Trans ally urges anti-violence resolution by state lawmakers

Pennsylvania resident Melanie Dante wants state lawmakers to enact an anti-violence resolution on behalf of sex workers.

Dante, 46, is an advocate for LGBT rights and the rights of sex workers. She said several local trans women who were murdered recently were perceived to be sex workers.

“I care very deeply about that,” she told PGN. 

In an effort to lessen the violence, she’s pushing for state lawmakers to pass an anti-violence resolution regarding sex workers in Pennsylvania. She received a glimmer of hope last week when a state lawmaker indicated he’d meet with her to discuss her concerns. 

“Each individual’s human rights are sacred, including the human rights of those of us who have lived the sex trade,” Dante told PGN. 

She said the term “sex work” encompasses various forms of erotic activity.

“Sex work is a broad category that includes prostitution, escorting, sugar babes, strippers, lap dancers, cam girls, dominants and submissives, massage therapists, tantric practitioners and porn models,” Dante explained. 

As an advocate for sex workers, she’s aware of far too many acts of violence against members of that community. And she speaks from personal experience. 

In June, while driving in Northeast Philadelphia, a brick was thrown at her car, shattering its windshield. She said Philadelphia police failed to respond to her 911 calls for assistance. Two young men on bicycles circled her car in a menacing manner. 

“I couldn’t get the police to come,” she said. “It was very frightening. It was only three blocks from where a woman working the streets had her throat slashed. That predator is still on the loose. Fortunately, a local towing company arrived and transported me to safety.”

Dante wants state lawmakers to pass a resolution declaring Dec. 17 as International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers in Pennsylvania. 

For the past 12 years, people around the world have observed Dec. 17 as a day to honor the lives of sex workers lost to murder and suicide. 

“My goal is to be sure no sex worker or person exploring their sexual and gender identity is forgotten, after falling victim to a violent crime leading to their death,” Dante said.

Since 2012, Dec. 17 memorial events have been held in Philadelphia, and Dante hopes the local event will grow and become more unified. 

Dante said she realizes a resolution won’t end all of the problems faced by sex workers in Pennsylvania, but that it’s an important first step. 

Last week, state Rep. Brian K. Sims (D-182nd Dist.), an openly gay lawmaker, indicated he’d meet with Dante.

Sims’ office issued this statement: “Violence in any form inflicted upon any person is reprehensible. This is especially true of those perpetrators who target marginalized communities that find it difficult or impossible to access legal recourse or protection. Of course, we’d welcome any conversations or proposals which aim to reduce this issue.”

Dante hopes to meet with Sims shortly, to ask him personally to sponsor a Dec. 17 resolution.

“I look forward to the opportunity to speak with him,” she said. “My feeling is that he has welcomed one-on-one discussion on the needs of Pennsylvania’s marginalized populations, including sex workers and trans people. We may have different perspectives and different approaches but we all want the same outcome, which is to end the violence.”