What If There Was Cruising Zone At The International AIDS Conference? – From Visual AIDS

See the original post online here

“Standard bold condensed” (1994), David McDiarmid, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Gift from the Estate of David McDiarmid, 1998 © David McDiarmid/Licensed by VISCOY, Sydney

Cyd Nova reports back from the 2014 International AIDS Conference

This year the International AIDS Conference—a collection of approximately 14,000 scientists, researchers, activists, non-profit workers, journalist and assorted folks—convened in Melbourne Australia for the biannual gathering. The conference brings together those who have dedicated their lives to the care of people living with HIV, and those working to the end of the epidemic to congregate in the midst of a drug company pageant. It’s disorienting, and an environment unlike any other.

This year was shadowed by the deaths of the six delegates who were killed by the crash of Flight MA 17 over Eastern Ukraine. How to properly acknowledge this loss, and the ripples of effect it would have on those in attendance, felt uncertain. A certain tenseness existed in many of the events I went to. In a conversation with other sex worker activists about disrupting a plenary, the fear of being disrespectful haunted our attempts to make plans, and during an Australian drag show an MC fought for a moment of silence from a wasted crowd of delegates.

Despite the somber atmosphere, the conference maintained a somewhat Disneylandishvibe. Walking through the doors of the large auditorium of the Global Village visitors were greeted with a blow-up castle fashioned in the shape of preternaturally large condoms. In front of the palace stood tight ab’d men and women wearing skintight “Lube Woman” and ‘Captain Condom” superhero outfits posing with politicians, delegates, and the wide-eyed faces of schoolchildren. A beautiful woman strutted across the main stage, wearing a v necked dress of cream with a cross pattern. The MC belts out her bio “she started sewing as part of recovery from domestic abuse – this item is a product of her resiliency in the face of HIV.” His cohost responds “and doesn’t she look sexy?”

These spectacles, which seek to engage people in a health crisis in their own way, are matched by those who work to cajole accountability in others. Health Gap coordinated an action, disrupting Former US President Bill Clinton’s keynote, to raise awareness of the Robin Hood Tax—a tax on Wall Street that would fund HIV research and care. Elsewhere, Daisy Nakato, from WONETHA Uganda, brought voices of sex workers to the main stage advocating for inclusion of peer voices into deciding on policies that effect those in the sex trade; and the executive vice president of Gilead was shut down from speaking by those protesting HCV drug Sovaldi annual price of 84,000 dollars.

A lot of the discourse of the conference centered around PrEP. The debate on it seemed inexhaustible. There was a meta moment for me when, during a panel called “50 Shades of Sexual Pleasure: When Science meets the Bedroom”, the conversation got stuck in a heated emotional debate on the resources being allocated towards PrEP – detouring from the original conversation discussing the role of individual desire and how to create prevention strategies which honored the need for humans to experience pleasure.

During that panel I asked the audience what it would be like if along with the Global Village and the Media Center there was a sex cruising zone, where we engaged in negotiations of desire and risk corporally. There were a lot of cautious laughter which I interpreted as discomfort – or rather dissonance from what that would be like in juxtaposition to the reality of the conference. I wanted to bring up cruising because, in my experience, there is a depersonalization with how sex and drugs are talked about within the HIV industrial complex. The ability to understand the virus as something contracted during the pursuit of pleasure by a unique individual has been replaced by looking at populations to manage instead of people.

The last day of the conference I went to the David McDiarmid exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria gallery. David was an early gay liberation activist and artist in Australia who died from AIDS related complications in 1995. Walking into his art exhibition the sounds from his mixtape “Funeral Hits of the 90’s” surrounded the space while his posters, paintings, sculptures and ephemera drew me in: Headlines— ‘POSITIVE QUEEN FEELS NEGATIVE Goes Shopping” and ‘’Plagueboy” magazine, huge glittering mosaics with figures spreading their rectums open, the names of boys tattooed on the bodies and a head with the word AIDS spelled in a swastika. I felt as if I was at a talented friend’s house party instead of in an enshrined art institution. In the work the experience of HIV/AIDS is complex, painful but also human and therefore funny, sexual, dynamic.

