Victorian Greens promote hate speech at LGBTIQ Event

Photo by Difficult Debby

Photo by Difficult Debby

On Thursday night this week sex workers, including queer sex workers, arrived to protest a Greens LGBTIQ event where Greens candidate for Richmond Kathleen Maltzahn was speaking.  ‘Out and About: Rainbow Tales from the Green streets’, a “fabulous evening of story-slamming, music and politics” held in Fitzroy, included attendance by political figures such as Senator Janet Rice, Sue Pennicuik MLC and Sean Mulcahy, Greens Candidate for Bentleigh.

Kathleen Maltzahn, founder of Project Respect a rescue organisation that has called for the “re-criminalisation of the sex industry”, and someone who has been described in The Australian as intending to “take the regulated prostitution industry and make it illegal again, as it was in the 1950s” has a history of problematic speech on sex work, specifically her position on the Swedish Model.

The Swedish Model, basically criminalisation of sex work by another name, has pushed sex workers underground in Sweden, increased harassment of workers (as well as a raft of other problems) and been completely ineffective in it’s stated goal – reducing the size of the industry.  It is predicated on the idea that all sex work is inherently violent and non consensual, erases the lives of male and trans* workers, and denies sex worker’s bodily autonomy and agency.

Unsurprisingly there was much discussion in sex worker community when the Victorian Greens again pre-selected Kathleen Maltzahn for the seat of Richmond in Victoria.  Federal Greens policy specifies that “An end to the criminalisation of consensual adult sex work” is required – if The Greens who so often stand on the moral high ground and point out the inconsistencies of other parties/candidates positions feel this is okay one wonders what next?

And let’s be clear here, Kathleen Maltzahn would, under the Swedish Model (as it is implemented in Sweden):

Remove my right to work safely in a range of workplaces by criminalising my clients, pushing the industry underground
If I work with another worker make it possible to charge us both with pimping each other
Make it illegal to provide accommodation to me as a sex worker (potentially leading to homelessness)
– Make it so than I cannot as a sex worker advertise my services
Criminalise everyone around me, so my partner or any adult children/relatives can be charged with ‘living off the earnings’ of sex work
– Make it so that I cannot hire drivers, receptionists or security
– Increase police involvement in my work and life, increase police corruption and lower my access to assistance when a victim of crime and to justice

This is all is the name of ‘saving me’.  This is not ‘saving me’.  This is executing a moral agenda against my community – to remove my right to work safely, suppress my human rights and silence my voice.

Victorian sex workers attending Thursday nights event were not silent.  Although interestingly The Greens, a party with a history of protest themselves, instructed sex workers attending that they could not speak.  I was filled in on the activities at the protest by sex workers who were there (as I was out of Melbourne), only to hear that an organiser for The Greens had told the protesters (who had permission from the venue to be there):

“..we’re not going to allow for this to happen .. not going to allow you to speak .. you can hand out your stuff and go ..”

Despite this attempt at silencing dissent, several sex workers stood from the audience and spoke briefly at the start.  Workers rose and turned their backs when Kathleen Maltzahn was speaking (an action that has happened before in protest at Maltzahns’ hate speech).  Flyers were handed out to the crowd outlining the harms of the Swedish Model and detailing the preferred regulatory model for sex workers health and safety – decriminalisation – which removes criminal sanctions from the sex industry so that sex work is treated like any other work.  Workers also stayed for some time outside the venue and talked to members of the departing audience about sex worker rights and the harms the Swedish Model would introduce to our lives.

So what do we learn from this?  That The Greens are currently the party that would prefer for us to sit down, shut up or go away?  That it is alright to suppress the voices of marginalised people if they don’t align with your election platform?  Or maybe it’s that if the organisation you founded and the books you write make money off of sex workers and their work – it still doesn’t mean you have to listen to them?

As I have said before – arguments that deny sex workers human rights are NOT a difference of opinion, they are NOT a debate or an intellectual exercise, these arguments are about our LIVES and our ability to live them freely and safely – those that oppose our right to do so are engaging in WHOREPHOBIA, they are engaging in HATE SPEECH.

Please do not aid them in doing so.  If you are a voter in the seat of Richmond in Victoria – do not cast a vote for the Greens.  Pick another candidate – here’s the options:

Richmond Election Guide

If you want to tell the Victorian Greens what you think of their support of a candidate who actively silences marginalised people and endorses the Swedish Model which harms sex workers, then please do so here:

Victorian Greens on Twitter – @VictorianGreens

Victorian Greens on FaceBook

Contact the Victorian Greens on – office@vic.greens.org.au – or contact your local member of The Greens.

If you would like to feed back to Kathleen Maltzahn directly, do so here:

Kathleen Maltzahn on Twitter – @KPMaltzahn

Kathleen Maltzahn on FaceBook

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UPDATE: Jane Gilmore has since covered this issue for the ABC, 11th Nov 2014 – Greens should take their sex work principles seriously

Coming Out As A Sex Worker – For Sex Workers & Our Families

http://youtu.be/QD1i9sfX3KI

My participation in this project was last minute, when I ran into one of the film makers just before the editing process began and ended up talking on camera about one of my more unpleasant coming out experiences (my sister).

Not all my coming out experiences have been negative – as a sex worker or as queer. But in terms of my family many have. I do however feel compelled to provide a positive to balance the negative.

