On August 1, Cecilia Gentili, the policy director at the HIV/AIDS-prevention nonprofit Gay Men’s Health Crisis, squeezed into the back room of The Three Diamond Door bar in Bushwick, for what had been billed in email chains and direct message groups as a “Pizza Party: Electoral Edition.” In some ways, the event was as standard as they come—a group of activists getting their friends together to talk strategy—but for the 46-year-old Gentili, it was special, because the activists were sex workers and their allies.

“Twenty years ago when I came to the United States and did sex work I could have only dreamed of more than 100 sex workers in the same room,” Gentili told Splinter a few days after the event. “That had always been a dream and being able to live that is important.”

The pizza party was also special because of its surprise guest, New York State Senate candidate Julia Salazar. The Three Diamond Door was so packed that, when Salazar arrived a bit late, she had to dip and weave to reach the bar.

A political candidate with a legitimate shot at elected office openly supporting the rights of sex workers is a relatively new thing in America. But times are changing, and sex workers are flexing their political muscles with ever-increasing strength across the country. They’re getting involved in local electoral politics more deeply than ever, by volunteering for political campaigns, researching viable challengers to punitive district attorneys, and even running for office themselves.

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The Rise of the Sex Workers Rights Lobby by Emma Whitford

Aug. 17th, 2018