After performing this poem for the first time I had several queer people of color approach me and tell me in private that they, too, shared similar desires for whiteness, but had never felt comfortable articulating it publically. Curiously enough many of my white queer friends avoided eye contact with me after the poem and never brought it up again. Every time I perform this piece I get similar reactions.
In this piece I want to share my personal story of internalized racism and how this was and continues to be linked to my queer identity. It is my goal to use this piece as a starting piece for a collection of essays on race, queerness, and desire. In subsequent posts I want to address, in more detail, questions and strategies that I raise here.
Gay identity as a tactic of white supremacy
The mainstream gay narrative includes a story that begins with trauma, abjection, insecurity and ends with liberation, visibility, and confidence. We are asked: When did you know? When did you first figure out? And we respond with the stories they want to hear: we tell them about screaming “I’m gay” outside in the middle of the night, we tell them about sneaking looks in the locker room. But we do not tell them about the first time we were called a nigger. We do not tell them about how we refused to speak our native tongue at home. These stories, they elide histories of racial trauma that are not ancillary, but actual central to the construction of our queer identities. I want us to revisit our self-narratives and think about the role of race in their construction. I believe that race is, actually, always already implicated in these stories, even for white people.
I have always been attracted to whiteness. I remember in kindergarten I would develop crushes on all the white boys in my class – those white boys who came from rich families with mothers who ran the parent-teacher organizations, those white boys who played little league baseball and joined Boy Scouts.
These were the days I would go home and ask my mother why we didn’t go to church. I would tell my grandmother to stop wearing saris and put on pants instead. These were the days I’d ask my parents why we weren’t like other families: why we didn’t eat steak for dinner, and watch football, and do the things that normal families do. Growing up I always felt inadequate and embarrassed by my brownness and my Hindu/South Asian culture. I would willingly attend Christian youth groups with my white friends and feel so much validation in their acceptance.
This attraction was, and continues to be, always about power. I wanted to be white so desperately because that meant I would finally be normal, finally be accepted. I admired the white boys in my kindergarten class because they had power, they had respect, they were beautiful.
At first I didn’t have the language to understand my feelings of Otherness and inadequacy. It was only after 9/11 that I was able to understand that I had a race. I remember it vividly: on September 12 my mother told me to be careful at school. My middle-school had an assembly in the gym. We were all instructed to wear white and blue and we gathered and sang the national anthem. I remember singing as loud as the rest, and I remember feeling part of something bigger than myself. I didn’t really understand what happened, but goddamnit I knew that I was American. I knew it in the same way my Hindu temple knew that it was a good idea to put an American flag on the back of our t-shirts: “God bless America / we will never forget September 11.” After the assembly a white classmate came up to me and asked me, “Why did your people do this to us?” And for the first time I felt the burden of brownness.
The truth is, at some level, I began to believe everything they said. I began to believe that I was not an American. I began to believe that my people were wrong. I began to believe that my people were ugly.
Coming into consciousness of my brownness occurred at the same time I began to come into awareness of my same-sex desire. It’s impossible for me to divorce these narratives – they have been, and will always be – interrelated. The boys I began to fantasize about were the same boys I wrote love letters to as a child, were the same boys I wanted to become so desperately. The boys – the men – I was sexually attracted to were the very white men who made me feel ugly, made me feel insignificant, made me feel worthless.
Awareness of my homosexuality arrived at the same time as consciousness of my racialization. In some ways, my homosexuality worked as a mechanism of my racial oppressionand contributed to my feelings of racial inadequacy. Now, the very white men who degraded me felt sexy to me. My desire shackled me to white supremacy. As much as I wanted to love my brownness, my culture, my otherness – I became even more drawn, tantalized, and attracted to whiteness. As much as I resented and was bruised by the racial trauma inflicted by the white men around me, I found myself deeply attracted to them. I found myself accepting their insults, their stereotypes, their racialization – justifying it with my attraction to them.
When I ‘came out’ and began to consume gay discourses – pornography, blogs, movies, etc. – the depictions of gayness reified whiteness. Queer characters were almost always white, gay porn almost always included white men – unless it was explicitly marked as interracial or racial/fetish porn, etc. At first I didn’t mind this. In fact, I enjoyed it; I found these depictions of whiteness incredibly attractive. Now that I look back on it, consuming these discourses, coming out as ‘gay,’ and organizing within a traditional ‘gay rights’ framework made me happy because I felt like I was becoming white. Being ‘gay’ being part of a ‘gay’ community gave me an opportunity to escape from my race, gave me new connections to whiteness, new ways to intimately embrace it and experience its validation. As I began to get more involved with mainstream gay life, I found myself feeling less brown. I used language and identity-frameworks that were inaccessible to the South Asian community I grew up with (and was okay with that, because at least my white friends accepted me). I went to parties and political gatherings with mostly white people. I stopped talking and thinking about race, and fabricated a de-racinated narrative of queer oppression to fit in, to be part of the community.
