Friday Night Fun and Culture: Rene Marie

Funny how things work out I sort of had plans to put up something tonight by one of my favorite Jazz ladies, a rarity because she plays an instrument (the piano) rather than being a vocalist.

Then Tina and I went out to run some errands and Chet Baker was on the XM Real Jazz station singing, “Funny Valentine” in that mellow as codeine cough syrup voice of his and blowing some warm full honey golden horn.

On the way home after dinner Real Jazz had:  A Night At Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola: Rene Marie

Prior to this I was unfamiliar with Rene Marie.  She is someone who should be better known, a real gem in a world of shiny plastic baubles.

As for the lady I was going to feature… Maybe some Saturday night jazz piano is in this Blog’s future.

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A Lesson in Spin: Minimizing the Issue

From Dented Blue Mercedes:

By Mercedes Allen
March 13, 2012

Reposted with permission

I’ve been thinking on doing a few brief posts on seeing through spin, considering the growing escalation of techniques in Canada, which mirror an epidemic of it in the U.S.  While my examples tend to look at the far-right, no one side of the social discussion is entirely innocent of spin — although in my experience, some far right sources are guilty of deliberate total obfuscation in a way that few other news and media sources can parallel.

Anyone who writes generates spin. The moment you write, you’re selecting the words you use in order to maximize their effectiveness.  I do it, although I hyperlink everything relentlessly (whether the source is from the right wing or left), so that readers can make up their minds for themselves whether they agree.  But some deliberately omit, manipulate, relabel, cherry-pick, distort and change facts to try to make them fit a specific perspective is another issue entirely.  This was seen vividly recently in one pseudo-news outlet’s attempt to brush off LGB people as comprising 1.5% of the population.

A Lesson in Spin: Minimizing the Issue.

One technique a social group will use to manipulate perceptions about a debate is to minimize the issue by making the people negatively affected sound so marginal as to be “unimportant” — which is dubious in itself, but it tends to resonate with those readers who aren’t directly impacted in some way, and seduces people into viewing marginalization as inconsequential.  It’s especially expedient for anti-gay groups to minimize the number of LGB people lately, in order to excuse their opposition to anti-bullying initiatives that are inclusive of sexual orientation, with the reasoning that it doesn’t really help kids to discourage anti-gay bullying, anyway, and instead might somehow indoctrinate them to become gay like an inoculation gone awry.

The 1.5%

A stark example is LifeSiteNews’ favorite recent statistic that pegs the prevalence of lesbian, gay and bisexual people as being one and a half percent of the Canadian population.

They cite Statistics Canada, and when you hear Statistics Canada, you immediately think “census.”  That would seem to make it authoritative, wouldn’t it?  The only problem is that most heterosexual Canadians (those who don’t barricade themselves in predominatly LGB-hostile environments, anyway) know far more than that among their own circles of friends, family and acquaintances… so something’s obviously skewed.

Alfred Kinsey’s 1948 and 1953 publications provided the first comprehensive data gathering on LGB men and women, concluding that:

  • 37% of males and 13% of females had at least some overt homosexual experience to orgasm;
  • 10% of males were more or less exclusively homosexual and 8% of males were exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55. For females, Kinsey reported a range of 2-6% for more or less exclusively homosexual experience/response.
  • 4% of males and 1-3% of females had been exclusively homosexual after the onset of adolescence up to the time of the interview.

Several reassessments of that data have been made (a number of them discussed at the above link), with most results ranging from 4% of men and under 1% of women up to 35% of men and 20% of women.  Conclusive statistics have proven impossible to gather, due to variances in the environment in which questions are asked, the changing social climate within which they’re asked, whether the survey sample is an accurate cross-section of society or skewed by those participating.  There are also usually problems with the question which results in apples-versus-oranges comparisons of data: for example, the differences between “do you identify as gay” (i.e. self-selection) versus “have you had sexual experiences with a partner of the same sex” (pleasurability optional, i.e. incidence), versus “have you experienced attraction to someone of the same sex” (i.e. prevalence), versus using a benchmark of orgasm and/or attraction (both of which can change over a person’s lifetime), versus “do you consider yourself exclusively homosexual or exclusively heterosexual” (i.e. value judgement that may vary from one respondent to another) — and that’s before getting into the really muddled range of bisexual, pansexual and/or omnisexual experience that is sometimes erased altogether or alternately annexed into one side of the question or another.  Add to this the fear of being branded gay or lesbian (or even accepting oneself as gay, lesbian or bisexual) that some still experience, and data becomes a quagmire.  Some of these surveys also attempt to include transsexuality and transgenderism, which aren’t sexual orientations at all, and can raise questions for researchers about who is the same sex or the opposite sex.

