Hi, friends. It seems that I’ve somehow (and bizarrely) become the target of a campaign of harassment and defamation by a small but loud group of “anti-CRT,” anti-vax, anti-mask, anti-trans, abusive activists.
I’m not going to spend much time defending myself from fabricated claims, but wanted to put this here for anyone who is curious.
A member of my county’s school board made a statement on social media that three books that were being protested as “pornography” were out of circulation pending review, and that they would not be returned to circulation until the review of whether or not they violated school policy was completed. I recognized the name of one of the books — George — which is a sweet story about a kid questioning their gender. I was not familiar with the other two books, but I know that queer young adult literature is often maligned as pornographic, even when it has similar themes as non-queer coming of age stories, including classics like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Flowers in the Attic (which I, myself, was required to read in school).
Such books are not meant to promote pornography or pedophilia, but to capture the complex and often uncomfortable realities that many youth experience as they grow up. These books are often a lifeline for young people who experienced similar harms, who in seeing stories of people who went through similar challenges and survived might find hope that they, too, can survive. And yet, when these interactions feature queer or trans youth, they are often seen as “promoting pornography and pedophilia.” This is a result of homophobia and transphobia.
This group reshared the statement of the school board member, misrepresenting the statement as saying that the school board says pornography and pedophilia enrich student’s learning, which is not what the statement said. I made a somewhat cheeky comment on their post indicating that wasn’t a literate read of what the school board member actually said. They replied that if I thought children need access to pedophilic pornography that I must have been “raised in a sex trafficking ring.”
Friends, I don’t know if these people knew at the time they commented that I am, in fact, a survivor of multiple forms of violence, including trafficking in the sex trades, but this is unacceptable. Human trafficking is NOT a plot device for abusers to leverage against marginalized people and survivors when it is convenient. I replied that I am a full-time anti-violence and anti-human trafficking professional.
I made a post on my social media about how many campaigns against “pornography” are actually thinly-veiled homophobia and transphobia (see: Forever by Judy Blume, or I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, which are not attacked in the same way).
They retaliated in an unprofessional and violent way, screenshotting pictures of my CHILDREN and posting them online, leaving my children feeling unsafe. I locked down my social media after seeing how this abuse was including and targeting children as well.
I’m not going to address laughable and absurd statements they’ve made about me. But I will share a few things about my values and work, for anyone who is curious.
- I don’t even like pornography or find it all that interesting. I certainly don’t promote it. I do, however, believe that performers deserve safety. I also believe, based on the evidence I’ve seen, that a media literacy approach is more effective at mitigating any harmful impacts of porn on youth than an abstinence-only one (see Emily Rothman’s work and curriculum and work on pornography and public health).
- I don’t believe that a book for children that is simply about a young person questioning their gender is inherently harmful. (George) Don’t be ridiculous.
- I don’t believe that sexual content in a book for high schoolers is inherently pornographic or exploitation.
- I believe there is often a double standard about the ways sexual content is treated in young adult literature about 2SLGBTQ youth. Oftentimes, 2SLGBTQ young adult literature is itself seen as sexual even in the absence of sexual content because of homophobia and transphobia. And when there is content in it that is comparable to non-queer-specific literature, it is presented as “pedophilia” or “exploitation” in the absence of any real framework for or understanding of child sexual abuse or exploitation, specifically as a means of depriving queer youth from accessing representation, or as a means to pathologize queerness and transness. This is unacceptable, and has impacts when queer youth feel isolated. See Trevor Project for more on how to support queer youth and their 2020 National Survey for more on the impacts of conversion and erasure on 2SLGBTQ youth mental health.
- Someone seems especially excited to think they’ve outed me as a sex worker. Congratulations, you must have read my pinned tweet on Twitter in which I indicate that I’m a former sex worker and also a trafficking survivor or any of the dozens of interviews or writings I’ve done in which I share my story.
- I am not currently a sex worker, but even if I were, that would not make me a predator, a bad parent, or unsafe to be around children. Sex workers are maligned, lose their jobs, and have abusers threaten to take their children away. Sex workers often stay in abusive relationships or living situations because of stigma and fear. I refuse to distance myself from sex workers in order to prove my respectability or appropriateness. Sex work is work. This doesn’t mean sex work is GREAT any more than any other work people do to put food on their tables in our society is great. It just means that being a sex worker doesn’t make anyone a bad or unsafe person. Good golly. Even Jesus believed we should “be nice to sex workers.” This should not be revolutionary.
- I believe (and the sexual health literature shows) that comprehensive and inclusive sexual health education is essential to ending sexual violence. In my free time over the years, I have led workshops discussing the intersections of consent and pleasure, noting how if we believe all people in any interaction deserve safety and pleasure that consent will be our priority in every sexual encounter. Sometimes we hold an object in our hands (a stuffed animal, a ball, a beaded necklace — see Betty Martin’s Pleasure in Your Hands activity for an example) and talk about feelings that come up when we allow ourselves to prioritize feeling good and safe, often in contradiction to our upbringing and cultural conditioning. None of this is inappropriate. In fact, many survivors of trauma have learned to re-engage safely in their bodies and their relationships as a result of workshops like mine. I am especially proud of this teaching and body of my work.
- Because I am a full time professional against sexual violence and human trafficking, I want to help create safety for all people and provide information and resources. Because I have seen firsthand (as someone who answered rape crisis hotlines for years) how much more vulnerability there is when a group of people experience additional marginalization, I have spent years researching the public health and social sciences literature about intersections of violence and marginalization. I try to keep learning about all populations, but have gained the most expertise about sex workers, 2SLGBTQ folks, and people in alternative relationship structures, as these seem to be areas in which well-meaning advocates can cause harm unintentionally through their lack of knowledge. Because of this, I have done extensive work to build trust with those communities, to educate professionals about practical knowledge that could assist them in competently serving these populations, and to cultivate connections with people in these populations and doing work to foster their safety. If you look online, you will find me educating people about the unique needs of people experiencing partner abuse in polyamorous relationships, advocating for safety for trans youth, and promoting harm reduction strategies for people in the sex trades across the spectrum of agency. Many of my Twitter followers, grateful to find someone who cares about their safety and to connect over our shared values of harm reduction, bodily autonomy, and safety, are sex workers. If they’re also doing meaningful advocacy work to end violence against sex workers, I follow them back to learn more about the unique challenges they face as well as possible solutions. It’s not about their content (which as mentioned above isn’t especially exciting to me); It’s about the human. I see sex workers as complex humans beyond what they do for income. I am not ashamed of that, and don’t really care if abusive anti-trans, anti-sex work bullies don’t like it. Being an advocate means that I never prioritize my own morals about another adult’s choices about their bodies over their access to safety.
It is telling about people’s true motives and strategies when they take someone else’s evidence-based and research-supported anti-violence advocacy to twist it into a narrative of being “unsafe to be around children,” a “predator,” or “vicious” (for suggesting that someone’s read of what a school board member said was actually not what was written at all). It is DARVO in action, which is a common tactic of both abusers and extremist bullies trying to claim victim status when called on their violence against others. I will not be afraid of this behavior, and you don’t have to be either.
Friends, we are better than this. When they go low, we keep doing the work. Irrelevance is the just reward for this kind of twisted attack.