Racial Fetishism Within Queer Male Communities
Originally I thought that identifying as gay and participating in gay communities would make me feel more legitimate, more desirable, more affirmed by structures of whiteness. However, I soon realized that queer communities actually inflicted some of the most severe racial trauma for me.
My first significant relationship was with a South Asian woman my first year of high school – before I started actively identifying and participating in gay/queer communities. We shared our experiences with racial trauma, our experiences as diasporic South Asians, our anxieties about our Hindu religion in our small town and I began to develop erotic and romantic feelings for her. Our subsequent four-year relationship was perhaps the most important development in my project of racial liberation. Through her I began to feel beauty in brownness. Looking back, I was less attracted to her gender, and more attracted to her race. Typical heterosexual narratives that suggest that men enter relationships with the ‘opposite’ gender and rely on a difference model did not align well here. Rather, I was attracted to her because of our mutual sameness.
In all of my subsequent relationships and interactions with (white) men, I have been unable to experience this sense of solidarity, of kinship, of sameness. Mainstream narratives of homosexuality conceptualize it as ‘same-sex’ desire: we hear stories about how men know how to please other men better because they have a penis. We hear how same-sex relationships are more functional because both parties “get one another.” These narratives, as is the case with most gay narratives, do not map well on queer of color experience like my own. All of my relationships with (white) men have felt much more conflicted, racially charged, and based on a paradigm of ‘opposites.’ Embracing a white male body never feels comfortable, natural, same. It feels foreign, exotic, opposite.
As I began to participate in white gay communities I recognized that what attracted to me to these boys – what had always attracted me to whiteness – was its difference from me. Whiteness was a commodity, a property that I didn’t own and was systematically denied. I wanted to be with white guys because I was attracted to the power, to their foreignness, to the thrill of difference. I found myself turning down incredibly charming and political queer boys of color, because I just didn’t get the same power trip, the same attraction to them. I found myself pursuing the most problematic, the most racist and obnoxious white boys, just because their otherness was that desirable.
My early and uncritical experiences with white men reminded me that I can never have access to this cultural capital, that I will always be brown, no matter how much queer communities profess to be ‘one.’ I began to realize the extreme racism and colorism that governs much of queer male life: the lighter you are, the more attractive you are. The darker you are, the more likely you are to be friend-zoned.
The majority of the times I found myself incredible invisible to the white queer gaze. I met white boys with dating profiles: “No Asians / No Fems.” Sexual racism like this was rarely as explicit, it manifested itself in more silent and pernicious ways: always being the ‘friend’ and never anything more, etc. When I would confront my white queer friends about why they didn’t date other boys of color they’d often say things like: “I don’t see race – get over it, it’s not important!” And though they would often profess liberal and anti-racist politics, they would still only sleep with and date other white men. When I began to meet white queer men who were or experienced intimate relations across the color lines they would often say that race wasn’t central to their desire or relationship. The idea was that being gay already involved transgressing one taboo, why not jump over another?
Those white queer men who did express interest often articulated it in ways that were just as problematic, just in a reverse direction. One white boy told me that he had always wanted to be with a brown man. He told me that I felt like a real man. And, at the time, I loved it. For the first time in my life I experienced validation from the very body that taunted me growing up. When he embraced me I felt like America taking me back again, I felt worthy, I felt normal. In that small encounter I experienced a tremendous range of trauma and emotion. I performed my race – in its most bastardized forms – for him so that I could obtain his acceptance. In subsequent relationships I experienced similar hyper-fetishization – experiences where my brownness was central to a white man’s attraction to me. It manifested itself in sometimes subtle ways – comments on my rugged masculinity (gesturing to histories of associations with bodies of color and primitive animality), cloaked racist sayings like all South Asians are so sexy).
In all of these experiences – the ones where I was hyper invisible and hyper visible – one theme remained constant: I was always reduced to my race. My race was the primary basis of my desireability or undesireability. I never was able to enter interactions where my race was not salient – the paradigm established was that I was always the one with ‘the race,’ while whiteness remained unmarked, uncontested.