People tend to accept the idea that gay and lesbian populations range around ten percent of a population, although it tends to vary whether or not that is a figure that includes bisexual people.  Subsequent statistics have tended to be near that number (ranging from 6 to 14 percent), but because of the stigmas associated with sexual minorities (witness the number of anti-gay public figures who turn out to be gay), it’s suspected that the actual number could be higher.

In using their 1.5% number, LSN likes to undermine Kinsey’s and any other derivative research this way:

“Dr. Judith Reisman, a professor at Liberty University School of Law, debunked the 10% myth first proposed by psychologist Alfred Kinsey. Kinsey, she found, drew heavily on prison inmates and frequenters of homosexual bars for his surveys, though he presented them as indicative of the general population.  Moreover, evidence suggests Kinsey’s research on infants subjected the children to sexual torture.”

For the moment, we’ll need to overlook the fact that the Liberty University School of Law is the theological institution founded by Jerry Falwell as Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971 and has a long legacy of anti-gay activism.  There was some inflated numbers of prisoners and frequenters of gay bars in some of Kinsey’s original work.  What is being omitted here though is that Paul Gebhard poured through Kinsey’s data to remove these respondents, and in 1979 with Alan Johnson published The Kinsey Data, which reduced Kinsey’s original numbers slightly, but not dramatically (i.e. Kinsey’s original 37% number was revised down to 36.4%).  Non-theological sources have tended to favour a ten percent number, which they usually find more consistent with their own research.

Here’s LSN’s assertion of the number, most recently in an article attacking The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P, which LSN regularly tries to assert authority over) for agreeing with the generally-accepted 10% statistic:

The figure, according to experts, is a gross exaggeration pushed by homosexual activists with a view to normalizing homosexuality.  Statistics Canada reports the prevalence in the country of homosexuals, lesbians and bisexuals to be 1.5% of the population.

If you follow the link you arrive at a Statistics Canada page not about census data, but about a 2004 General Social Survey (GSS) on victimization, which looked at the intersection between sexual orientation and victimization (sexual assault, physical assault, armed robbery, personal theft, vandalism, break-and-enter).  In a footnote, we learn that 5% of respondents to the GSS declined to state their sexual orientation.  A second footnote acknowledges the difficulty in deriving accurate numbers with a smaller survey (the GSS was voluntarily answered by 362,000 Canadians).

It’s also worth noting that in 2004, Canada’s social climate toward gays and lesbians was not as open as it is today — in fact, it was in the year leading up to the legalization of same-sex marriage, which (while a win) was preceded by several anti-gay campaigns to “defend marriage” and portray LGB people as a terrible threat to mainstream society.

Nevertheless, the 2004 GSS provides what is probably the lowest-appearing number available from an authoritative body in Canada, so it’s ripe for cherry-picking.  This is just one way that a majority can use a minority’s fear and invisibility to further marginalize that minority.

In the meantime, if you’re given statistics that are markedly different from your own experiences in everyday life, don’t be afraid to dig a little deeper.

(crossposted to The Bilerico Project)

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Mitt Romney: Wrong for Women & Wrong for Illinois

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An Unethical Alliance? Catholic Bishops Behind Susan G. Komen Foundation Fiasco

From RH Reality Check:

by Jodi Jacobson, Editor in Chief, RH Reality Check
March 15, 2012

On February 8th, during the height of the controversy that erupted when the Susan G. Komen Foundation suddenly decided to cut ties to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, I was listening to the Diane Rehm Show on “Religious Liberty, Politics and Women’s Health Care.”  Among the guests was Anthony Picarello, General Counsel of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Though I listened carefully to the entire program, my ears perked up particularly when Picarello made a comment on breast cancer in response to a question raised by Rehm about the Komen-PPFA fiasco to all three guests on the show:

Basically, what’s happened is the health care reform law provides for preventive services. That includes preventive services for women. The idea is to get out ahead of diseases with prevention, things like mammograms.

