During her 30-year career, she has seen the industry change from a street-based world of fear and shame to a job she works with pride.
After her Xtra cover shoot, Forrester talked with Andrea Houston about the legal fight facing sex workers and her place at the front of the local movement.
Forrester has worked for Black CAP and the 519 Church St Community Centre and is currently the community engagement coordinator at Maggie’s Sex Worker Action Project. In 2003, she led the first ever Trans Pride Toronto contingent, an organization she founded.
MF: In the ’80s there were no trans-friendly spaces. Everyone would go to the street to meet up and engage, talk and socialize. There’s far more awareness and visibility for trans people now.
Xtra: What is the single most important demand that sex workers have?
MF: Decriminalization. We want recognition by the wider public that this is a valid form of work
. . . It’s legitimate, and people are being drawn to it. You can set your own hours. There is a dangerous side to sex work, but there are many jobs people take on a risk. That’s exactly why this is so important. We need safety. We need the system to work. We need to know we can call police when needed or have a security guard with us when needed. We need to know we can work in clean, safe spaces or within our homes without the fear of being charged.
Xtra: How can we, as a culture, stop looking at sex work with a moralistic lens?
MF: So much of the problem is religion. For sex workers, and everyone, acceptance is really important. When you have family that accepts you, nothing else really matters. That?s something that a lot of sex workers lose. They lose their community because they can’t talk about it. And it’s usually because of religion. Some sex workers want to hold on to their culture and religion, but they don’t feel welcome in their church or ethnic-specific communities. So that’s really hard. So many sex workers never go home.