Every year the Kaiser Foundation hosts National Harm Reduction Awards. I nominated someone last year who didn't make the cut. But they called me up this year to invite me to nominate someone again. In fact, they have called three times (once they left a message) and emailed me once.
I forwarded that email to most of my contacts and I assume a few them forwarded it on even further. These particular awards are perhaps not the most suitable for the work of the people I would normally nominate. These awards focus on addictions and mental health issues.
But it did make me think about how awards might affect my community.
I feel very strongly that sex industry workers should be nominating the shit out of each other. National awards from reputable organizations speak volumes about the integrity and contributions of the winners.
Saying that "Random Hard-working Sex Worker Activist Name Here" who is a member of "Random Sex Worker Organization Here" won the National Harm Reduction Award will do wonders for our movement in Canada. It may not have obvious, immediate impacts, but it gives us that much more credibility and recognition for our labours.
I want the political community and general public to witness our humanity. It is our humanity and passion that contradicts their assumptions. How can we be considered so different if we are capable of the kind of organized movement that we are today? In fact, sex workers have a long history of organized protest - from refusing to pay fines and opting for jail time instead of succumbing to dirty police tactics in 1899 (and who knows what before that?!) to sewing their mouths shut in Bolivia last week. Sex workers are strong, resilient, and able to self-advocate in profound, creative ways.
I can think of at least one sex worker for every award category in this year's Kaiser Foundation event, if it was simply about harm reduction and not about addictions. The men, women, and trans activists I know are incredible.
I would like to be a catalyst to recognize the amazing works of my colleagues. I will definitely make nominations for sex workers I know for future awards. And I encourage you all to do the same. If you live in Canada and know amazing sex workers, nominate them for awards. Let's keep the good energy that has propelled this movement from the beginning.