Thus, ironically, even though I expected my homosexuality to integrate me into a community that made me finally feel part of something bigger than myself again (after becoming an outcast in a post 9/11 nationalist American), I actually began to feel even more brown, even more violently racialized.
After severally racially charged experiences with white men I found myself in some of the deepest and most visceral racial trauma of my life. I found myself predicating my very self-worth, my integrity, on validation by white men. It didn’t matter how many people of color were attracted to me, only white guys counted. It didn’t matter to me how successful I was in school or how wonderful of an activist I was, only validation by white men could make me happy.
The Limits of Queer Epistemologies: Ways Forward
I soon recognized that the ways I, uncritically, desired whiteness were destructive to my political and emotional liberation. I began to read a lot more critical race theory, post-colonial theory, and think much more about white supremacy and how queer projects are complicit in it. I am now committed to decolonizing the intimacy I participate in – to disarticulating my attraction from the imprint of my oppression and envisioning alternative and radical ways to feel, relate, and engage with whiteness.
I am extremely skeptical of the race neutrality of the majority of queer/gender/sexuality desire. I strongly disapprove of the way that queer communities and individuals organize, fuck, art, envision, and grow together in ways that don’t address racial difference. My experiences with internalized racism have given me the privilege to see how race can actually become central to our desire and politics. Here are some ways that I’ve been thinking about this:
1. Our Sexual Identity Frameworks are already racist. We need to stop relying on a framework of sexual identity that anchors our attraction to ‘sex.’ Currently the only way that we think of sexual identity is in terms of what gender/sex’s we are attracted to. The only discourse I had access to growing up told me that I was “gay” because I was attracted to (some) men. However, it makes no sense for me to identify as ‘gay.’Identifying as gay would mean that I am a man attracted to other men. But the truth is I am not attracted to all men. I am attracted to a very particular type of racialized, classed, gendered, etc. masculinity. Current frameworks of sexual identity assume that ‘men’ and ‘women’ exist as stable categories and elide racial and other differences among men and women. The assumption here is that all men look the same, which is obviously not the case. Using this framework, white man can identify as gay but still only be intimate with other white men. Gay becomes a way in which we can cloak our racisms, rather than make them central to the way that we articulate our desires. We need a more complex way to relate our sexual proclivities and histories to one another. We need a language that acknowledges the multiple vectors that we come to fetishize. In my case, my desire and identities have been more oriented around race, than sex/gender
2. Our sexual desires themselves are already racist. As a queer body of color I have not had the privilege to disassociate my attraction from my oppression. The people I am most attracted to are the people I have been told to be attracted to. Our society – through media, and other discourse – valorizes particular expressions of white and masculine identity. These images have been ingrained into me to the point that I often have to question whether I am attracted to an individual for them, or for their whiteness - whether I am attracted to an individual, or a system. I am troubled by a paradigm that locates minority bodies as the only bodies that experience attraction this way. The fact is that all desires are implicated within racist, classist, colonial, etc. systems and circuits of desire – it’s just for some of us this is more salient. We must think critically about the nature of our desires and how to contest, unlearn, and re-imagine them.
3. We need to talk more about the relationship between white supremacy and sexual politics: I have shown how my body of color has been implicated in a project of white supremacy. It is important that we move beyond a framework that suggests that white people are the only people who can be racist. The reality of the situation is that most of us are white supremacists. White supremacy is a pervasive, totalizing, and dominant ideology that becomes bolstered by all bodies – not just white bodies. I want us to think more about what our queer movements and radical sex movements are doing to contest white supremacy – or, rather, how they are becoming (or have always been) complicit with this ideology.
4. Attraction as already fetishistic: I believe that fetish-oriented models of sexuality are a way to allow us to talk about internalized racism and other prejudices in relation to our sexual desires. Inspired by queer psychoanalysts like Tim Dean, I’m interested in re-imagining all desire as fetishistic. What this means is that we are not born predisposed to any particular attraction. Rather, we develop our attractions. (ie the penis is not inherently attractive, it becomes attractive). This process of becoming attractive occurs within a white supremacist, patriarchal, prejudiced culture in which particular fetishes become normalized (ie white heterosexual intimacy) while others become seen as perverse (foot fetish, racial fetish, etc.). Talking about our desires as fetishes is productive because it helps us remember that our desires are protean, able to shift, change, and respond. It reminds us that we experience desire as individuals – that no group-oriented terms like ‘gay’ (or even queer people of color) can adequately describe the specificity of our desire.
