I met Mariko Passion in fall 2012. I was presenting a workshop at the annual Models of Pride youth conference entitled “Sex Work and the LGBT community.” At the time, I identified as a former sex worker turned Starbucks barista. I looked back at my past in the sex trade as a very difficult and dark time. Working the streets was extremely dangerous. I remember being held at gunpoint by a mentally disabled man who claimed to have committed a murder just hours before. I was pretty sure he was full of crap and trying to intimidate me with an unloaded gun. It wasn’t until four hours later that I found myself barefoot, carrying a fully loaded pistol (for fear it would wind up in hands it didn’t belong), annoyed but unharmed. I left the streets behind and started booking clients online. I managed to have a relatively fun and fancy free experience, but I accepted societal views that told me I was bad, dirty and unworthy. I was ashamed. Navigating the world as a transgender woman, early on, I found little acceptance and understanding. Sex work for me was not a choice, it was a resolution.
While preparing for the workshop presentation, my slideshow somehow twisted and turned into a soliloquy of condemnation of prostitution. It reflected my current outlook on the trade and I was careful not to offer glorification. Mariko was suggested as a co-facilitator by one of the event’s directors. She was my polar opposite: an out and proud sex worker. I was extremely uneasy about sharing a project that meant so much to me with a complete stranger. What could she really have to offer anyway?
Mariko Passion was a self-proclaimed whore revolutionary and had been on the forefront of the sex workers rights movement. Like all of us, she experienced the highs and lows of the trade. A detailed account of which can be found in her upcoming memoir, “100 (K)nights of the Urban Geisha.” which she will be presenting from in her shows at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, 9pm June 14 and 28th at the Complex Theatre in Hollywood.
I was immediately smitten with this woman. Our workshop went off without a hitch and Mariko and I kept in touch. Even now that the nature of her work has evolved into the sacred art of Tantra and she identifies as a love worker, she remains adamant about sharing her experience in sex work and offering others this same opportunity to choose self determination and awareness.
Watch a video of Mariko Passion interviewing Ava Talley
Sex/Love workers of all persuasions will have the opportunity to showcase their talents at Whorrific Cabaret, a musical storytelling event that has been produced by Mariko Passion many times in different spaces, which aims to bring together sex and love workers, allies and clients who have talent and an opinion. This cabaret happens June 16th, 5:30pm at Three Clubs in Hollywood and is part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival an annual, uncurated, open-access, community-derived event celebrating freedom of expression and collaboration in the performing arts community. She has created a series of entertaining and informative videos in hopes of garnering support, fundraising the necessary capital and inspiring Sex and Love Workers and clients to un-closet themselves and proudly tell their stories. Donations from OUR community are vitally important in granting her the opportunity to continue to spread her message of self-love, self-acceptance and solidarity that I have personally benefitted from. From the outreach and development of activists in the sex worker rights movement, I have begun to develop my voice through writing. Mariko introduced me to Audacia Ray’s RedUP writer’s program and it has been an amazing experience to fall in love with and find value in sharing my story. This piece is my second published article and I am excited for more.
PLEASE DONATE BEFORE JUNE 8, 2014 TO THE FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN OF WHORRIFIC CABARET JUNE 16 at 5:30 Three Clubs Hollywood
AVA TALLEY is from Atlanta, Georgia. She now lives in Pasadena California where she has become heavily involved in transgender and sex worker rights advocacy. She enjoys writing very much but equally enjoys public speaking and educating. She co-facilitated a workshop entitled, “Sex Work and the LGBT Community”, with love worker/activist singer/songwriter Mariko Passion and is set to perform in the upcoming Whorrific Cabaret, a storytelling event for sex workers, friends/family and allies, during the Hollywood Fringe Festival (June 16th, 5:30pm at Three Clubs in Hollywood, CA) also organized by Mariko Passion. This is her second published piece.Her first published piece will be in RedUP’s next Prose and Lore.