TS CANDII HAD ALREADY BEEN AWAKE for seven hours when she stepped up to a bouquet of microphones at the base of the elaborately carved Great Western Staircase in the New York State Capitol on the morning of May 7. Behind her stood more than one hundred sex workers and advocates, some holding up bright red glittery stilettos cut out of cardstock. The stairwell echoed with shouts of “Sex worker rights are human rights!” a chant Candii and her bus mates had practiced at dawn, riding from New York City through the Lincoln Tunnel and up I-87 North to rally in Albany and meet with members of the State Senate and Assembly.
Candii, a twenty-five-year-old black trans woman and a leader with the criminal justice group VOCAL-NY, told a cluster of business-suited legislative staff and members of the capital press corps that she has faced discrimination since she was thirteen: at home, at school, at work. “I got in trouble in school for wearing a bow in my hair,” she recalled. “The teachers pointed it out to my parents, and eventually my parents threw me out due to my gender. I was out on the street. I needed money to eat, I needed places to sleep, I needed to live. So, I started selling sex to survive.”