The Outlaw Project

Mission: The Outlaw Project is based on the principles of intersectionality to prioritize the leadership of people of color, transgender women, gender non-binary and migrants for sex worker rights. Ensuring our rights and health as a first step will ensure the rights and health of all sex workers.

Background: The foundation of the Outlaw Project is the culmination of three years of planning by coordinator Monica Jones and supporting advocates. The project is named in honor of Sharmus Outlaw—transgender woman of color and sex worker rights advocate--who passed away on July 7, 2016.

The project works on the following priority areas: economic justice for self sufficiency; harm reduction and health promotion; community-led solutions to violence and to mitigate the impact of oppression because of criminalization; decriminalization of sex work and removal of other repressive laws and policies.

We approach all of these issues with the following vision. Sex workers of color should not have to beg for the scraps of white-led organizations. The Outlaw Project is led by people of color from its foundation. The Outlaw Project is devoted to the best interests of sex workers across the board (ie all sex workers of all nationalities, all races, all genders) but we start with the most vulnerable communities—our own communities of color--to work our way out of repression and into empowerment for all races, genders, and nationalities. The Outlaw Project is a profound approach to how we consider sex worker rights organizing in the US, along the lines that Sharmus Outlaw would have also envisaged. Sharmus Outlaw had to struggle economically for all the years of her activism and remained firm in her advocacy for economic opportunities for trans women of color as an essential part of social change.

Context: The Outlaw Project exists in a situation in the United States where sex work, sex workers, transgender women and immigrants are oppressed by laws and policies against sex work. This situation has been described in several reports--to which we contributed--by the Best Practices Policy Project and partners submitted to the United Nations (http://www.bestpracticespolicy.org/resources/reports/). We want decriminalization, to do this we need strong leadership of color so that all can be freed from oppression. We want to be able to benefit from our labor as sex workers, to do this we must understand our history of how our labor was stolen from us, so that we may undo that repression. While the oppression of sex workers overall in the US is better understood because of our work at the United Nations, the history of why this is more so for some groups is less understood. The Outlaw Project is based on a deep analysis of why sex workers of color in particular are oppressed by policing and incarceration in the United States.

Our analysis: As a result of the Atlantic Slave Trade, African bodies were used as to create profit for white people. White elites used this stolen money/wealth to take over the lands of the indigenous people all across the Americas. The people who are impacted by this history cannot to this day reap the benefits of our bodies. Even after the "sexual revolution" where we were told we can own our bodies, this is still not so, as the US continues that "no you can't" policy by policing our bodies still to this day. Ending the policing of our black bodies is part of our sex worker rights revolution. We are inspired by economic revolutionaries such as those involved in Black Wall Street. Money produced by Black Wall Street stayed in the community (more than 30 times longer than money produced by any other groups) to benefit communities of color. We want sex workers of color to benefit from their labor, to keep money in communities of color, to raise families and to create a stronger society. This is why we seek fundamental change, rooted in economic justice.