What if the International AIDS Conference looked more like David’s world? I saw tastes of that in the mini-conferences held in the Global Village (free, and open to the public) and Melbourne Town Hall (by groups representing specific populations). They brought a depth of peer shared information and complex narratives about the way HIV functions in peoples lives. I was lucky enough to be on two panels – one about trans sex workers, and the other about trans men who have sex with men – the sophistication and diversity of these conversations are only possible in these smaller, more supportive and experience informed settings. Empower – a Thai Organization – did safer sex demonstrations for sex workers with humor and bite – while chasing around figures of ill repute in a cardboard red car during the conference. Andrew Hunter, former director of NSWP who died last December, was honored by his friends and family with a day of films and art and laughter amongst the sadness.

During the “50 shades” panel a woman voiced her experience of existing in a culture which denied the idea that women should pursue pleasure. She reminded me of the most effective HIV prevention tool: the ability to communicate around consent and the belief that your body is worthy of care. It is my hope that the AIDS community will once again focus on that. Our lives depend on it.

Advertisements

STOP AB1576: Compulsory Condom Use Won’t Make Porn Performers Safer – From Tits and Sass

Read the whole article here

“In the last ten years, there have been over 350,000 sex scenes shot in the adult industry without condoms with zero infections occurring due to sex on film in that period. Within the above ground porn industry, performers who are shooting condomless sex are tested every 14 days for HIV/STI’s through a system that allows performers to choose who can see their results. If an HIV or syphilis result comes back positive, the entire adult industry within this system immediately stops shooting and all performers are tested in order to ensure that no other infections have occurred. Apart from the testing requirements of the job, porn performers are educated and self-aware about disease transmission. We know that becoming infected with an STI will affect our job as well as our sex partners’ jobs, and most people act accordingly. AHF has used the 24 people who have tested HIV positive through the testing agencies performers use as a way to drum up evidence of a failing system, but these positives were performers who had not been exposed on set, but in their personal lives, or those who were testing in order to start in the industry, who found out their status before ever shooting.

 

It is deeply upsetting that energy is being misspent in this direction. There are sex workers who need and deserve access to condoms who aren’t getting it—that is, every person engaged in prostitution in California aside from San Francisco, who can have condoms in their possession used as evidence for arrest. Sex workers engaged in prostitution do not have other risk reduction methods available to them, and those most targeted for police harassment—trans women and people of color—are especially at risk of being infected with HIV. Last year Tom Ammiano brought forward an assembly bill, AB 336 , which sought to abolish the use of condoms as evidence. AHF co-sponsored it but failed to live up to the responsibilities of supporting this fight by even sending out an email blast to their supporters or asking for them to call legislators. Why? Because they were focusing their energy on mandatory condoms in porn. AB 336 has been stuck in committee since June of last year due to lack of support, while AHF uses their minute of interest on the issue to trump up their concern for the sex worker community.”

9 Lies We Need to Stop Telling about Sex Workers – From Policy Mic

Its been quite a while since I updated this site with my writing – but I hope to do so more now with original pieces and reposts from other sites my writing appears on

9, lies, we, have, to, stop, telling, about, sex, workers,

9 Lies We Have To Stop Telling About Sex Workers
Image Credit: Getty

Sex work is probably one of the most controversial topics of our times, the oldest profession in history. The past 100 years have seen many shifts in public perception of the sex industry from good time girls to girls for sale.

As a sex worker of 10 years who has been involved in activism and policy work, I have heard the full gamut of assumptions people make about the industry, which is easy to do — the media does not allow much room for nuanced portrayals of the lives of sex workers.

Such perceptions can lead to increased stigma, dangerous laws and discrimination, however, so let’s go over nine of the biggest lies told about sex work.

1. Sex work is not real work.

Unlike the romanticized or sensationalized depictions of the media, sex work is actually a job that requires many more skills than lying down and waiting for sex to happen to you.