Picarello was doing two things here. One was to continue the Bishops false and medically- inaccurate claim that contraceptive care is not “preventive health care.” The other was to claim that mammograms are a breast cancer prevention strategy. They are not. In fact they are no more a prevention strategy than an x-ray is a prevention strategy for a broken bone. They are a diagnostic tool. Having a mammogram won’t prevent any breast cancer; it can however detect it.

But the reason that this comment caught my attention was that this was the exact argument Komen was making about its decision on Planned Parenthood… because it wanted to go back to focusing on “mammograms.”  I wrote about the false mammogram excuse here.

Continue reading at:

Sign-ups for Fort Worth Komen race lag after Planned Parenthood flap

From The Dallas Morning News:

Published: 14 March 2012

Registrations for Fort Worth’s annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure are lagging well behind the normal pace, a fact Komen officials attribute in part to the recent flap over the breast cancer fundraiser’s relationship with Planned Parenthood.

Only 2,100 people have signed up for the April 14 race, down 43 percent from 3,700 at this point last year, officials said. If the trend continues, the Fort Worth affiliate would lose out on nearly $360,000 used for screenings, treatment and education.

“If it stays slow, it translates into fewer mammograms,” said Jennifer Wersal, the Fort Worth affiliate’s race and communications manager. “It’s a huge impact, and it really will affect people who already have trouble affording mammograms.”

The sluggish sign-up rate is one of the first public signs of lingering fallout from Komen’s emotional and high-profile dispute with Planned Parenthood, a nationwide provider of women’s health services, including abortions.

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Woman Hating Republican Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania Governor, On Ultrasound Mandate: Just ‘Close Your Eyes’

From Huffington Post:

Posted: 03/15/2012

During a discussion of a far-reaching mandatory ultrasound bill, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) on Wednesday dismissed off-handedly the insinuation that the measure goes too far, saying, “You just have to close your eyes.”

Corbett reaffirmed his support for the “Women’s Right to Know” Act, which would require doctors to perform an ultrasound on a patient, offer her two personalized copies of the image and play and describe fetal heartbeat in detail before she can have an abortion — “as long as it’s not obtrusive.”

He did not indicate whether or not he considered a transvaginal ultrasound to be an intrusive procedure, which the bill would require doctors to perform on a woman whose fetus is not developed enough to be visible by a regular, “jelly-on-the-belly” ultrasound.

Asked if he thinks the bill goes too far to make a woman look at the ultrasound image, Corbett responded, “You can’t make anybody watch, okay? Because you just have to close your eyes. As long as it’s on the exterior and not the interior.”

Pennsylvania’s ultrasound bill, unlike the revised version passed in Virginia, does not specify a type of ultrasound, so the doctor will have to use an “interior” procedure for most first-trimester abortions in order to meet the requirements of the law.

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Woman Hating Republican Bob McDonnell: Turning Back the Clock on Women’s Health

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GOP led Wisconsin legislature votes to ban private abortion coverage

From Raw Story:

By Andrew Jones
Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Republican led Wisconsin assembly voted to ban private insurance coverage for abortions and mandate abstinence-only sex education classes Wednesday morning, according to The Green Bay Post Gazette.

The Assembly voted 61-34 Tuesday evening to ban abortion coverage from a health insurance exchange set up by the Affordable Care Act in 2014. The federal law allows states the option to prohibit abortion coverage under the exchange, set up primarily by individuals and small businesses to buy health insurance coverage. Plans offered in the exchange would only cover abortions under the terms of the Hyde Amendment (rape, incest or when the health of the mother is at risk).

Rep. Donna Seidel (D) chastised Republicans for not focusing on the economy and creating jobs, feeling Wisconsin’s residents would be disappointment with the assembly’s focus.

