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As a Trafficking Survivor, Lobbying for Sex Worker Rights Gave Me Hope

Queer sex worker and trafficking survivor Laura LeMoon on the power of coming together, even when the odds are against you.

by Laura LeMoon
Jun 8 2018, 1:55pm

Red umbrellas are a symbol of the sex worker rights movement. Image via Shutterstock 

Laura LeMoon is a queer sex worker, trafficking survivor and writer who has been published in the Huffington Post, The Establishment, Broadly and Wear Your Voice Mag among others. She lives in Seattle with her rescue dog Little Bear.

Going to Washington as a hooker can be intimidating.

“I’m not a politician, I’m not an academic. I’m just a ho with an opinion. An opinion that today DC is going to listen to,” I said to the reporters with a microphone pressed in my face.

I was at the first-ever sex worker lobby day, which took place last weekend. Many sex workers from all over the country came to Capitol Hill for one day to speak with their representatives about the impact of FOSTA/SESTA—a recently-passed law that is supposed to address trafficking, but which has had serious consequences for sex workers. This historic day of lobbying was organized by sex worker activist Kate D’Adamo of Reframe Health and Justice as a way to assert the power of sex workers post FOSTA/SESTA.

I was there to meet congresspeople from Washington State and California. While many of my fellow sex workers who met with representatives from red states were met with hostility, my representatives seemed interested and supportive of the idea of sex worker liberation, which caught me off guard, to be honest.

As a sex worker with numerous other marginalized identities—I am also a formerly homeless trafficking survivor, incest and rape survivor—I did not have high hopes. I told the representatives I met with how I am a sex worker AND trafficking survivor who has recently came out of homelessness, and was met with sincere curiosity in my thoughts, ideas and expertise. Whoa. Did NOT expect that.

Read more: SESTA Won't Stop Sex Trafficking, But It Will Kill Sex Workers

When I told some people I knew in the sex worker community that I was going to Washington, many were skeptical that I could make a difference by talking to people who typically see us as less than human. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know how to liberate all sex workers from the bonds of stigma and discrimination.

There’s a saying in the AA program: “Focus on the next indicated step.” Sometimes we don’t know where we’re going; that’s okay. Sometimes we don’t know what the ultimate vision is, but we can conceptualize one thing we can do to steer us in the general direction.

The odds may not be great, but we can’t give up.

As I said, I don’t have the answers. I don’t know how to liberate all sex workers when we are all strapped with so many different degrees of marginalization and discrimination. What I know is we can continue to come up with a few small goals, a few concrete steps. It’s okay to make it up as we go, because truthfully none of us have the answers to a question of this magnitude. And those who think they do are just dangerous.

Read more: What it Was Like to Lobby on Capitol Hill as a Sex Worker

We may not make a difference by going to Washington. Maybe we didn’t change any minds or hearts. But that’s only half the point. If we are in a position to, we have to try. It doesn’t all have to be on the scale of storming the Capitol. The odds may not be great, but we can’t give up.