My brother Steve always, without reservation, supported me. When I came out as queer he supported me. Despite that I did not tell him I was a sex worker. I would never have told him. My history & personal experiences with police stood like an invisible wall between us. When he became a Buddhist, changed his way of living and more significantly (to me) left the police force, I decided I would come out, again. But when you only have two family members that regularly stay in contact, it’s a bit daunting to potentially screw that up. I didn’t. Or rather he didn’t. His continuing acceptance was – effortless. When I experience bigotry & hatred I often look at the effort involved, the energy expended and remember that effortless acceptance. I only wish that there had been longer to appreciate it.

[excerpt from eulogy for my brother]
“Steve accepted everything about me, loved me for who I am & celebrated my life with me. It’s unfortunately a gift rarely given. Because of that I was able to include him in all of my life.. I will miss Steve forever.
It still doesn’t seem real that he isn’t here with us.
But that’s just because I don’t want it to be – I never will.
But – Steve was very pragmatic, he’d want us to get on with it.
So I will simply say his love gives me strength – it always did & it always will.”

JG 13.10.2013

Mardi Gras Community Panel – “Do you have letters? (L,G,B,T,Q, or I)?”

(Speech made at Community Panel hosted by Scarlet Alliance (Australian Sex Workers Association), post Sydney Mardi Gras 2012 to discuss the exclusion & censorship experienced by various groups within queer community during Mardi Gras – April 2012)

Hi – I’m Jane Green I’m  a queer sex worker, I know that sort of sounds like I’m at an AA meeting … but the point of saying that, is both of those things are key parts of my identity, & to me key parts of my sexuality.  I believe very strongly that I as an individual have the right to choose how to express my identity & sexuality in a way that speaks to the truth of my personal experience and not reflect the bias or stigma that others may attempt to impose on me or “label” me with.  This is often an ongoing struggle, separately in terms of queer rights & sex worker rights, & becoming more complicated when confronting peoples ideas of what it means to be a queer sex worker.

I volunteered to be on the working party for Scarlet Alliance’s entry for Mardi Gras for 2012, which is the eighth time I have marched.  When I have marched before I have done so at times ‘in the closet’ as a sex worker, because of the extreme whorephobia in the gay community towards sex workers in the past.  I would like to stand here today and say that has changed.  But in a year when sex workers had to fight tooth and nail to still march in Mardi Gras I really can’t say that.  I really wish I could.

The reason I mentioned the right to personal identity before is because when I was on the phone with the parade office and they were questioning me over the EOI (Expression of Interest) – that’s really what they were questioning.

When it was implied to me that all sex workers must be straight …

When I was asked – Do you have ‘letters’ (L,G,B,T,Q, or I)?

When it was assumed most sex workers must be female (“you’re mostly L’s, right?”)

When I was being made to justify the inclusion of LGBTQI sex workers in Mardi Gras

what was really happening was a form of sexual identity credentialism, policing the boundaries of Mardi Gras via the mechanism of homo-normative bureaucracy.

And this phenomenon stems from the idea that to achieve certain agendas – political or otherwise – the gay community has to sanitise its image.  That there are groups with interests & philosophies too outside the gay mainstream, that (it’s assumed) basically freak out straight society enough that it would hold back the goals of gay community if they were kept onboard – so lets just toss them under the bus for the sake of everyone else.  It’s not like it’s a new phenomenon – sex workers have been thrown under the bus before – & there are always going to be 101 other causes the gay community will fight for before joining to fight for sex workers rights (it’s possible the whales may be saved first, which pisses me off, not that I technically have anything against the whales).  What makes it especially offensive is that in terms of Mardi Gras the motivation behind the “bus toss” is not just tied up in homo-normativity & whorephobia but that when you dig deeper the whole business is just that – a business.  Mardi Gras has become so focused on commercialism.

The entire time we were jumping through hoops trying to get the float approved, I kept thinking “I bet the ANZ float isn’t having this issue” and also “I bet they’re actually saying bugger all for LGBTQI issues” because that whole distinction in the applications process between “being LGBTQI” and “saying something for LGBTQI” is really just a way of dividing the herd between those who are part of gay community and those who want to use gay community as an advertising opportunity going up Oxford Street once a year.  And Mardi Gras is quite happy with that, because Mardi Gras is a business.

The only & final authority on the expression of identity & sexual identity should be the individual concerned.  When any outside authority gets involved oppression is inevitable – because you’re talking about the imposition of sexual identity from outside the self.  And there’s really not many things more confronting than being told by an institution of your own community that “you’re not gay enough” to participate.  Or have it implied that you’re not gay at all.   Because of your job.  And I must admit the thought has occurred to me that if I was a plumber this probably wouldn’t be an issue.

Mardi Gras is threatened by groups that have a presence that could cause political friction or negative media attention because that might affect the bottom line.  The fact that these groups are part of gay community and always have been doesn’t factor into it.  The fact that Mardi Gras is operating in an environment of homo-normativity, whorephobia, & using the policing of identity to protect its corporate brand & image from it’s own community – should factor into it – & Mardi Gras needs to be answerable to that.

Sex workers have been marching in Mardi Gras since 1978 – we are part of the history of Mardi Gras.  We haven’t forgotten that & we won’t allow that to be forgotten or erased.  In a year when sex workers were marching in Mardi Gras to highlight the fact that we are fighting for EVERYTHING we have here in NSW – because without decriminalisation our rights will be non-existent – we needed Mardi Gras’ support more than ever.  Instead of support – we received interrogation & potential exclusion.  These are the sort of politics of exclusion that leave the sex worker community wondering why we bother to march at all.