“They feel let down,” Seidel said. “And what are we doing in these last hours to get that important work done? We are arguing about advancing an extreme social agenda that is nothing about that.”

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Hillary Clinton Takes Aim at Misogynistic Republican War on Women

From: Women in the World Summit in New York City on Saturday March 10, 2012.

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Why the Racist History of the Charter School Movement Is Never Discussed

From Alternet:

Touted as the cure for what ails public education, charter schools have historical roots that are rarely discussed.

By Christopher Bonastia
March 9, 2012

As a parent I find it easy to understand the appeal of charter schools, especially for parents and students who feel that traditional public schools have failed them. As a historical sociologist who studies race and politics, however, I am disturbed both by the significant challenges that plague the contemporary charter school movement, and by the ugly history of segregationist tactics that link past educational practices to the troubling present.

The now-popular idea of offering public education dollars to private entrepreneurs has historical roots in white resistance to school desegregation after Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The desired outcome was few or, better yet, no black students in white schools. In Prince Edward County, Virginia, one of the five cases decided in Brown, segregationist whites sought to outwit integration by directing taxpayer funds to segregated private schools.

Two years before a federal court set a final desegregation deadline for fall 1959, local newspaper publisher J. Barrye Wall shared white county leaders’ strategy of resistance with Congressman Watkins Abbitt: “We are working [on] a scheme in which we will abandon public schools, sell the buildings to our corporation, reopen as privately operated schools with tuition grants from [Virginia] and P.E. county as the basic financial program,” he wrote. “Those wishing to go to integrated schools can take their tuition grants and operate their own schools. To hell with ‘em.”

Though the county ultimately refused to sell the public school buildings, public education in Prince Edward County was nevertheless abandoned for five years (1959-1964), as taxpayer dollars were funneled to the segregated white academies, which were housed in privately owned facilities such as churches and the local Moose Lodge. Federal courts struck down this use of taxpayer funds after a year. Still, whites won and blacks lost. Because there were no local taxes assessed to operate public schools during those years, whites could invest in private schools for their children, while blacks in the county—unable and unwilling to finance their own private, segregated schools—were left to fend for themselves, with many black children shut out of school for multiple years.

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Philadelphia decides to stop outdoor feeding of homeless‬

From Food Not Bombs:

By March 15, 2012

Philadelphia decides to stop outdoor feeding of homeless‬ (Shocking Video)

Actions on March 15th and March 22nd in ‪Philadelphia ‬

City To Ban Street-Corner Feedings of Homeless
March 14, 2012 6:30 PM

By Mike Dunn and Walt Hunter

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has announced a ban on the feeding of large numbers of homeless and hungry people at sites on and near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Mayor Nutter is imposing the ban on all outdoor feedings of large numbers of people on city parkland, including Love Park and the Ben Franklin Parkway, where it is not uncommon for outreach groups to offer free food.
Nutter says the feedings lack both sanitary conditions and dignity.

“Providing to those who are hungry must not be about opening the car trunk, handing out a bunch of sandwiches, and then driving off into the dark and rainy night,” Nutter said.

The city’s leading homeless advocate, Project Home’s Sister Mary Scullion, voiced tentative support for the mayor’s announcement. She said the mayor is “between a rock and a hard place” on the issue of outdoor feedings.

“I really want to thank the mayor for this courageous … this is not an easy position. But I do think it’s a great opportunity,” Scullion said.

Among the groups unhappy with the mayor’s announcement is Brian Jenkins of Chosen 300 Ministries, a homeless outreach group that does both indoor and outdoor feedings.

“The fact that city of Philadelphia is saying now that the homeless don’t have the right to eat on the Ben Franklin Parkway or eat around Center City is a clear violation of civil rights,” Jenkins explained. “It says that people that have … can eat in a certain place. But people that have not, can’t.”

Nutter’s aides will work with the homeless groups to encourage more indoor feedings.

In the meantime, the groups will be allowed to offer food on the north apron of City Hall, provided they register with the city.

The ban on parkland feedings takes effect in 30 days. Groups that violate the outdoor feeding ban would face two warnings and then a nominal $150 fine.
Nutter says large family gatherings in the park are not affected by the ban.

