Transphobia and Sex Worker Oppression in Toronto
August 19, 2008
Just in case anyone in Toronto reads this blog…
Residents of the Maitland and Homewood area in Toronto (Sherbourne and College) have formed a “safety association” to force sex workers, in particular trans* sex workers, out of “their” neighbourhood (h/t Questioning Transphobia). More here
First of all, there’s the obvious issue of “who’s safety?” Because these tactics are rather obviously endangering sex workers, forcing them into more secluded areas.
This is also part of a general pattern in Toronto, relating to the gentrification of certain areas and the utter contempt with which the new residents view the old residents. Maitland and Homewood was an unofficial “red light district” when I was a kid. I remember taking the streetcar home from university late at night and seeing sex workers at Jarvis and College. For all these residents’ talk of “their neighbourhood”, the fact is the sex workers were there first. It’s just as much their neighbourhood.
The area in which I grew up has experienced something similar. For most of my life, it was a mixed working-class/middle-class area. There had been a lot of factories at one point, but they closed a few years before my family arrived, and the impact on the neighbourhood was obvious. It had the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the city, at the time. There was a lot of public housing, but there were also families like mine, middle-class families who couldn’t afford to live in a nicer area, but figured that the area would become more affluent eventually.
Well, it did become more affluent – a few years ago. When I left to do my MA it was still greasy spoons on every other corner; when I came back 14 months later, I could no longer afford to eat breakfast anywhere. Several steps in the gentrification process have been skipped, and it’s now yuppie central.
And, during the last election I was there, the liberal candidate for Parliament ran on a platform of trying to get the remaining public housing closed.
The yuppies would rather not be bothered by the people who actually grew up in the area.
Something similar is happening in the Maitland area – it’s also an area that’s been gentrifying rapidly.
I urge everyone in Toronto to fight this transphobia, classism and sex worker oppression.
You can find out more on Facebook