Yesterday afternoon, the feds raided RentBoy.com’s Union Square offices, shut down its website and arrested its executives. This was very fucked up, and the wonderful, incredible Mx. Justin Vivian Bond has taken to Facebook to explain to all of us exactly why.
Bond was asked to make a statement to the New York Times about what went down at Rentboy.com (which, FYI, is a New York-based global escort enterprise with over 10,500 workers, reportedly receiving 500,000 visitors per day around the world). She said she wasn’t sure what they’d print, so she decided to share the entire transcript of her statement in all its glory. It’s an absolute must read for anyone that cares about the rights of LGBT people:
I think that to many in our community this feels like a throwback to when the police raided gay bars in the 50s and 60s. Despite the salaciousness of the language in the complaint I don’t think the charges will stick because basically the site provides a forum for people to meet and make personal arrangements on their own. Rentboy.com may be a provocative title but sexy, fun language is not illegal. This invasion of a consensual hook-up site which is run for and by members of the LGBT community feels like a real slap in the face after gentrification, and the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations drove so many NYC gay bars out of business and forced people to meet online instead of in person.
Because of this raid 1,000s of independent workers worldwide will not be able to pay their rent this month and they are concerned about what this means for their safety and legal protection. There is a movement happening and many organizations creating Know Your Rights seminars this week. This is about workers’ rights–labor rights and equal protections for all kinds of workers without basic access to legal and healthcare support because they are deemed criminals or denied access to banking, housing or Facebook, in all sectors of the Adult industry, not just escorts. It’s about sex phobia and public shaming. Sex workers are strong and have organizations like Urban Justice Center and SWOP Sex Workers Outreach Project whom you might want to reach out to.
Mainly, I feel that this is a perfect example of the hypocrisy of mainstream patriarchal culture and the government. Queer people are now invited to join in the systems of oppression -i.e. the military and marriage- that straight people have supported and engaged in for years but when it comes to freedom of choice as to what to do with our bodies women and the LGBT Community are still being exploited by the government and power hungry individuals for the purposes of financial gain and career advancement. I mean, is this really a “Homeland Security Issue?” I don’t think so. A gay man in Brooklyn who happens to have a “rimchair” is hardly the equivalent of someone on a commuter train with an AK-47. Years of undercover work and untold amounts of city and federal taxpayer dollars were spent on this this undercover sting operation and who was being harmed? Nobody.
Preach, Mx. Bond.