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This research paper explores the various forms of oppression transwomen of color sex workers (TWCSW) face due to their unique life histories and demographic backgrounds, and argues that decriminalizing sex work is the best course of action to minimize the marginalization of TWCSW. Due to the large presence transwomen of color hold within the sex work community, as well as the diverse array of systemic risk factors which increase transgender women of color's likelihood of engaging in sex work (racism/colorism, transmisogyny, familial rejection, homelessness/imprisonment, school dropout, poverty, lack of alternative employment opportunities, limited access to alternative emotional support systems), sex work legislation disproportionately affects transwomen of color. Because TWCSW tend to work in poorer neighborhoods, suffer from higher rates of HIV infection, and face higher instances of sex worker-profiling, discrimination, abuse, and arrest, sex work legislation disproportionately harms TWCSW (compared to white/cisgender sex workers). While "harm reduction" tactics may be effective for other sex worker demographics, they are not enough to improve TWCSW's quality of life because TWCSW are more likely to distrust law enforcement, healthcare providers, and social services. Therefore, in order to effectively fight the oppression of transwomen of color (the demographic group hurt most frequently and severely by sex work legislation), sex work must be decriminalized. Decriminalization of sex work has proved effective in countries outside of the U.S., and is endorsed by Amnesty International as the best way to empower sex workers and increase their quality of life.


Honorable Mention, James E. McLeod Freshman Writing Prize, 2016