We are CRASS. The Coalition of Radicals Against Sexual Stigma.

This is our fun and serious name. Because we are a fun and serious group.

Seriously, we have come together. Those of us who have experienced abortion, who are sex workers, who are HIV positive, who are lesbian or bisexual or gay or transgender. We laughed and cried about our experiences. And we realized how similar and different we are.

We are similar in that the only real “sin” we committed is that people think we had sex. We looked and we looked and the only possible reason we could see for the discrimination against us is that people think we had sex. What else did we have in common other than that?

Certainly we are not saints. But neither are those who condemn us. And we are not denying that some of us had sex when we say “people think we had sex”. But many lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender people and many people living with HIV
are virgins or asexual. But they too are discriminated against. It would seem that the sexual obsession of our society is such that any implication that we MAY have had sex is enough.

We also noted that there was a hierarchy of stigmatization based on whether, well, whether we REALLY had sex. So the HIV positive among us who got it from blood transfusions are less stigmatized than the ones who got it from sex. We also realized that people who look down us also try determine whether we enjoyed the sex or not. So the people who sought abortion from rape are less stigmatized than the teenager fooled by her boyfriend.

This sexual stigmatization forces us into certain identities related only to sexual activity. So, sex workers and LGBT persons are only sexual creatures. Not the mothers, wives, sisters, brothers, husbands, and friends that we also happen to be. It is this politics of identity that keeps us from reaching out to others who we think are not like us even if they too are suffering from alienation, oppression, exploitation, discrimination and stigma. This politics of identity hides the fact that among us, we can have HIV positive, transgender sex workers. Or HIV positive, sex workers who have had an abortion.

Whatever our multiple identities however, we are social activists. We are concerned about the effects of the stigmatization not only on ourselves as individuals but also to others. We condemn the violence, the lack of access to jobs, social protections and benefits that often cause people like us to live lives of isolation and poverty.

We know why people are so obsessed with sex. Because it is the ultimate game of control for all those who want to smother the creative and democratic spirit that is a threat to all systems of oppression. That is why we find that institutions and people who benefit from the status quo keep trying to impose some sort of rules on us. Fascist systems don’t like happy and creative people who are less likely to obey and who can’t follow the rules.

It is funny though how the sex workers among us notice that the ones who are most likely to seek nurturing and solace from us are the moralists. As individuals they have so much to lose in denying themselves pleasures. Poor, poor, fascists.

So the fun part of us insists on sex, and fun, and friendship and solidarity and joy in struggle.

We insist that all social relationships, not just sexual ones, should be satisfying, safe and consensual.

At first we thought what fun it would be to call for a party and invite all our friends. Or maybe call a press conference. But then we realized that the moralists would just make it about us again. We would become our individualized, sexualized, identities again.

When in truth we aren’t individuals as much as we are just like everyone else. It is people’s capacity to pretend that we are somehow different that allows the stigmatization and alienation. In truth we are you and you are us. What we need is a politics of solidarity and not of identity.

So we shall not come out as individuals. But we will be there for all those who suffer from oppression, exploitation, alienation and stigmatization. We promise to bring pleasures and joy to our comrades.

How? We will be there at the next rally or press conference or…Maybe just online. We don’t know yet. Like pleasure we will be multiple and fluid and..well..fun!

And if some people find us to be CRASS..well..thanks!!!!

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Note: The Philippine Sex Workers Collective is a founding member of CRASS. The foregoing article is an introductory note about CRASS. Join us in the struggle. Be CRASS


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