The Purpose of Occupy Wall Street Is to Occupy Wall Street

From The Nation:

Michael Moore
March 14, 2012

Occupy Wall Street. What other political movement in modern times has won the sympathy and/or support of the majority of the American public—in less than two months? How did this happen? I think it was a revolt that has been percolating across the country since Reagan fired the first air traffic controller. Then, on September 17, 2011, a group of (mostly) young adults decided to take direct action. And this action struck a raw nerve, sending a shock wave throughout the United States, because what these kids were doing was what tens of millions of people wished they could do. The people who have lost their jobs, their homes, their “American dream”—they cathartically cheered on this ragtag bunch who got right in the face of Wall Street and said, “We’re not leaving until you give us our country back!”

By purposely not creating a formal, hierarchical organization with rules and dues and structure and charismatic leaders and spokespeople—all the things their parents told them they would need in order to get anything done—this new way allowed people from all over the country to feel like they were part of the rebellion by simply deciding that they were part of the rebellion. You want to occupy your local bank—do it! You want to occupy your college board of trustees—done! You want to occupy Oakland or Cincinnati or Grass Valley—be our guest! This is your movement, and you can make it what you want it to be.

In the old days, if you were starting a movement, you had to first educate the public about the problem you were trying to fix, and then you had to persuade them to join you. To move America toward a nonracist, nonsexist, nonhomophobic, peace-seeking nation took years—decades—and we’re still not there. But with Occupy Wall Street, you don’t have to convince the majority of Americans that greed rules Wall Street, that the banks have no one’s interests but their own at heart or that corporate America is out to squeeze every last bit of labor and wages out of everyone’s pocket. Everybody gets it. Even those who oppose it. The hardest part of this or any movement—building a majority—has already happened. The people are with us. So now what do we do?

Continue reading at:

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Chomsky: Are We About to Get Embroiled in a Nightmare War With Iran?

From Alternet:

By Noam Chomsky
March 13, 2012

The January/February issue of Foreign Affairs featured the article “Time to Attack Iran: Why a Strike Is the Least Bad Option,” by Matthew Kroenig, along with commentary about other ways to contain the Iranian threat.

The media resound with warnings about a likely Israeli attack on Iran while the U.S. hesitates, keeping open the option of aggression – thus again routinely violating the U.N. Charter, the foundation of international law.

As tensions escalate, eerie echoes of the run-up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are in the air. Feverish U.S. primary campaign rhetoric adds to the drumbeat.

Concerns about “the imminent threat” of Iran are often attributed to the “international community” – code language for U.S. allies. The people of the world, however, tend to see matters rather differently.

The nonaligned countries, a movement with 120 member nations, has vigorously supported Iran’s right to enrich uranium – an opinion shared by the majority of Americans (as surveyed by before the massive propaganda onslaught of the past two years.

China and Russia oppose U.S. policy on Iran, as does India, which announced that it would disregard U.S. sanctions and increase trade with Iran. Turkey has followed a similar course.

Europeans regard Israel as the greatest threat to world peace. In the Arab world, Iran is disliked but seen as a threat only by a very small minority. Rather, Israel and the U.S. are regarded as the pre-eminent threat. A majority think that the region would be more secure if Iran had nuclear weapons: In Egypt on the eve of the Arab Spring, 90 percent held this opinion, according to Brookings Institution/Zogby International polls.

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The Plot to turn your Kids into Religious Warriors

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Pro-Life or Just Pro-Sperm?

From Common Dreams:

by David Morris
Published on Thursday, March 15, 2012 by Common Dreams

Recent events make clear the need for a new language to describe the raging debate about sex and birth.  Consider the problematic word that dominates our conversation:  pro-life.

Most pro-life organizations more accurately should be labeled pro sperm.  For they insist the sperm has the inalienable, indeed the God-given right to pursue the egg without human enabled interference.  Joseph M. Scheidler, the National Director of the Pro-Life Action League memorably declared, “I think contraception is disgusting-people using each other for pleasure.” Judith Brown, President of The American Life Lobby asserts its opposition “to all forms of birth control with the exception of natural family planning.”

