Whore Next Door: This Is War

A Day of Remembrance in a Season of Mourning

(Photograph by Isabel Dresler/Isabeldresler.com)

This Saturday, hundreds of sex workers and their allies will gather across the globe to mourn.

Dec. 17 has come to be known as the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, as a means to raise awareness, get outraged, strengthen sex-worker communities, and respond to the systematic, daily violence and exclusion we experience.

The brunt of this violence, of course, falls upon our most marginalized community members, particularly transgender women and people of color. Their names and memory will be memorialized at events around the world. In downtown Los Angeles, an organization called Hooker Army will host a self-defense demonstration, and in Sacramento, there will be a family picnic followed by a candlelight vigil.

Oakland sex worker organizations will host a potluck followed by a candlelit procession through the city in support of the Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders, whose aim is to erect a permanent memorial for the more than 200 missing and murdered Black women — many of them sex workers — as well as compensation for the victim’s children and families.

Dec. 17 is part funeral and part family reunion, fortifying our sense of community and belonging, and reminding us that even though many in this world may still hate us and want us dead, we belong here, and we will fight if we must in order to stay.

Here in the Bay Area, we’ve already been in mourning since the news of the Ghost Ship fire solidified the notion that the very people that once made this city magical are becoming extinct. Thirty-six queers, artists, punks, anarchists, and leaders were tragically wrenched from our community on the second day of December, leaving a gaping hole in this already tenuous landscape of sky-high rental markets and below-code communal housing. Everyone I know lost someone. I feel as though I need to say that again: Everyone I know lost someone.

Our communities are already small. Tragedies like Ghost Ship or the shooting at the Orlando gay club Pulse, and the myriad ways marginalized communities are constantly displaced, devalued, and put in harm’s way, bring us closer to what feels like the end of our time in the places we once called home. It’s not just the lives lost; it’s also the aftershocks.

The fire was barely out before inspections of similar communal warehouse spaces began, creating ripples of panic and what may be the beginning of a mass exodus of the communities that once shaped the identity of this city.

Rapid gentrification of a very small geographic location has resulted in a deadly climate of ‘don’t ask, don’t evict’ relationships between landlords and tenants.

I’ve seen firsthand how sex workers, queers, and people of color in the Bay Area constantly sacrifice safety and comfort in their own homes (for which they pay exorbitant rents) rather than initiate contact with their landlord, something that could lead to eviction. With the housing market so cutthroat, landlords will use any reason to evict rent-controlled tenants and raise the rent to market value.

When in doubt, many landlords choose to sell, empowered by the market’s current strength, and by the Ellis Act.

This is also violence.

This tragedy is far-reaching. It’s not just Oakland that took a hit, but the very notion of being a queer artist who takes up space in this world took a hit. We’ve been hit and we are bleeding.

I’m not sure if anyone is ready to say it yet, but as Nazis rise to power and my community goes up in flames, it should be very clear at this point that this country is at war.

But that doesn’t mean we aren’t still fighting, and that doesn’t mean we won’t still win.

Hope, unfortunately, is not much more reliable than God. But we’ve all got to have something that gets us out of bed every morning, especially when there are so many funerals to attend.

Show your solidarity on Saturday. Even if you can’t go to an event, please take a moment remember all those we lost this year.

14th International Day to End Violence Against Sex WorkersSaturday, Dec. 17, 5-7:30 p.m. 4799 Shattuck Ave., Oakland, december17.org.

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