I came out rather late, while I was serving in the military, hundreds of miles away from my parents, siblings and children. I was stationed in Fort Myers, Virginia, and I worked part-time in Washington, D.C. This was also the time when I started transitioning and doing sex work. Since then, I have seen thousands of black and brown LGBTQ people tossed into the streets for being themselves, often as teenagers. And, honestly, the same or worse may have happened to me had I came out when I wanted to.

My first time in a shelter was in 1990, at Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV) on D Street, the largest homeless shelter in the Washington, D.C. area. It was winter and I was alone with very little, but soon some welcoming people found me and took me in as a member of their small but tight-knit family. I have become a mother figure or an aunt to many since then, countering the violence and trauma so many of us have endured.

Many of the older girls at this shelter (I was 23 back then and many others were 18, 19 years old) did sex work to keep ourselves up and to take care of family—real and acquired. We did whatever fed us and put money in our pockets so we could survive. Some of us survived and are here to tell the tale, but many more are not. I mourn them still as if they were like my own much-loved children.

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Decriminalizing Sex Work makes the entire Black Community safer by Tamika Spellman

Sept. 9th, 2019