time to collaborate again. Sarah Jenny, one of the co-hosts of Hey Queen!, was a co-founder of Sex Workers Outreach Project NYC and Sex Worker Action New York as well as the PROS Network, so it was a natural fit to work with Hey Queen. There is also a great deal of overlap between human rights for sex workers and human rights for LGBTQ folks. 

With regard to the Queen of Honour, Janet Mock: who approached whom? And how significant is it to have someone of such high profile come out in support of sex worker-led orgs?

I approached Janet Mock and was thrilled that she was able to take the time to be our Queen of Honour for the event. I think Janet sharing her truth about her experiences in sex work has been very powerful. It's vital at this moment in the history of the sex worker rights movement in the United States, which has historically been so led by white, cisgender women, that the voices of trans women of color such as Janet and Monica Jones are most visible and heard. 

Do tips for lapdances etc … go to the organisations or to the performers?

All performers, organisers and volunteers for the event have generously donated their time, though considerations have been made for people's individual needs and abilities to come to the event and give up the time that they might otherwise be making money. Also, dancers and those running the spanking booth are most welcome to take their own personal tips as well. This is, after all, an event to support people in the sex trade!

What will funds raised by the event go towards? Any other upcoming Persist events everyone should know about?

The funds will be divided 50/50 between PROS and Persist. The funding received by Persist will go directly to running our care coordination programme, as well as increasing the amount of peer support and direct services we can provide to the community. The funding received by PROS will go to training development, supporting member development, educational and promo materials, and policy and advocacy initiatives.

The Persist team will be at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference in June. We will be tabling, offering herbal health kits for sex workers, as well as running a workshop on sex work and burnout.