Well, it’s finally the official Christmas holiday season. Like so many other sane people, I refuse to start acknowledging Christmas before the Thanksgiving turkey gets cold. With the start of the season, we will all see a familiar site outside of shopping malls, stores, and street corners: that of the Salvation Army kettle and its bell ringers. Many people donate to the Salvation Army at this time of the year, when the itch of charity is at the highest it will be all year.
However, the SA has a long, nasty history of efforts and initiatives to keep sex workers and our work criminalized and stigmatized (under the guise of anti-trafficking*) and they are not any friendlier to the LGBT community. As Maggie McNeill points out, while undoubtedly some of the funds collected will go toward helping out the poor, other funds go towards their anti-sex worker and anti-LGBT efforts. Most people are ignorant about this facet of the Salvation Army. So, in addition to asking sex worker allies not to put money into their kettles or give to the SA in any other way (until they truly start to “love thy neighbor as thyself”, all of the neighbors), I have comprised a list of charities and organizations that are either support sex workers and LGBT community or are run and operated by sex workers themselves. If you’re going to give money this season, these are the folks who can truly use your help. Several organizations listed will give you information on exactly how particular dollar amounts will help. Please keep them in mind all year around, though, because December isn’t the only month where they need assistance.
There are three organizations on here that don’t have anything to do with sex worker rights or the LGBT community, but are nonetheless near and dear to me. You’ll be able to figure out which ones those are very easily.
Sex Worker Rights (and related) Orgs in need:
Women with a Vision: This New Orleans based organization does a lot of good work for vulnerable populations in NOLA. The organization provides healthcare and assistance for general women’s health issues, sex worker rights and support, health assistance for IV-drug users, HIV/AIDS counseling, and support for the LGBT community. WWAV is run and operated by African-American women. In June 2012, their offices were targeted by arsonists and they will be opening their new offices on January 1, 2013. They have had difficulty with the local authorities to even launch an investigation into the fires, leaving the organization itself vulnerable to another attack. The link takes you to their site where there is a donation button and below is a video explaining the situation:
WWAV is a tax-deductible organization.
SWAAY: Established on June 15, 2011 by sex worker and activist FurryGirl, SWAAY stands for Sex Work Activists, Allies, and You. SWAAY’s main focus is outreach to the general public (via mobile billboard through Los Angeles) and to this end, the organization has been paying for their campaign out of their own pockets. Despite what some may think, most sex workers are not millionaires and the women and men of SWAAY are no different. Just so that you are fully aware, SWAAY is not a 501(c)(3) organization so donations will not be tax-deductible. However, I think their work is much more important than a tax-deductible status, so please think about it. I do believe SWAAY would like to do another mobile billboard campaign and that definitely costs money.
Desiree Alliance: From their website: “Desiree Alliance is a coalition of sex workers, health professionals, social scientists, professional sex educators, and their supporting networks working together for an improved understanding of the sex industry and its human, social and political impacts. Our focus is on building local and regional leadership and constructive activism in the sex worker population to advocate for sex workers’ human, labor and civil rights.”
July 14-19th, 2013, the DA will be hosting a conference in Las Vegas. Funds will be needed to help fund the conference, especially to provide scholarships for sex workers who would like to attend but otherwise cannot afford to. In case you haven’t checked prices for flights to Las Vegas, most of them are very expensive unless you are coming from cities closer to LV. That will be the main impetus for many sex workers (as was mine in 2010 when I wasn’t working). The Desiree Alliance is a 501(c)(3) charity, so your donations will be tax deductible.
SWOP-USA: SWOP-USA was established in 2003 by the late, great Robyn Few and Stacey Swimme, inspired by the success of the original SWOP organization located in Australia. SWOP is the main sex workers’ rights organization here in the United States and the largest with branches all over the country. It is still growing. Funds are needed to help support attendance at various conferences, support sex worker outreach (printing materials, merchandise, etc.), space for fundraising benefits or meetings, and many other initiatives. If you want to specifically give to a SWOP chapter, you may do so at that chapter’s site. They have the same tax-deductible status as the parent organization SWOP-USA.
HIPS: Standing for Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive, HIPS is based in Washington, DC. They started out as a street outreach extension of the CDC in 1993 and then became a 501(c)(3) organization in 1996 in their own right. HIPS supports all sex workers, regardless of gender or sexual expression, as well as providing medical support for IV-drug users. There are a variety of ways to make a donation to HIPS, including ways that don’t cost you any money!
YWEP: From their “About” page:
The Young Women’s Empowerment Project is a member based social justice organizing project that is led by and for young people of color who have current or former experience in the sex trade and street economies. Everybody who is on staff and has decision making power at YWEP was once a member here and is between the ages of 12-24 years old.
Our mission as the Young Women’s Empowerment Project is to offer safe, respectful, free-of-judgment spaces for girls and young women in the sex trade and street economies to recognize their goals, dreams and desires. YWEP is Chicago based project that was founded in 2002 by a radical feminist and harm reduction based collective of women and girls involved in the sex trade and street economy and our allies. We were created by women and girls who believe that any girl can be empowered and that all girls are priceless, creative, and smart and can be leaders in their communities.
In case the “radical feminist” part makes any of you twitchy, I want to point out that most of the ones I rail against would never create an organization like YWEP. One of the best services they have, in my opinion, is the Bad Encounter Hotline, wherein a girl can anonymously report any denial of service from doctors, police officers, etc. Marginalized communities stay marginalized when it is believed that they have no allies and no one to stand beside them in unity and calling out proper society on their bullshit is the best way to help communities gain the respect they need. YWEP does fantastic work here in Chicago and I definitely endorse them.