In my work as an independent escort and a porn performer I personally use the following skills: I have to be a skilled writer to convey myself to my audience in advertising and written communication, letting people know who I am, what I do and what my limits are in ways that are exciting and clear, while being careful to not do so in a way that is incriminating.

During a booking, my job is to provide physical and psychological pleasure and have the other person leave feeling attractive and refreshed. In each booking I ascertain what that person needs to get out of this time together. This requires counseling skills, negotiation techniques, sexual health education skills, teaching skills and of course sexual technique because a blow job isn’t just putting your mouth on a penis. I am anything but unskilled.

2. Sex workers need to be rescued

Kittens need to be rescued. Sex workers should be granted the agency to make decisions about their own lives.

In order to provide an environment where people who wish to exit the industry are able to do so, educational and economic resources must be provided, affordable housing made available and there must be good employment options for mothers, immigrants, youth and the formerly incarcerated.

The idea that you can “rescue” a sex worker by arresting them fails to address the underlying reasons that people engage in the sex industry if they don’t want to — many of which will likely still be there when the system has spit them back out. Only now, that person will have an arrest record, making accessing employment and housing all the harder, keeping them trapped in street economies.

 

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE HERE

‘When Faggots Shoot’ published on the Rumpus

 

An excerpt from my story about faggots and guns – read the rest of it here

“When we initially met, years earlier, Bob told me about his collection of firearms. We were in bed together, our bodies stretched out post-sex. He told me how he bought his first one in response to the threat of ’80s AIDS paranoia. He and his boyfriend started amassing weaponry together when a proposition calling for an AIDS quarantine was put on the ballot. His boyfriend was HIV-positive. They lived together in this house for a decade. Bob didn’t seroconvert until the early 2000s, though, long after that boyfriend died of an opportunistic infection.

In ’86, even though Bob was mostly closeted, he planned a revenge-killing spree. He wanted to walk up to Jesse Helms in a dark alley and leave his body full of smoking holes. He dreamed of drugging Lyndon LaRouche and leaving him facedown in a blood-splattered hotel room. Of waiting on a rooftop for days to pick out Ronald Reagan’s tiny head from a mass of bodyguards, pull the trigger, and watch the body gently fall to the ground.

Bob came of age with the backdrop of Stonewall and Harvey Milk. He deserves these revenges. His stories fill up the room between us, settling the distance between our bodies. I never ask him what happened or why, instead of going vigilante, he stayed in his job as a scrap-metal executive, flying from country to country to negotiate against unions. It is best practice to not ask clients embarrassing questions. That is part of the role of a sex worker: to let clients remember only the good stories about themselves.

That day was the first time we met, but I decided immediately to do what it took to make Bob my regular, even though doing so would break down the boundary between sex-work life and real life. Bob would be my primary romantic relationship for a couple years, the real reason I couldn’t really commit to dating anyone else.

Bob fucks me like I’m the drink of water he’s needed for a long, long time. In bed, when I lower myself onto his cock, he growls into my ear, “Your body is made just perfect for my dick.” I kneel next to him in the kitchen and drink his piss while he deep fries me breaded eggplant. It isn’t all about the sex though. He is caring and kind of lonely. I am caring and kind of lonely as well.”

An Exquisite Vulnerability published in ‘The Collection: Short Fiction by the Transgender Vanguard’

 

Envisioning a life of a Trans Celebrity:

“There had been something very pleasing to Allen about his visit to the clinic. Being treated as the common man. In exchange for his number a flat-faced nurse led him to a room and barked questions at him tonelessly. How many sex partners had he had? How many had he barebacked with? Had he ever exchanged sex for money? When asked that, a warm feeling of flattery settled into him. He knew that these were just routine questions from a form, but Allen was enticed by the mere insinuation that even a chubby, middle-aged trans man such as himself could be a hustler—like a vision into an alternate life he could have had. For that reason when he counted out how many sex partners he had, he left out Sarah.

