Groups opposed to the movement to decriminalize sex work in New York State took their campaign to City Hall on March 11, and among them included a transphobic United Kingdom-based organization whose representatives held a sign saying “No to sex trade, surrogacy, and transgenderism.”
The New York Alliance Against the Legalization of Prostitution, which describes itself as a coalition including women’s rights organizations, faith-based leaders, and sex trade survivors, led Monday’s event during which they slammed a recent state legislative proposal to decriminalize sex work in New York because of their belief that it would embolden pimps and sex traffickers.
State Senators Brad Hoylman of Manhattan, Julia Salazar of Brooklyn, and Jessica Ramos of Queens and Assemblymembers Richard Gottfried and Dan Quart of Manhattan have taken the lead on that bill, which they say will take sex workers out of the shadows, reducing the violence and exploitation they face while allowing law enforcement to focus on the perpetrators of human trafficking. The bill would repeal a section of the penal law that advocates for reform say has yielded discriminatory enforcement by targeting marginalized groups, including transgender women, people of color, and immigrants.
ObjectUK, the group behind the transphobic sign, told Gay City News in an email following Monday’s rally, “There is no such thing as ‘sex work’ — it is sexual exploitation and paid rape,” and that being a woman “is not a costume or something that can be achieving by modifying your body.”
The group also asserted that it is concerned that children and those with mental health problems are having transgender identities “pushed at them as a solution to their problems, which it isn’t.”
Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women’s New York City chapter (NOW-NYC), participated in the rally — a move that prompted strong backlash on social media in the days leading up to Monday’s event. But the group distanced itself from ObjectUK after the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City called NOW out for standing alongside an anti-LGBTQ group.
“We wholeheartedly agree @SDNYC that Object!’s presence at today’s rally was absolutely unacceptable,” NOW-NYC said in a tweet in the hours following the event. “We are sickened to have shared the steps with this group and want to make clear that they were not invited. We apologize for not recognizing their presence and shutting them down.”
Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, who represents parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens and has said that the push for decriminalization “does not protect women, it protects pimps,” also attended the event in support of the coalition. But like NOW-NYC, she later disavowed ObjectUK.
“I’ve just learned that an anti-trans banner was at this AM’s anti-human trafficking event,” Maloney wrote. “As a proud ally of the trans community in NY & nationwide, I strongly oppose this org or any others that express any form of transphobia.”
Melissa Gira Grant, a senior staff reporter for The Appeal, wrote that feminist Gloria Steinem was unable to attend the City Hall event but sent a statement noting that pimps and human traffickers support the decriminalization movement.
Other transphobic protestors from the UK have also appeared publicly in the US as of late to spread their message. A pair of women identifying as trans-exclusionary radical feminists, Posie Parker and Julia Long, interrupted a January meeting involving the Human Rights Campaign’s out transgender national press secretary, Sarah McBride, and told her that she has “a hatred of lesbians” and champions “the rights of men to access women in women’s prisons.”
Those messages are echoed by ObjectUK’s website, which has a list of “the harms of ‘transgenderism’” and states that “biological males identifying as ‘trans’ have already been housed in women’s prisons and have sexually assaulted women prisoners.” The group’s list also states that transgender children receive “unnecessary ‘medical’ treatment such as the administration of puberty blockers.”