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Xin’Ai: Chinese Sex Workers Helping Each Other

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Lanlan conducting legal training conducted at Xin’Ai’s office. Photos courtesy of the author.

Willa Dong reached out to us as a translator/liason for Chinese sex worker activist Lanlan, who founded the Xin’Ai Home. We’re very happy to have Lanlan’s account of working to create and grow an NGO from the ground up. For more information on detainment of sex workers in China, as well as general background, read this report by Asia Catalyst, an organization that has worked with Lanlan in the past and to whose blog Dong has contributed to.

“Let us face disease, discrimination, the police, love, and family together because we are sisters. Let us welcome the rain, and embrace the sunshine!” –Excerpt from Xin’Ai’s blog

In May 2008, four sex workers established the Xin’Ai Home, a not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, in the Dongli District of Tianjin, China. The organization was founded with the aims of promoting self-confidence and self-love, as well as fostering solidarity and mutual aid, to uphold the rights of female sex workers, eliminate violence against women, and increase awareness of women’s health. This organization primarily serves low-income female sex workers, including providing HIV/STD prevention workshops, health care referrals,  training in vocational skills, violence prevention, and women’s legal issues. As of now, over 90% of female sex workers in Dongli District have received services from Xin’Ai, and around 3000 people in total have been reached. All of Xin’Ai’s staff members are women, and currently there are three full-time staff, two part-time staff and ten volunteers.

The Healthcare Hustle

ahealthustlefeministryanDanielle is the Care Coordinator for Persist Health Project. Persist Health Project is a peer-led, community-based health and community organizing project for sex workers based in Brooklyn, New York. As Persist’s Care Coordinator, Danielle vets service providers, provides community members with supportive referrals, and helps lead Persist’s Best Practices Trainings.

While many of us dream of the ideal client who will deposit money annually into our retirement fund or enroll us in their kick-ass work health insurance plan, he probably won’t come along for all of us. Here are some things you can do to get quality health care service in the meantime without breaking the bank:

1. First things first, you could be eligible for government subsidized health insurance through Medicaid! Check with an Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare) navigator to see if you are. You can also call a Medicaid Hotline (1-800-541-2831) to check your eligibility. If you make under $1,300 a month (for a single person, that number goes up with family size) in reported income, are pregnant, or have recently had a child, you may be eligible for Medicaid. If you have recently been diagnosed with HIV you are also eligible for AmidaCare through Medicaid.

While open enrollment for the ACA has ended, if you are eligible for Medicaid or government assistance with     your health care plan you are still able to enroll without a fee. Reach out to Callen-Lorde Community Health Center if you think you might be eligible and get enrolled today!

Ask A Pro: Oral STIs and Throat Swab Protocol

Ask A Pro 1 is a our new column focusing on work and health, intended to share straightforward information about what you can do to keep yourself as safe as possible while on the job. Questions will be answered by sexual health expert Sarah Patterson, M.Ed. (See full bio below.) Questions you’d like to have answered can be sent to sarah.elspeth.patterson (at) gmail (dot) com, or to our info (at) titsandsass address. Full anonymity is guaranteed. 

Dear Ask A Pro,

I’ve been escorting for about six months and I usually don’t require that my clients wear condoms during blowjobs. I’m not having symptoms of anything, but I asked my gynecologist if I could do a test for oral STIs to be safe and she said I didn’t need it. She knows I’ve had some unprotected oral sex, but she doesn’t know about my job. I think she was trying to save me money but should I go back and tell her it’s important to me to get it? How at risk am I from giving bareback blowjobs anyway? I’ve heard that spitting isn’t much safer than swallowing but does that make a difference?

Sincerely,

Swab Seeker

Ask Ms. Harm Reduction: She’s Pregnant and on Dope

Ms. HR wants the best for you and your bun in the oven. (image via Flickr user trialsanderrors)
Ms. HR wants the best for you and your bun in the oven. Though you probably won’t want to nurse your tot if you’re on methadone after it’s born. (“Nurse the Baby” poster by Erik Hans Krause, via Wikipedia Commons)

All the queries Ms. Harm Reduction answers are actual questions from readers. If you have a quandary related to drugs, sex, work, or any of the other pitfalls and pleasures of life that you need Ms. Harm Reduction’s solution for, please write in at info@titsandsass.com.