5. Gay rights/advocacy is not a queer project. Within a narrow-issue gay politic, I could excuse myself of my internalized racism and focus on my same-sex intimacy as already inherently radical. This isn’t sufficient. I think the power of a queer project lies in its ability and acknowledgement that our desires are political and that our intimacies are microcosms of the Revolution. A queer project involves unlearning our identities and attractions, disarticulating our racial fetishes and allowing ourselves to be attracted to all races. A queer project makes us be more critical of the way that we have conflated homosexuality as inherently transgressive. Isn’t predominant attraction to men or women implicated within structures of sexism and patriarchy? Queer desiring men need to think more about how our lack of attraction to women is related to and contributes to misogynist interpretations of the female body. Queering our desires involves opening ourselves to new types of intimacies, new types of consensual pleasures, with all types of identities. We are not yet queer, we aspire to queerness – and as part of that project we have to learn how to expand our desires and make them more empathetic, embracing, and radical for all.
“The proposed law is so poorly crafted it could allow a Muslim taxi driver to refuse service to a woman traveling alone.”
i.e. These bills are so preposterous in our eyes, let us use Muslim stereotypes that offend normative North Atlantic sensibilities (including, but not limited to, liberal: WOMEN, and conservative: ISLAM) to make our point.
SPLIT THIS ROCK Poetry Festival Group Reading & Workshop: Struggle, Resilience & Transformation: Queer Arabs in the Diaspora Andrea Assaf, Janine Mogannam, Amir Rabiyah 2 PM, March 29 @ Human Rights Campaign, Room 2
We are a diverse group of queer and gender fabulous Arab and Arab American poets, artists and activists, holding different religions, nationalities and migration stories, who have been invited to present at Split This Rock, the nation’s premier social justice focused poetry festival!
At Split This Rock, in addition to performing our poetry, we are committed to facilitating inclusive dialogue, fostering creativity, and holding an affirming space for people living on the intersections of race, class, disabilities, gender, sexuality, war, and immigration.
As queer and gender non-conforming Arabs, we want to represent ourselves, since we often are spoken for. Split This Rock is a great opportunity to connect with and support other artists who want to tell their own stories through poetry.
What We Need & What You Get:
We are asking you, our community, for your support. We need to raise $5000 by March 20 to make this trip happen. Fabulous Perks! No contribution is too small!
Your contributions will go toward airfare, transportation, housing, and festival registration, as well as artists’ fees and a small per diem for food and other associated costs.
The Impact As queer Arabs / Arab Americans, many people and institutions attempt to speak for us. As people with a broad spectrum of identities, we often move through society with parts of ourselves made hyper-visible, and others invisible. At Split This Rock we will share our stories from our own perspectives and experiences. Through the sharing of our poetry and the questions we wrestle with in our lives and creative work, we hope to connect with folks from many varied communities, including other artists of color, queer folks and allies. Many of us share similar histories of negotiating multiple identities, colonization, intersecting oppressions and displacements. Our presentation will create a space for participants to reflect on their own histories and identities. Through this collective act of witnessing, and shared reflection, we hope to build a sense of compassion and connection between us and all attendees, which we will bring back with us into our communities as we work towards recognition and social justice.
Please spread the word. Your support will help make this trip, reading & workshop possible!
The idea of an identity politics around asexual identity scares me in the same ways that any other single issue politics anchored around a (sexual) identity does. It operates in was that are racist, classist, and colonial. It assumes particular bodies with particular histories and particular political interests. What I am calling for is a departure away from asexual identity politics toward a frank conversation of trauma and sexuality. How can we move our understandings of sexual politics away from anchoring them in essential narratives that reproduce biological essentialism (born this way) to narratives that name specific moments of historical and personal trauma that inform our sexualities. Which means that I am not as interested in the words that you affix to your body – I am interested in the journey that it took for you to get there.
A couple of friends and I have been discussing inherent suppositions with an identity based around sexuality. My current analysis is that these identities are, by nature of when and where they come from, firmly embedded in a dominant (Post-)Christian North Atlantic frame of reference. It is this world view that interprets and subsumes all other ways and spews out an identity based around sexuality. I am still simmering on these ideas and dealing with the ramifications of such a claim.
Regardless, tho I am wary of the author’s focus on ‘desire’, I find this article interesting and thought provoking. It’s worth a read, or two.
