Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sex Workers are People Too

As a case manager for Shift, I have the opportunity to engage with one of the most misunderstood, judged, and largely ignored populations in our society: sex workers. They are the only group of people that I can think of who are stigmatized solely based on the way they earn a living. I am lucky to have first-hand knowledge of the diversity, resiliency, and strength in the people I see every day.

Note that I have referred to sex workers as PEOPLE. This is an identity that society should recognize before their occupation. Sex workers can be parents, siblings, colleagues, friends, and advocates, to name a few. When they meet me for counseling, they talk about “regular” issues like, conflict resolution, healthy sexuality, relationships, money management, and parenting.

Sex Workers are just as DIVERSE as people in other professions. They are men, women, and transgendered. I get the opportunity to work with adults of different ages, education levels and from different socio-economic, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. In addition they offer a diverse range of services like domination, erotic massage, and phone-sex. They have boundaries about what they will and will not do.

They have SKILLS and ABILITIES that are often overlooked. I have met sex workers who are web-page designers, artists, chefs, singers, psychologists, military personnel, musicians, healers, writers, and the list goes on. With that being said, sex workers are far from stupid, uneducated, and lazy. They work hard for their money. They do not need to be rescued, but respected. They know what they are doing and have a right to self-determination.

Sex workers are RESILIENT and STRONG. They often work in unsafe working conditions. They have been told messages by whole communities, their governments, and sometimes their own family and friends that they don’t belong, that there is something wrong with them, and that their rights aren’t as important simply because of the work that they do.

Either way we look at it, sex workers are just like everyone else, they just have a different way of earning money. Is it really our business to be judging that? If you saw a sex worker on the bus, or in your favourite restaurant, you wouldn’t even know it. And does it even really matter? As much as I am fortunate to work with sex workers, the fact that this job exists says a lot about how society makes it their business.



This post was written by the Shift case manager. If you are interested in finding out more of the services that Shift can offer through case management, please connect with Shift at (403) 237-8171 or info@shiftcalgary.org

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