The experience was so thrilling that after he swallowed his handful of antibiotics he went straight back to the bathroom where he had pissed into a cup just moments earlier, and he sucked someone’s dick next to the toilet bowl.

He had promised himself to put an end to his sexual exploits. He was a heterosexual man married to a woman, made famous by a public transition that would make exclusive rights to any baby photos that his union might produce worth six figures at least. He had worked damn hard to keep his transition classy, but this ridiculous hunger for cock was threatening to get in the way of everything. He was investigating selling movie rights. He was solidly booked for speaking engagements and book signing events. His busy life of appointments and appearances had not served to curb his sexual habits, however. On the road and away from L.A., he was free. Once his publicist had gone to sleep explicit goal of trolling for sex

He got varying responses. Many men on the internet looking for FTM’s were hoping for someone prepubescent-looking. young, hairless, and slender, whereas Allen was fat and in the throes of his forties. But then Allen found the bear community. All of the homosexuals he’d grown up around had been loud, well-coifed men who fawned over him, called him honey, but with a cold, disinterested look in their eye all the while. Bears were different. Sweaty and pungent, they served as father figures so unlike his own weak, hippy, republican dad.”

Read the rest of the story and amazing fiction by 28 transgender writers in the new book out now by Topside Press

Buy it here now!

I’m performing in LA on the 14th

I'm performing in LA on the 14th

TMI: Truth Meets Indiscretion
With Tuck Mayo, Frank Galarte, and Ryke Aoki
Dear #LAQueers,
Do you want to meet the new generation of queer radical writers to get your greedy voids filled? Want to beat off the traces of homonormative ennui to unmercifully perverse and politically searing prose? Come to where truth meets indiscretion and remember why your outlaw status is one to hold near, dear and queer to your hearts.
Click to buy tickets now

The Dyke Night Riots

 The Dyke Night Riots was originally published in ‘Waking the Witch zine – Envisioning an Unrepentant Queernesswhich was a collaboration of San Francisco ACT UP, Homonomixxx, and Gay Shame for the Streetopia panel with Sarah Schulman

Many people would say that it was the Dyke Night riots that started the change.  That was the first night that the streets became alive — not just with drunken dykes — but with drunken dykes and faggots and trans people on a rampage.

The match was struck when the Upright Parental Brigade (UPB) demanded a revocation of the permits for Trans and Dyke convergences in Dolores Park. This happened after the playground had been remodeled — transforming it from a splintering ship that faggots commandeered at night and a sandpit that hid condom wrappers, into an ergonomic, brightly colored plastic paradise. Designed for optimal early childhood development, excursions to this playground would give little Azaelia or Brody a head start for the prestigious private kindergarten, one for which they’d been on the waiting list since the first attempts at insemination.

At first the revamped playground was innocuous — a segregated island looked down upon warmly by the regulars of the fruit loop, the tanned and drunken faggot zone that encircled the playground. But then came the increased policing.  Instead of pot brownies, the park economy shifted to margarita-flavored cupcakes. Cold Beer Cold Water man got arrested. A fence was built around the playground with a metal sign reading “DOGS KEEP OUT ” — within a week someone had crossed out “DOGS” and written in “GAYS.”  The 10 pm curfew became absolute as cops issuing citations to the homeless people sleeping and the teenagers drinking Carlo Rossi, swinging in the night breeze.

The trans and dyke marches had met in Dolores Park as long as anyone could remember. UPB, in their appeals to the Board of Supervisors, were clear that they were not homophobic in their desire to move the marches elsewhere — maybe Daly City? They liked the GLBT flair, and of course many of the UPBs were of the homosexual persuasion themselves.

However, they simply could not let the park be overrun by that type of queer rebellion — drugged and sexually predatorial beasts drunk in the glory of the mob. Near the train tracks — girls peeing standing up, boys squatting; garish makeup and bared breasts. Children simply could not be exposed to such hedonism. Studies showed that children exposed to ritualistic explosions of sexual decadence were 50% more likely to drop out of high school.

