Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Police Board Meeting will go on without me...

I was working away last night on a last minute "introduction" for the package that we (meaning Sue, Ryann, and I - plus another anonymous dancer) were planning to present to the Vancouver Police Board today, when unusual sounds of coughing and gagging came from my kids' bedroom. My partner jumped up first, as I was desperately trying to finish my work so I could go to bed. I am exhausted by 9 pm everyday. (My partner does not like to be referred to as "my partner" because he feels that it implies I have a lesbian lover - all the more reason to call him "my partner," lol. We aren't married and boyfriend seems so unrepresentative of our relationship.)

Sure enough, my 2 year old son was puking up his dinner and after the first shock of seeing my poor baby going through such hell, my next shock was the realization that daycare was out and so was my presentation to the police board today.

I cried.

My partner was dutifully consoling, with the occasional unsupportive comment (like, "you're not getting paid for this anyway") thrown in for good measure. I went through all the usual self-pity messages I could throw at myself - maybe I shouldn't even do this work and be a mother; it's always me who makes the sacrifices; I'm going to be up all night getting puked on; I've already paid for the daycare for tomorrow and it's non-refundable! etc etc etc

So I pulled myself together and finished my introduction between puking bouts (which were coming strong and fast about every 20 minutes, poor baby), while my partner made up a bed on the floor in the living room (at my request) so that I could sleep next to my little sick boy and make sure most of his puking would preferably hit the bowl. The 20 minute intervals were a constant till about 4:30 am when my baby boy and I both sank into blessed sleep for one whole hour! before my partner was up at 5:30 to get ready and leave for work.

The board meeting will start in 20 minutes and Ryann and Susie are more than capable of handling it without me - I had just looked forward to my debut as stripper shit-disturber in Vancouver today, and I'm terribly disappointed that destiny has determined that that day has not yet arrived.

So without further ado, my package "introduction" for your reading pleasure.

For the past several months, there has been a significant increase in enforcement by the Vancouver Police on East End strip clubs. The newspapers have covered some of these actions towards Brandi’s and the Drake – it is no secret that police and liquor inspectors are frequenting the clubs (Drake, Cecil, Number 5 Orange, and Brandi’s) in groups of three to twenty under the pretext of decreasing gang violence.

While we do not pretend to understand the rationale for targeting strip clubs for this purpose, we are here to describe the impact that these actions are having on exotic dancers. Exotic dancers should not be considered an acceptable casualty in the war on “organized crime.”

We believe that, as is often the case with sex industry workers, we tend to be pushed aside and not considered when plans, rules, laws, objectives are created. We realize that this is not a deliberate attempt to exclude us, but an oversight based more in a lack of understanding about our industry.

With that in mind, we have asked concerned industry members to submit letters on their own behalf to help you to understand better how the enforcement is impacting us. Although many have witnessed and confided about these actions by police, they are not willing to come forward with letters. Two people were only comfortable if they could submit their letters anonymously. Some clubs have forbid their dancers and employees to be part of our presentation because they fear retaliation from the police. They think what we’re doing will just make things worse. For that reason, we come here with only four letters today.

Some of you may be happy to know that the strip club industry in BC is in serious decline. Clubs everywhere are closing down. But for us, this is terrible. We are so scared of more clubs closing, thereby reducing options for us to work, that most of us wouldn’t dare report a club in disrepair for fear that the renovations would be too costly and we’d lose another club.

So when some of the best clubs we have to choose from suddenly become places where our customers are uncomfortable patronizing them, and we are subject to humiliation and threats by police officers, we truly find ourselves in crisis.

Many industry members believe this enforcement is an attempt to ensure that prostitution is not taking place in the clubs, but the police assure us that this is not their concern. Many, even most, dancers who work in BC, work here because there is minimal to no physical contact with customers – unlike some other provinces where in most clubs contact is required. But when our incomes are so drastically impacted, we find ourselves considering work that is quite beyond our comfort zones. After all, we have families and expenses to think of. Vancouver strip clubs provide safe, clean, respectful spaces for us to work where we can entertain our customers without compromising our personal, physical boundaries.

Please read the enclosed letters with an open mind and a desire to work together for a solution, as we come in spirit to you.

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