“I think in Israel today it is very important to show that a human being is a human being is a human being,” said Huldai. “It shows that we are not only caring for ourselves but for everybody who suffered. These are our values — to see everyone as a human being.”
It’s true: corporate America runs the LGBT movement, or at least the part of the LGBT movement that gets press time and donors. Their sponsorship keeps the LGBT movement from addressing the issues that matter most for the LGBT community and beyond.
Thrasher highlights that many of the biggest donors to the Human Rights Campaign, the multi-million dollar nonprofit that receives the bulk of donations for LGBT issues, are drone manufacturers. These donors profit off of the United States’ use of drones to kill civilians,including children, with little oversight or accountability. Drone manufacturers are far from the only ethically dark gray to black donors to LGBT advocacy organizations: a brief perusal of any major LGBT organization’s list of donors reveals that corporate black hats like Bank of America,BP,Coke, and Nike all provide major cash to LGBT nonprofits.
What the author says: “Knocking on Europe’s door yet on the threshold of Asia, Turkey is truly a land of contrasts, straddling religion as well as continents.”
What the author means: “Knocking on a progressive, modern enlightened door because it is pretty much what WE believe in, yet still clinging on to ancient, barbaric, crazy ideas of THEM.”
The author ends a paragraph with: “She is both Turkish and a lesbian."
You can almost hear the *DUM DUM DUUUUM* music in the background.
Include essentialist remarks: “Family ties are strong in Muslim communities.”
Really? What about those Muslims who are from communities which are individualistic?
“Cemile herself is out to most of her immediate family, whom she describes as “traditional” rather than religious.”
Ah, because that separation of ‘Culture’ and ‘Religion’ is seen in a dominant N Atlantic context as ‘natural’ and ‘universal’… to the point where they violently reinforced it on the peoples and lands that they colonize(d) (Re: Christian Moderns by Webb Keane)
“Asli would register on the radar of lesbians anywhere in the world.”
Because the identity ‘lesbian’, is a universal one.
And finally, this bombardment: ”Like many other homosexual Muslims, she has been trying to negotiate between two worlds that most would see as incompatible. […]it starts with the basic clash in the understanding of the term and practice of homosexuality between her being a muslim and the Turkish culture. […] But that means walking a tightrope - one where Cemile must balance two of the most meaningful aspects of her identity: her faith and who she loves.”
*sigh* Where to begin? The assumed struggles? That sexuality is about love? The monolithic categories (e.g. ‘Turkish’, ‘Islam’, etc)
There is so much more… so much… in just.one.article.
Jasbir Puar: The campaign prompted by recent gay youth suicides promotes a narrow version of gay identity that risks further marginalisation
Now that the “It Gets Better" (IGB) DIY viral videos production has quelled a bit, perhaps this is the time to take stock of the recent spate of "queer youth suicides” and the consequences of the media coverage. Initially prompted by gay journalist Dan Savage’s response to Tyler Clementi’s and other suicides of young gay men, IGB became a veritable campaign. But in the weeks since the suicides were aggregated as a problem, specifically one of “bullying gay youth”, many have been asking what is being forgotten in the push to imagine “gay youth” as exceptionally susceptible to bullying and suicide.
As noted early on by cultural critic Tavia Nyong’o, Savage’s IGB video is a mandate to fold into urban, neoliberal gay enclaves, a form of liberal handholding and upward-mobility that echoes the now discredited “pull yourself up from the bootstraps” immigrant motto. Savage embodies the spirit of a coming-of-age success story. He is able-bodied, monied, confident, well-travelled, suitably partnered and betrays no trace of abjection or shame. His message translates to: Come out, move to the city, travel to Paris, adopt a kid, pay your taxes, demand representation. But how useful is it to imagine troubled gay youth might master their injury and turn blame and guilt into transgression, triumph, and all-American success?
Despite this critique, the IGB project should hardly be dismissed out of hand. Quite the opposite: its virality is in itself interesting, generating many touching videos, from Project Runway’s Tim Gunn's personal account of his suicide attempt to teen-produced videos such as Make It Better. It is no doubt crucial that IGB opened space for the expression of public anguish and collective mourning.