Howard Brown Health Center: Howard Brown is the leading clinic for Chicago’s LGBT and sex worker community. They are open, inviting, honest, and low-cost, with most of the STI tests offered free-of-charge or very low-priced. They also provide other healthcare services that are sliding scale, which is necessary especially for groups such as sex worker and transgender who still face a lot of discrimination from medical professionals or, especially for sex workers, they feel as though they will face discrimination if they revealed their work to their doctor. Located on the far north side of the city, HBHC has been around for over 30 years…so all of my life.
Stepping Stone: From their “About” page: “Stepping Stone believes that all individuals have the right to self determination. We do not interfere with or attempt to stop their work; rather, we assist them in making their life choices as safe and positive as possible.”
Stepping Stone is located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. The organization executed a fantastic and inspiring (and yes, controversial) ad campaign to destigmatize sex work and sex workers, which SWAAY wants to do in the USA as well. You can see the Stepping Stone advertisements here. While they are a tax-deductible charity, that applies to Canadians only. But again, like in the case of SWAAY, please do not let that prevent you from donating to them if you want to support their work. The director, Rene Ross, is also an amazing and hilarious and dedicated woman.
St. James Infirmary: “St. James Infirmary provides compassionate and non-judgmental healthcare and social services for all sex workers while preventing occupational illnesses and injuries through a comprehensive continuum of services.” Your donations will be tax-deductible and donations can include clothing, luggage, new condoms & lube, and other items on this list (which also includes a list of things that they do not need or accept).
Bully Breed orgs
I was the proud mother of an American Staffordshire Terrier/Pit Bull mix for seventeen years. My little guy died about three years ago and I have missed him every since. When I live in a house again, I hope to adopt another dog such as him. The Bully Breeds have a horrible reputation due to the overemphasis of attacks by those dogs on children, especially, ignoring the role the owner plays in their dog’s behavior as well as attacks by small dogs on children. The latter occurs in high frequency due to a child’s tendency to regard a small dog as a toy instead of a living organism and the short temper of many small dog breeds. Again, bad owners, not bad dogs.
These dogs tend to be abandoned or taken to high-kill shelters and not given a second chance at life. I’ve found Bully Breed dogs to be friendly, loving, and loyal to a fault. The following two organizations help rescue these dogs and place them in safe and loving homes, even providing rehabilitation when possible (especially for dogs rescued from fighting pits).
Smilin’ Pit Bull Rescue: Started by the guardian-owner, as he calls himself, 13 years ago upon his first adoption of a pit bull from a kill shelter. He initially focused on rescuing the bully breed of dogs along the Northeast US, but has expanded his reach. The organization is very particular about the people and homes they will approve for adoption in order to avoid the tragedies we hear too much about. If you cannot or do not have the time, money, patience, and love (yes, all four things are required) to adopt at this time, SPBR does accept donations (tax-deductible) and they also have merchandise such as calendars, water bottles, etc.
Charlie Dog and Friends: I love this company. They create stuffed animals modeled after real-life shelter and rescue dogs, cats, and other animals. The money raised helps fund rescue groups and no-kill animal shelters who are financially in need of assistance and support. In New York City, they provide “chauffeur” emergency services for pets saved by a last-minute rescue from death row, to deliver them to their new homes.
Here is a chance to make two donations in one: purchase a toy from Charlie Dog and Friends and then donate that toy to Toys for Tots. Look at all that karma and goodwill you’d rack up!
General Food Pantry/Feeding the Hungry
City Harvest: This organization has been helping feed the hungry of New York City for over 30 years. The overall situation has worsened for many not only with the economic downturn starting in 2008 (and is still happening despite what is popularly believed), but also due to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. So far as I can tell, City Harvest doesn’t turn away anyone such as sex workers or LGBT youth or other marginalized communities, though if I am wrong on this please let me know.
According to their site, City Harvest donates food to over 600 emergency food programs in the city. Again, with the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, those resources are being stretched even more. You can donate in one of two ways: a cash gift or donating non-perishable food items. If you are in NYC, you can drop off these food items (under 100 lbs) to any NYPD precinct or if you have a heavier donation, they can schedule a pick-up. See the site for more information.
Miscellaneous health resources
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders: I think they need little introduction and the name speaks for itself. They specifically name sex workers as a group that is often excluded from accessing proper healthcare and that MSF is working to fill that gap. Naturally, that gives them all gold stars in my book. A lot of help is needed in this world and it seems as though there is never enough to go around. Your donations will be tax-deductible.
Sir Richard’s Condoms: This is one of the coolest companies I’ve ever heard about, thanks to Susan Le. For every Sir Richard’s Condom purchased, one will be donated and delivered in a group to a developing country. Their first contribution effort saw 500,000 condoms donated to Haiti and will be available for free at local hospitals in association with the Partners in Health clinics. This includes a new clinic, the Mirebalais National Teaching Hospital, which will emphasize women’s reproductive health. A native of Port-au-Prince, Marc Baptiste, helped design the brand of the condoms given to Haiti, called Kore which is Haitian Kréyòl for a concept of “I have your back.”
So, while they do not accept outright donations, a mere purchase IS a donation in the long-run. Who cares if there’s no tax-deduction? The motivation to help another will be enough, right? But, wait a tick. Here’s a suggestion that can get you some crazy karma points. Make a huge purchase of condoms and donate those condoms to, say, St. James Infirmary where said donation will be tax deductible. You would be helping provide condoms to two groups of people with a single purchase! Awesome.