To the Honourable Thomas Mulcair, Member of Parliament
I’m a constituent of yours and a former sex-trade worker, and I voted to keep you in the House of Commons because of the hot smile on your campaign poster. It’s the famous one where you’re blinding the neighbourhood with a carnivorous set of teeth, drooling enthusiasm all over the sidewalk. The one that the cool kids are ripping off telephone poles and trading like giant hockey cards.
My friends all thought your smile was pornography of the face, and I said “So what?” I could tell that the photo wasn’t staged, that you were simply happy to represent the diverse members of your riding. I could tell that when you were a kid, getting a second scoop of ice cream gave you a grin that lasted a week.
Thomas Mulcair is human, I told myself. I had to know more.
So, I sniffed out the battlegrounds where the New Democratic Party is working to convince people that harm-reduction strategies based on social realities, for sex workers and other marginalized groups, are better than blanket laws that target the most vulnerable and force them into unsafe situations. I learned about the NDP’s ongoing efforts to improve the lives of sex workers in Canada.
Just like you lured me with a human face, showing a personal side to sex work is a powerful tool for getting people to care.
I’d like to illustrate this with a little story, if I may. I came out as a sex worker and porn star in 1999, trumpeting this revelation in Canadian newspapers. However, I gave veneered answers that did nothing to reveal my personality, practically reading from my porn movie scripts. I played the coquette, flirted with journalists, and cracked for no one. My headshot was an airbrushed photo straight from the VHS box of my biggest hit. I gave the public a plasticene smile that had been moulded for two hours under a halogen light.
I forgot to be real, and people forgot what I said. They failed to elect me as their favourite sex symbol. So, nine years later in 2008, I came out again. This time, I gave them cross-section views of ‘the real me,’ and told them my stories. I explained how I had been raised in the Christian fundamentalist cult known as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and how I had used sex work to achieve sexual and ideological freedom. People cheered me on, happy that a sexually-repressed teenager got to ditch his Watchtower magazines to bang hot guys on camera instead. Friends ran out to rent my videos, and they saw the skid marks in my underwear. Acquaintances came out to me as sex workers, and as consumers of our services. Discussion hit the fan. We talked about cost-neutral solutions to make life better for sex workers, repealing old and new legislation that expedites unfair evictions and puts lives in danger. This time, I sent the newspapers a headshot that portrayed someone they could care about: slouched, brooding and fully human.
I got personal, and people listened.
Among the sexual and gender minorities that support your party so vigorously, there are many groups and individuals who strive to give sex workers a voice in the national debate on decriminalization, aware that positions gain heft when packaged with personal stories. They work on the front lines of counselling, advocacy, and community education, helping to humanize faceless neighbours and render them visible.
So, Thomas, can you assure me that as the NDP engages federal forces on repealing and reforming sex laws, you’ll give the discussions a human face by consulting those who are in direct, day-to-day contact with sex workers and who can deliver their stories?
Is that a “oui”?
PS: Let me know how to get my poster autographed!