There are so many ways to gauge how sex-positive a culture is (or isn’t), but perhaps the easiest way to tell how comfortable a culture is with sex, is to take a look at how sex workers are treated. And it is for this very reason, that I am so passionate about this particular date on the international human rights calendar. Because we cannot claim to be a free society, when societal acceptance and respect are not extended to those who make their living through sex.
Sex workers face many issues in their lives, and so this date is one of remembrance and solidarity, but it is also one of hope. The events held on this day are most certainly filled with sadness and mourning, but they are also held with a spirit of determination to make a difference, and to be there for one another until the rest of society comes around. And it is in this spirit, that Tyler Cuddahy (aka Synder Starr-Turner) has taken on the event this year, here in Vancouver.
So why should you head on out to join the festivities tonight? There are lots of reasons, really – not the least of which is that you’re in for performances from an interesting assortment of local performers. Drag queens, female impersonators, live poetry readings, native drumming – and more – will entertain an eclectic audience, including former sex trade workers – and allies – of all genders. The event has previously been held at Prophouse Café, but this year Synder was passionate about getting a venue that is wheelchair accessible – hence, the change of venue to The Cobalt.
I grabbed a little of Synder’s time while she was busy preparing all the final details for tonight, to find out more about what you – the audience – can look forward to, and why she decided to take on the event this year.
ME: “What do you hope to achieve with the event?”
SYNDER: “I hope to achieve, an overall good everything, from the performers, to the location, even to the silent auction with the donations and door. I hope to make more than what I have put into this event.”
(Synder was so determined to ensure that the event is wheelchair accessible, that she invested her own money into securing the new venue.)
ME: “Why are you so passionate about it?”
SYNDER: “I was a sex trade worker, I was someone who had been involved with Crystal Meth, and had a partner at the time, who was also in the trade, (but I didn’t find out until after a week of dating). And it was him, that introduced me to “Boys Town”, (which was the block of Homer Street from Davie and Drake). I had been involved with the trade for a good 8 years when it was Hustle: Men On The Move, who had developed this program for male sex trade to exit, the program as was called elements. I am so grateful for that program.”
ME: “How do you want patrons to leave feeling? How do you want to impact the attendees/audience?”
SYNDER: “(I want people to know) that violence happens, and that it only takes someone who cares, to make a plan with someone who is working. To ask them to text you where they’re at, so that nothing can happen like what happened to the families who lost their daughters to the Pickton farm. I want to let others know that this is a part of some of our lives, (that) being in the field is a way that we are able to get ourselves ‘un-sick’, or have extra money, to put food in our bodies, and be able to be indoors, etc. But I want them to feel that this was a good show. I wonder what is happening next year.”
Whatever happens next year, the event this year – I hope – will be a raging success. Partial proceeds go to local organizations that support sex workers and provide them with help and safety. So make sure you bid a little extra at the silent auction, and do some real good while stocking up on some Christmas presents!
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