Statement by STRASS (Sex Workers Union/Act-Up Paris) and Acceptess-Transgenre
Translated by Danica Jorden
Vanesa had left South America two years ago, and was supporting her widowed mother and siblings back in Peru through her work in Paris. The night of her death, she was standing up to a gang attempting to rob her client in the Bois de Boulogne park, after alerting her coworkers to run and hide.
Once again, we are in shock. During the night of 17-18 August, we received several messages and calls from our coworkers in the Bois de Boulogne about Vanesa’s assault and murder. She was attacked by seven or eight men. This was the result of past attacks. It was probably a gang of men who assault sex workers and their clients in order to rob them. The phenomenon of gangs of men who attack sex workers is growing throughout the Paris region. Women who try to organize to protect themselves are later picked off separately.
Today we cry over this loss and feel alone in our grief, as usual. The murder of trans women sex workers is not rare. It is a recurring, violent phenomenon that we are constantly trying to make the public and authorities aware of.
Unfortunately, as usual, we are doing this alone.
Why does the life of a trans woman and sex worker matter so little?
Why are our deaths treated as something unimportant? Why do the papers write so ignorantly and disrespectfully about the death of a “transvestite prostitute” and mock our gender identity up until our death? Is the life of a whore worth nothing?
We have the strange feeling in our hearts that even our deaths arouse no emotion.
For us, there is no day of national mourning, no official commemoration. Politicians stay mute. Once the sensationalist headlines have faded, the silence returns, and we must go back to work with fear in our hearts, wondering which one of us will be next.
Our deaths have been normalized. The death of a whore is like a character in a video game; if you kill her, it’s not serious. It’s like a sexist joke that everyone laughs about and then quickly forgets and moves on.
When a trans woman is murdered, she’s just a “tranny,” this insult we hear every day on the street and face every day of our lives, even from political movements that claim to be progressive and feminist.
You are not a real woman.
We know perfectly what that means, as if we are not normal humans who have the right to have our lives respected. We are treated like a subspecies that can be crushed like an insect, to the point that the police, who are paid to protect normal citizens, harass us on a daily basis, stick us with fines, cut up our tents, call us “mister” to humiliate us, and place us in men’s cells where we are assaulted by fellow detainees.
As a murdered migrant, she couldn’t possibly have any attachment to France. Just one less undesirable. There won’t be anyone to protest when her file is closed without follow-up, because her family, if she hasn’t rejected them, are too far away to do anything.
Right now, we are her family. We remain alive and we keep her in our memory. We continue to live in the hope that through our resistance, things will improve a little for the younger girls who will take our place.
Everyone knows the political, legal, administrative and social context in which we live. Each person shall understand and decide what it is that facilitates this sort of violence. We don’t need to keep insisting that it be denounced, which we have been doing for so long already.
We are only left with sadness, bitterness and anger.
Over the next few days we shall think about our response and issue a call to mobilize against the violence.
STRASS & Acceptess-T
On August 24, several hundred gathered to celebrate the life of Vanesa Campos Vásquez.