Really though, the city catering to the expanding spawn pool of the Silicon Valley boom was what sparked it off…San Francisco had been asking for an uprising. Corporation tax shelters, condos, coffee shops, sky-high rents, prostitution busts, pot club raids, sit and lie laws, Ellis Act evictions, disappearing social services, and BART cop brutality — the simmer had been growing into a boil for quite some time.

Two weeks earlier all of the HIV prevention workers in the city were told that due to the new prevention strategy — “Test, Tag and Release” (TTR) — they were no longer needed in their current counseling duties. However, in recognition of their hard work thus far in the endemic, they would be given free training for new careers testing and tagging HIV+ people — leaving small surveillance chips in the right ear that both tracked movement and also transmitted a “harmless but shocking” reminder beep that would go off four hours past the time people were due to take their meds and would not stop until medication had been detected in the bloodstream. They would also be branded with a special tattoo that broadcast their viral load on their forehead. Some of the more weathered workers signed up for the training, but the rest quit en masse.

Was it the apocalypse coming? We’d all been planning for that for years. Andrew Sullivan and his common-law husbear Newt Gringrich were slated to be the king and queen of PRIDE. Was it a sign from the goddess? Maybe it was Mercury retrograde, but maybe it was the end of the world.

When the trans march gatherers showed up at the park and were met with police barricades, it was a shock. We’d heard the rumors —  the Department of Public Works had contracted with the Voter Guide to add on page 67 “The city regrets to inform citizenry that the trans and dyke marches have been rerouted this year from Dolores to the archery fields in Golden Gate Park. Please enjoy your homosexuality and transexualism soberly — no homo”.  No one expected the scene we were greeted with however.

The cops were flanked by the UPB holding signs reading “THINK OF THE CHILDREN” and “COMPROMISE IS THE SPIRIT OF THE FUTURE.”  Some queens tried to play red rover with the cops, and a group of black blockers ran home for their bandanas and set a neighboring coffee shop on fire. The rest of us didn’t know what else to do, so we went home to plot and snort ketamine. The evening news said that the people who had gotten on the bus for Golden Gate Park had arrived and archery practice had not been canceled. There was one fatality — one dude-bro was shot with his own cross bow. The archery supplies were raided. It was also reported that a local gun show had been besieged by a coven of black trans women who left with a flame thrower.

Nobody really knew what was going to happen the next day. There was concocting and complaining and angst and apathy. We all showed up at the park again though. Some people thought we had won, others just wanted to see what would happen, and lots of people still had no idea what they would be faced with and had just come to party.

The cops, however, thought they had won the battle. There was no riot line, just many terse-faced police. Every time someone lit up a cigarette or opened a bottle or took off their shirt they would get put in the paddy wagon. This went on for an hour, all of us sitting silently on our picnic blankets rigid with fury. Then the dam broke. A bejewled trans woman started chanting “PIGS GET OUT, PIGS GET OUT.” Then we all were shouting and then we were standing and thousands of us were advancing on the cops. Some cops were brought down, most were just herded out of the park.

But it didn’t stop there. We moved in units: dykes on bikes, dopey faeries, soccer butches, daggers, piss pigs, and radical queerdos taking out the trash. We pushed all the cops out of the Mission and continued into SOMA. Yuppies fled, hipsters went home to their parents in the Marina.

The media declared it a disaster zone. What it really looked like was this: wild animals released from our cages, at first cautious and lost, but within hours our gaits relaxed and our voices became joyful and excited. Each person as they looked into each other’s eyes saw we were committed to moving forward together, each of us ecstatic and hopeful.

Yes, we broke into the fancy restaurants that had scourged our neighborhoods, and yes, we took back the homes that we’d been evicted from. But there was no frenzy, it was just the right time. We talked to our neighbors who we’d passed wordlessly in the streets every day. We fucked each other against buildings, played basketball in the cop shop, and made giant pots of beans and rice to share. Off the computers and into the streets. We knew it was infectious, we knew it was dangerous, but we knew it was the something we would not go back from. The moment of change had arisen.