Dear Ms. Harm Reduction,
I’m a recovering addict/alcoholic stripper (20 months clean) and I just found out my best friend at work is a pregnant heroin addict. I’m one of the only people who knows she is pregnant, and I’ve been trying to talk her into getting some prenatal care as well as food stamps and WIC because she never seems to have enough to eat. Last week I learned that she doesn’t want to go to the doctor about her pregnancy because she’s a heroin addict. The resident dope dealer/stripper [at work] (also a pretty close friend) confided in me that she is also worried about her. I always thought she was falling asleep at work because she works too much but now I realize she was nodding off, and now I also understand why she never has enough money despite doing well at dancing and why she’s so underweight. Lately, she’s been looking extra pale, dark circles under her eyes, and crying a lot. I’m worried. I know she’s hiding her addiction from me because she knows I’m in recovery and because I’m somewhat of a mentor to her and she doesn’t want to disappoint me. I also understand firsthand the painful shame that often accompanies drug addiction.

I don’t want to embarrass her or make her feel defensive, but I also want to let her know that I do love her regardless and most importantly I would like to give her some information about harm reduction. Is there a way I can go about this that won’t feel invasive? I know a former sex worker who works at a harm reduction center that will give her clean needles. I’ve also been hearing a lot about a bad batch of heroin that’s been going around my city. We’ve had a huge spike in overdoses and I want to make sure she knows it’s out there.

And finally, what the hell is a pregnant drug addict supposed to do? Will she be arrested when her baby tests positive for heroin? Drug addict or not, she needs prenatal care. I can understand the difficult position she is in.

I’m not naive enough to think I can talk her out of her addiction, but I also don’t want her to feel like she needs to hide it from me. I want her to know I’m not judging her and that I’m here to help her if she decides she needs it.

Sincerely,  

Girl On Opiates is a Great, Amazing Homey

Whore’s Bath—More Than Washing Your Pussy For The Next Client

The author indulging in the sort of whore's bath many of us take between clients. (Photo by Justin Bruce Malcolm)
The author indulging in the sort of whore’s bath many of us take between clients. (Photo by Justin Bruce Malcolm)

[The next Whore’s Bath/Solace Spa Suite event will be held at the Desiree Alliance conference on Weds, July 17th, between 11 AM and 6:30 PM. At the time of posting, we believe you can still register  for the Desiree Alliance conference, though you will no longer receive a room discount.—ed.]

Whore’s Bath is a day long retreat into spa and wellness treatments, by sex workers and for sex workers, created for the 7th San Francisco Sex Worker Festival in 2011 by sex worker community organizer Erica Fabulous. Her vision was “to provide a space for current and former sex workers to come together to focus on self care and get some much needed healing and nourishment, something we are generally giving to others while leaving ourselves without.” The bathing is both symbolic and literal. The idea behind the cleansing rituals in the Whores’ Bath offerings are cleansing the body and mind of stress, baggage, pain, confusion, tension, negative energy, drama, isolation, and much more. Water is not necessarily required. At this kind of Whores’ Bath, you can let the love and skill sharing from other providers be the source that replenishes you.

This year, the Whores’ Bath event created for the 8th San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival was held at a cute two and a half star (#PricelineHookers) hotel in the Marina district. Three rooms were rented and there was a large turf grass area with hammocks tied to palm trees where everyone ate delicious food catered by Ckiara Rose. When you arrived on the grass, you were directed to plates and tables of food and drink and could sign up for tarot readings, a tantra workshop, full body massages, reiki, a meditation workshop, foot massages, and express facials. When the sun went down, we all migrated into the bigger suite and continued to bond and commune; laughing, griping, unwinding, eating, drinking and creating new friends and new memories. The late, wonderful Robyn Few, founder of the national Sex Workers Outreach Project and a major contributor to Desiree Alliance conferences, firmly believed in the power of these kinds of good times. It was in hotel room kickbacks like this that she planted seeds in people to grow her revolutionary garden of sex worker organizers. “Hanging with whores is supposed to fucking feel good,”I can imagine her saying, while passing me a gigantic joint.