Sorry y'all! I've disappeared the last couple months, focusing my energy into getting this law school underway, but it's all coming together now and I thought I would publicly share my personal statement. This is probably my second to last draft, so I anticipate feedback!
As an undergraduate history student at San Francisco State University, I was always drawn to stories of labor action, progressive social change and communities flourishing despite facing seemingly insurmountable adversity. Stories of people actively shaping and reshaping the world in which they live to provide a better future for themselves and their families ingrained themselves into my psyche more so than the important survey knowledge of dates and locations, a crux for any serious history student. Since graduation, my interest in stories of change has only grown and I am hoping to earn a law degree to not only continue learning from these kinds of stories, but to also add myself to them, taking strides to make positive changes in the world around me, especially in the realm of labor and the sex industry.
While doing research in the campus Labor Archives my junior year of college, I happened across stacks of articles about the radical unionization of the Lusty Lady peepshow theater in 1997 and their momentous move to become a co-operative business in 2003, changing my unforeseeable future. That summer I became a dancer at the Lusty Lady, the world’s only unionized and worker-owned adult entertainment facility, consistently working until 3am, when needed, throughout my graduating year. As soon as I passed my probationary period I became an active member of both the SEIU local 1021 and the co-operative, filling some of the most crucial administrative positions.
In my mere two-and-a-half-years as a sex-worker, working for some of the safest, most independent, and feminist-minded places, I have still personally experienced and witnessed others grapple with social and judicial challenges I would not wish upon anyone. As a sex-worker, stigmatization from friends, family members, potential employers, school administrators, landlords and social workers is a constant reminder that sex-work, even in its most legal forms, is not seen as a moral or legitimate profession, resulting in fear, isolation, lost jobs, lost children, closed doors and fewer opportunities. In my experience, the psychological and, unfortunately sometimes, physical harm, would not be so pervasive if the work were seen as equal to that of a retail clerk, banker or another professional, like a lawyer.
Six months ago, I started working with the Bay Area chapter of SWOP (Sex Worker Outreach Project), a national social justice network dedicated to the end of sex industry stigma, harm and inequality through peer support, education and advocacy. With SWOP, I have learned to work on a team to reach out to others in need of health services, legal resources and, sometimes most importantly, a simple friendly ally to a sex-worker, former sex-worker or family member of someone in the business. I have had the honor of speaking on panels, representing sex-workers in school lecture halls and creating public events that bring the voices of sex-workers to academics, other activists and each other. With them I have realized that change, however small, can be accomplished with passion and dedication to hard work.
As my disgruntled grandma likes to remind me, getting into this line of work has been completely my choice and, according to her, delving into sex-work activism is a “nice thing to do,” but relegated to “those people,” unworthy of my or anyone else’s attention. Part of what my grandma says is true: though I grew up in a lower-middle class family, I am fortunate enough to have an education and enough work experience that I can do anything to pay my expenses. However, I cannot disagree more with her insistence of tolerance for the existing social conditions. As I have learned from studying the trajectory of other movements in this country, including civil rights, gay rights, feminist and labor, modification of and innovation upon the status quo only occurs when people from all walks of life, marginalized and privileged, come together and act for equality, not only in their own interest, but in that of others’ as well.