Many, however, have been struck with how these deaths have been made to serve the purpose of highlighting an exceptional class of aspirational gay citizens at the expense of others. Part of the outrage and upset generated by these deaths is precisely afforded through a fundamental belief that things are indeed, better, especially for a particular class of white gay men. For example, a blogger known as “femmephane" queried, in response to Savage’s video, whether it was possible to honour these tragedies "without turning them into an icon of suffering or of hope, without using their story for a soundbyte, without using their life as your proof of goodness, or of how the world is so liberal, or how it’s great to be gay?".
Although lauded by gay liberals for having “done something” to address the recent spate of queer youth suicides, critics note that queer people of colour, trans, genderqueer and gender nonconforming youth, and lesbians have not been inspirationally hailed by IGB in the same way as white gay male liberals. Quiet Riot Girl writes: “Basically the YouTube project suggests support for queer youth has to stay ‘on message’ and ‘upbeat’. Dissent and diversity does not seem to be encouraged. This is borne out by the vast numbers of videos being uploaded by white university-educated gay men, in comparison to those from women, transgender people, and working-class people, and people from diverse ethnic backgrounds.”. Diana Cage echoes: “We’re fans of the IGB project started by Dan Savage to address bullying and reach out to LGBT teens. It’s beautiful and well-intended, and I’m thankful it exists. But seriously, we all know it gets better a lot sooner if you are white, cisgendered, and middle class.”.
The momentum from IGB has therefore convened a fairly predictable array of US liberal gay movement anger towards conservative opposition to anti-bullying legislation, as well as gay marriage bans, even as the apparently “sudden” spate of queer suicides appears irreconcilable with the purported progress of the gay and lesbian rights movement. What these comments suggest is that IGB is based on an expectation that it was supposed to be better. And thus IGB might turn out to mean, you get more normal.
Ultimately, the best part of the viral explosion of Savage’s project is that so many have chimed in to explain how and why it doesn’t just get better. The very technological platform of the phenomenon allows the project to be critiqued from within. As the reactions demonstrate, a number of complicating concerns have emerged as a result of the viral explosion of IGB. Latoya Peterson, for example, highlights the introduction of an alternative video campaign launched by the Embracing Intersectional Diversity Project, who argue that “the lack of discussion about the effect/impact of racism on how bullying and homophobia take shape is not only dismissive, it is in fact irresponsible.”
Another concern that has been highlighted regards a widespread claim about how queer youth commit suicide more often than their straight peers, a statistic that is not necessarily accurate. Laurel Dykstra worries about seeming unsupportive or unsympathetic by questioning this oft-cited empirical “fact”, pointing out that Aboriginal youth in Canada and the US might have a higher suicide rate than queer youth. Alec Webley, meanwhile, writes: “The problem is not homophobia. The problem is bullying.” Webley argues that teenage bullying is a widespread phenomenon that affects youth who are “different” and “don’t fit in” of many persuasions; he also highlights the wide prevalence of workplace bullying. Even Barack Obama, who added his contribution to IGB several weeks ago, made note to expand the register of who gets bullied in school beyond this narrow version of gay identity propagated by Savage.
These are only a handful of the many commentators that contributed to the debate surrounding IGB. While it is clear that there is no consensus as to the most responsible reactions to the recent spate of queer suicides, it is imperative that this conversation is connected to broader questions of social justice in terms of race, class and gender. Otherwise, projects like Savage’s risk producing such narrow versions of what it means to be gay, and what it means to be bullied, that for those who cannot identify with it but are nevertheless still targeted for “being different”, It Gets Better might actually contribute to Making Things Worse.
…Yet, however based in fear and faked statistics, the demand to drive out sex workers is hard to resist. What major sporting events bring is not an “explosion” in prostitution, but an explosion in repression.
Repression! — not in evil Russia, but in liberal Canada and the UK, countries that value human rights, except for sex workers, who aren’t human. Local researchers found that “increased police harassment” of sex workers around the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics endangered their health as well as safety. There weren’t many arrests — this is Canada, eh — but much of the city became a no-go zone. The onslaught displaced them to “more isolated spaces away from health and support services, and increase[d] risks of violence and transmission of HIV/STIs.”
London’s crackdown was worse. In the first eight months of 2010 — fully two years before the Olympics — police carried out 113 brothel raids in the seven boroughs where contests and tourists would cluster. (There were only 29 raids in the capital’s other 25 boroughs.) This pace quickened as the Games drew near. In Tower Hamlets, police arrested 14 alleged sex workers in 2010, then 37 in 2011, and 44 in the first four months of 2012 alone! Toynbee Hall, an anti-poverty charity, said prostitutes were being “cleaned off the streets.”…