LGBT ad­vo­cates help put At­lanta’s ‘ban­ish­ment or­di­nance’ on hold

GA Voice - - News -

Peggy Denby, pres­i­dent of the MPSA, was the only per­son who spoke in fa­vor of the or­di­nance at the Feb. 25 work ses­sion, say­ing she was par­tic­u­larly want­ing “men” and “male” pros­ti­tutes out of her neigh­bor­hood.

On Feb. 26, Denby said she didn’t know how to re­act to the city’s de­ci­sion to hold the ban­ish­ment or­di­nance. She also didn’t know yet if she would be se­lected to be on the work­ing group.

“I don’t know yet and won’t know un­til we see what the mayor has in mind. It may give us a more com­pre­hen­sive piece of leg­is­la­tion — I hope that it re­tains the ban­ish­ment part,” she said.

Steve Gower, who is gay and vice pres­i­dent of MPSA, has spent a great deal of time chron­i­cling pros­ti­tu­tion in Mid­town. He and the MPSA be­lieve the most preva­lent prob­lem is among what they call “trans­ves­tite” pros­ti­tutes.

He said the for­ma­tion of a work group may ac­tu­ally ben­e­fit those, like him, seek­ing to have ban­ish­ment en­forced.

“I don’t think it would hurt to have a well thought-out or­di­nance and to ex­plore the var­i­ous ap­proaches. If there is that much con­tro­versy then it would be good to ed­u­cate peo­ple about our ex­pe­ri­ence with this prob­lem, and tak­ing this ap­proach would give more time to draw th­ese is­sues out,” he said.

“But some­thing like a ban­ish­ment pro­vi­sion or sim­i­lar would be in­stru­men­tal in ad­dress­ing the prob­lem. I would cer­tainly hope that this task force would have rep­re­sen­ta­tives from neigh­bor­hoods af­flicted with street pros­ti­tu­tion, in­clud­ing us,” Gower said.

‘Ho­mo­pho­bia, trans­pho­bia, racism’

Speak­ers against the pro­posed or­di­nance in­cluded Dee Dee Cham­blee, a long­time trans­gen­der ac­tivist and founder of La Gen­der, and Paulina Helm-Her­nan­dez, co-di­rec­tor of South­ern­ers on New Ground, an LGBT or­ga­ni­za­tion serv­ing those in the ru­ral South.

Cheryl Court­ney-Evans, an­other trans­gen­der ac­tivist and founder of Trans­gen­der In­di­vid­u­als Liv­ing Their Truth, submitted a let­ter to the com­mit­tee urg­ing mem­bers to not sup­port the or­di­nance.

“The trans­gen­der com­mu­nity is al­ready a marginal­ized one in the City of At­lanta. We have faced dis­crim­i­na­tion and been shut out of hous­ing and em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, as well as fallen vic­tim to pro­fil­ing, ‘re­volv­ing door jus­tice’ and jail­ing around a ‘pros­ti­tu­tion prob­lem,” Evans said.

“Now At­lanta Chief of Po­lice Turner has al­lowed the vo­cif­er­ous com­plaints of a rel­a­tively few (and per­haps well-con­nected) Mid­town res­i­dents con­vince him to de­velop this or­di­nance that will not solve this prob­lem, but ex­ac­er­bate it,” she said.

A let­ter op­pos­ing ban­ish­ment was also submitted and signed by LGBT or­ga­ni­za­tions Ge­or­gia Equal­ity, Jus­tUs ATL and La Gen­der.

“The or­di­nance is rooted in ho­mo­pho­bia, trans­pho­bia and racism. We fall prey to a myr­iad of al­le­ga­tions that are base­less sim­ply be­cause we are viewed as ‘dif­fer­ent.’ It is a re­sult of life­long dis­crim­i­na­tion that we are forced into un­der­ground economies and are sub­ject to the most egre­gious forms of vi­o­lence, bul­ly­ing and marginal­iza­tion. By and large, en­gag­ing in sex work is an act of sur­vival, not of choice,” states the let­ter.

But Gower and the MPSA ar­gue that streetlevel pros­ti­tu­tion is a pub­lic health haz­ard, that drugs are brought into the neigh­bor­hoods and lead to vi­o­lence, and that used con­doms and used nee­dles dis­carded on lawns and in the streets can be picked up by chil­dren caus­ing in­jury.

Stiff back­lash to At­lanta Po­lice Chief Ge­orge Turner’s pro­posal to ban­ish those con­victed of pros­ti­tu­tion caused the mea­sure to be put on hold while a task force rec­om­mends ways to deal with il­le­gal sex work. (File photo)

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