The Catholic Church is fervently pro-sperm.  Decades before the Church mobilized against abortion it mobilized against contraception.  As late as 1960, many states outlawed sales of contraceptives.  The Catholic Church was the driving force behind these laws.  In the 1940s, Connecticut legislators introduced bills allowing physicians to prescribe contraceptives only for married couples if a pregnancy would be life threatening.  The Catholic Church swung into action.   One historian describes the process;  “priests became heavily involved…Their efforts were not confined to anti-birth control sermons on Sundays.  They engaged in voter registration drives, they encouraged parishioners to support anti-birth control candidates for the legislature, and they actively campaigned to defeat any changes in the birth control laws”.  The bills failed.

Prior to 1930, all Christian denominations held that contraception was contrary to God’s will. Then one by one, beginning with the Church of England they began to accept birth control.

Many expected the Catholic Church to follow suit.  In the mid 1960’s Pope Paul VI appointed a commission on birth control to advise him on the issue.  An overwhelming majority of its members favored lifting the ban. In his 1968 Encyclical, Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life) the Pope summarized the argument of the majority.

“World population is going to grow faster than available resources, with the consequences that many families and developing countries would be faced with greater hardships… not only working and housing conditions but the greater demands made both in the economic and educational field pose a living situation in which it is frequently difficult these days to provide properly for a large family…(we need to take into account) a new understanding of the dignity of woman and her place in society, or the value of conjugal love in marriage and the relationship of conjugal acts to this love…

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Walmart backs anti-environmental lawmakers while pushing ‘sustainable’ image

From Raw Story:

By Eric W. Dolan
Thursday, March 15, 2012

Although Walmart has heavily promoted its sustainability initiatives, the company has given millions to lawmakers who oppose stricter environmental regulations.

“Walmart talks big about sustainability, but doesn’t put its campaign money anywhere near where its mouth is,” states a report (PDF) by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “Whatever the company may say about the importance of legislative action on climate change or other environmental issues, its money is signaling the opposite, telling lawmakers that it’s perfectly fine to vote against environmental protection.”

The mega-retailer labels itself as a “leader in sustainability,” and touts its purchase of renewable energy and its other efforts to reduce its environmental impact.

However, Walmart’s political donations favor candidates who oppose environmental regulations like cap-and-trade, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Some of its biggest donations have gone to members of Congress who deny that man-made climate change exists. Since 2005, Walmart’s political action committee has given $25,000
to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), $30,000 to Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), and $29,500 to Sen. John Boozman (R-AK).

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Future of Feminism: Sex Workers Deserve Dignity and Care

From Ms. Magazine:

March 15, 2012

There’s no doubt that sex work in its various manifestations, ranging from stripping to prostitution to pornography, remains a contentious issue. It’s one on which even feminists notoriously disagree–a “fracture in ideology,” according to Kate Holden–with discussions veering back and forth between victimization and empowerment.

Of course there’s a substantial difference between becoming a sex worker by choice and, say, being sex trafficked by force, and I doubt anyone would argue that forced prostitution is empowering. However, “sex slavery,” as popularized in films and on shows such as Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, represents a more extreme scenario, with many sex workers–at least in the U.S.–falling somewhere on a spectrum between choice and circumstance. One thing isn’t really up for debate, though: A sex worker, woman or man, cis- or transgender, shouldn’t be deprived of rights, protection or access to health care due to the social stigma that weighs on their profession. Today’s post features projects and organizations recognizing that no one should be left behind in our continual battle for equality.

Washington, D.C.-based HIPS (Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive) works on a “harm reduction model … to address the impact that HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, discrimination, poverty, violence and drug use have on the lives of individuals engaging in sex work.” HIPS’ initiatives include both emotional and practical support structures: peer education, support groups for transgender and women workers and a mobile outreach program that offers STI testing, syringe exchange and access to contraception.

The Sex Worker’s Project, run out of the Urban Justice Center in New York City, also works with individual sex workers, but its main focus is on advocacy to protect sex workers from violence and undue prosecution. For example, a recent campaign involved a recommendation from the UN that the U.S. acknowledge the “special vulnerability of sexual workers to violence and human rights abuses,” which the U.S. government officially endorsed in March 2011.

Complete article at:


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