No Justice No Pride Testimony in support of the Community Safety and Health Amendment act of 2019
My name is Emmelia Talarico, a resident of Ward 5. I am the Organizing Director for No Justice No Pride (NJNP).
NJNP believes in holistic solutions to the problems facing queer and trans communities that target systemic forces and root causes. Our members are Black, brown, queer, trans, gender nonconforming, bisexual, indigenous, two-spirit, formerly incarcerated, disabled, and white allies. We believe that we will not be free until the most marginalized among us are free, and that by prioritizing solutions that support folks facing multiple intersecting forces of oppression will lead us all to liberation. There can be no pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.
I’m a Trans Latina, a sex worker, and a care taker to many Black and Brown Trans Women currently or formally in the sex trade, many of whom are survivors. As a sex worker, I wasn’t expected to feel so sufocated leading up to this hearing. Everyone on the internet seems to have so much so say about what I or others engaging in sex work want in policy and legislation, it reminds me of when cis men debate abortion rights or cis people debate bathroom policy. So much outcry over our locally backed sex worker led campaign. I’ve engaged in sex work on and off as I’ve needed over the past 6 years. I’ve worked on K Street and I’ve been on Backpage. I’ve been raped by dates. I’ve experienced violence at the hands of dates. FYI, we call them dates, it’s not the 80s no one says john. I’ve also met some of the most compassionate people who were dates.
As a sex worker in DC, a historically Black City, most of my dates have been working and middle class Black and Brown Men, just to dispell the common assumption these are rich white men. People who are willing to pay trans women for sex are your neighbors, your co-workers, your brothers. Some of mine are in fact City Council staffers. Criminalizing the dates doesn’t benefit me as a sex worker at all, or anyone else for that matter. NJNP believes in full decrim and not partial decriminalization of sex work because we know that the safety and well being of Black and Brown people as a whole will never come from the police. But that’s not the only reason we support full decrim.
In 2018, NJNP started, the NJNP Collective as a nessciary response to the criminalization and displacement cause by the passage of FOSTA/SESTA — Which similarly to opponents of the Community Safety and Health Amendment Act, intended to stop human trafficking but came at a cost to everyone involved in the sex trade from sex workers to anti trafficking task forces. Before FOSTA/SESTA A girl could post up a ad on backpage and be able to be lucrative. They were able to better screen their clients. As a result of that passage, you have more workers engaging in street based sex work which is more risky and you cannot screen your clients. The dates are less willing to pay rates that you would have been able to make before FOSTA. In our 2018 Storytelling Project Report, the often reframe from sex workers surveyed was that of loosing 65% of their income, some even more.
The NJNP Collective is a safe community home for Trans Sex Workers facing displacement as a result of Criminalization. We currently have 12 long term residents and have housed as many as 40 people a night. We have two safe houses in the district for those most impacted by the criminalization of sex work and we are working on a third. The NJNP Collective is one of the few places in Washington DC providing intensive housing support to trans people struggling to find housing, and in particular We are the only organization in this city providing dedicated housing support to Black and Brown Trans Women over the ages of 24 and we are doing it all without government funding, not that this city is willing to give funding to Trans Led Orgs providing housing to Trans Adults. The funding that the city has made available, often is restrictive on those it is intended before and if we were to follow those restrictions we would have lower rates of transitioning transgender adults into safe and stable housing. After not engaging in sex work for 2 and a half years, I returned because I needed funding for the house we were renting and our care taking programs. There is a section of the Community Safety & Health Amendment that many opponents take issue because while they admit it wouldn’t decriminalize brothels but that it would promote “not legal” ones. We included that section when we wrote this bill because that section as it currently is included in law, criminalizes sex worker based and community based solutions to displacement such as the NJNP Collective. We included that in the bill is so sex workers wouldnt be criminalized for housing and caring for sex workers. We can’t talk about housing protections when we are still criminalized for our labor and our care.
Another thing we added to the bill which is what is being considered “pimping” by some; is so when one sex worker is setting up a date with another sex worker, that they wouldnt be committing a crime. As a sex workers, sex workers; ya know survivors are most safe when they are able to work together and look out for each other. In the past two years, we’ve had neighbors routinely push the landlord to push us out because they see black and brown trans women in crop tops as a threat. Doing this work to ensure stable housing for the most vulnerable community in this city is a never ending up hill battle when everyone is claiming you a nusiance, and thats why we included it. So when we talk about #DecrimNow Councilmembers, we didnt need to bus in people from NY to testify at this hearing. We are locally led, Black & Brown Led, Trans Led Sex Worker led and we have the solutions. If thats not enough for you, two and a half years ago we shut down one of the largest Pride Parades in the country over their support of MPD and now they are testifying in support of DecrimNow in coalition with us. Understand our strength and our resolve. Especially come Primaries, or you will find out what happens when you mess with people who put 10,000 people in your streets for #DistrupJ20. Ask Jack what happens when you try to organize against us. The days of Trans Women coming and groveling to yall while our public housing stock is diminished is over. We coming. We loud. You gonna check us?
To those who have campaigned against our bill, understand if you really wanted to listen to survivors instead of imposing your own politics over them, you could have just came and talked to us instead of going elsewhere to bus people in.
Thank you for hearing me Today.