Robyn, the first time I met you, I was standing on the medium of Van Ness and Golden Gate, with a large sign promoting Prop K, dressed in nearly nothing. Cars were honking, traffic was slowing, and you jumpped out of your car, and started yelling "Hell Yeah!!"
I had no clue who you were then, but I soon got to know you, respect you, and befriend you.
It was you, and this great organization you built, that enabled me to come out of my shell, get involved (a total foreign concept for me) and make a difference. Through working with you, I met my future wife. As we all know, being a sex worker is often a lonely life for many of us, and to find my true equal in Acire, was awesome.
Talking with you on Election night only empowered me more, and I am forever in your debt for totally changing my life. By changing my life, I have been able to do the same for many others, shedding light on our work, breaking the myths and stereotypes that prevail, and educating all about the importance of what we do.
You are a true friend, and will always be on call for you. You taught me to be me.
"She's a fighter... with a mischievous streak" by Amanda B
Don't remember the first time I met Robyn but I do remember the second time: I couldn't wait to get a hug from her and was astonished she remembered me from before. She radiates love and strength and has no tolerance for bullshit. She does amazing things I keep missing like the Dec 17 march in DC or accosting various members of the SF political structure.
Being around Robyn is simultaneously healing and strengthening. She has an obvious mischievous streak that I love.
She's a fighter. I've no doubt many people beyond sex workers have been touched by her spirit.
Robyn Few "taught me the essence of diplomacy" by Susan Lopez
Robyn with Susan at right, Toledo, September 2006
Robyn, you rock! You have been an amazing inspiration to all of us, but here I want to tell you how much you have influenced my life. Your passion has never waned and you continue to be an amazing force in this movement. Thank you for everything you do.
The first time I met you was when we set up that debate on Measure Q with Melissa Farley at Cal. We'd been communicating by email, and I was pretty excited to meet you- you'd taken on rock-star like significance for me during my research into sex worker rights and the lead-up to Measure Q.
We shared a room together in Toledo a few days later where I got to know you better, and I came to admire you even more. I hadn't ever met someone so unapologetically powerful and in control of her own life as a sex worker and activist. Your openness and candor were disarming, your passion was contagious, and I was so excited to learn about activism from you. In one word- you are DYNAMIC!
You also taught me more than anyone else about unconditional love and regard. Watching you interact with people from all walks of life, people from all backgrounds and beliefs (both pro- and anti- sex worker rights) taught me the essence of diplomacy. The UN could benefit from your skills! That's very much a part of being a successful sex worker-- knowing intuitively how to talk to and relate with anyone you find yourself in front of, making them feel special and entirely at ease. I do hope you write a book on this some day.
Thank you for being the goddess you are. You are almost single-handedly responsible for reigniting the sex worker rights movement in the US, and I am so grateful to have had you as a mentor (even though you probably weren't aware you were- and still are- one to me!).
"Hummingbirds made me think of you"
The view from the deck in Marin
Of course I knew that Robyn was a big activist who was organizing a national campaign in the United States for sex workers’ rights. But she was on the other side of this big country, I didn’t know her so well, I had some questions and some fears. “Was she including sex workers from all the different communities in the campaign?” “Was SWOP USA just another big personality/one woman organization?” “Would she think I was stepping on her territory and then I’d have to spend the next few years deleting hate mail from my in box?” These questions may seem odd to anyone who doesn’t know the sex worker rights movement from working on the inside of it. Let’s just say that when a bunch of passionate people come together about a controversial issue, the sparks and fur can fly.
Then I got pregnant, very unexpectedly. Everything in my life was a jumble. For the first time I spent a lot of time with Robyn in Warsaw. She was as worried as I was about something happening to the baby at this early stage. “Don’t you dare get in that spa tub,” she cautioned as she pulled on her swimming gear with a plan to cavort with a bunch of sex worker advocates on the roof top terrace. Later she advised, “why don’t you get a little rest,” before dropping her head on to the pillow we were sharing to keep hotel costs down. She kept me awake all night with the loudest snoring I have ever heard.
Some months later she invited me to stay at her place in Marin during the 2007 Desiree Alliance conference in San Francisco. Despite all of the excitement and action in her life—more unkind people might call it chaos—I felt completely at peace and safe in her space. Jamie and I did yoga on the back deck. I set up a video camera in an unsuccessful bid to capture footage of the hummingbirds that danced around the plants. Robyn declared that the baby would be called “Blaze” or “Savannah Blaze” because she hadn’t had the guts to call her own daughter that years before (that's what she said!). Towards the end of my stay, Robyn and I held the fort at the SWOP fundraiser awaiting the lap-dancers to arrive to entertain the crowd. “I’m a fifty year old grandmother. I can’t be doing this,” she laughed as she tempted a punter to accept her as a fill in dancer. “You help out, too” she cried pointing to me. We fell about laughing as I reminded her that I was 6 months pregnant.
A few days after I left San Francisco, she sent me a note that made me feel so happy and loved. “Hummingbirds made me think of you,” she wrote. “I wish you could see the four hummingbirds surrounding the feeder, it's a frenzy. They are so beautiful. I am sure you are too.”
"so glad that Robyn answered the phone" by Vegan Vixen
I first spoke with Robyn when I needed a support network for a bad experience I had while working as an exotic dancer. A customer had groped me and to make matters worse, the manager blamed me for his behavior and fired me, saying that I should have been able to stop this from happening. The way the manager reacted was more traumatic than how the customer treated me, and I was crying for a few days afterwards and had trouble concentrating on other activities in my life. I’ve never experienced such blatant sexism before.
However, rather than pathologizing the whole industry, I wanted to advocate for rights and respect for sex workers as human beings making a living. I researched sex workers’ justice organizations and came across the Prostitutes’ Rights Organization (PRO) started by Robyn, which later became the Sex Workers’ Outreach Project (SWOP)-USA. Though the bad experience I was seeking support for happened in exotic dancing rather than prostitution, I still called PRO and I’m so glad that Robyn answered the phone. She was so supportive and assured me that I’m not alone, and that various dancers have gotten in contact with her due to unjust experiences.
That was the start to my involved in sex workers justice advocacy and I’ve stayed actively involved ever since.
I first met Robyn in person about a year later during the Measure Q campaign in Berkeley. I was so excited about this initiative to decriminalize prostitution making it onto the ballot and I was interested in being involved in the action, so I spent weeks in Berkeley. Robyn kindly hosted me at her home, which was also the headquarters for the campaign. I sometimes tell people in a lighthearted way about how I spent three weeks sleeping on Robyn’s floor… well technically on some blankets on her floor. It felt so weird sleeping in a bed again after leaving, but I wouldn’t give up the experience of staying with Robyn for anything. It was a great opportunity to bond with Robyn and additional sex worker justice advocates. I also learned a lot about social justice organizing.
Thank you for your leadership and for reviving sex worker justice advocacy in the U.S., Robyn. Other the past few years, I’ve noticed so much expansion in SWOP in this country with new chapters emerging in various localities, and you really “got the ball rolling”.