Supporting male sex workers

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What’s your opinion of sex workers? Are they acting immorally? Or are they just doing their job? Whatever you think, Midnight Blue is staunch in its opinion: sex work is a career just like any other – and this organisation aims to empower prostitutes, targeting specifically MSWs (male sex workers) and TSWs (transgender sex workers). “We never want to use the word ‘help’,” says project co-ordinator Albert Yau. “We like to think of ourselves as walking alongside sex workers and providing services that can assist them in their professional lives. Our motto is ‘sex work is work’.”

The Midnight Blue organisation started back in 2006, branching out as an arm of sex worker advocacy group Zi Teng. “Back then we thought to ourselves that there needed to be a group dedicated to MSWs,” says Yau. “All the other groups primarily focused on women, so now we’re probably the only group that specialises solely in this area.” Project officer at the organisation, Corey Leung, agrees: “Don’t you think MSWs get even more discriminated against? Policemen usually give them a harder time because of the way they’re dressed. They think they look like effeminate sissies and sometimes use gay slurs against them and TSWs.”

After seven years as a community-based organisation, Midnight Blue sees around 100 MSWs a month – some who walk in, some who contact staff through digital means and some who are visited on the organisation’s face-to-face outreach programme. Most of the centre’s visitors seem to be Mainlanders, but there are also some locals and other migrant workers from Southeast Asia. Services offered up include legal support, advocacy work, HIV and syphilis testing, a 24-hour emergency hotline and training courses which cover language, massage and safe sex practices. “We have a massage table that a sex worker friend of ours donated,” says Yau. “And now we use it to conduct massage classes. A senior massage sex worker comes in and teaches newcomers the proper techniques. You should give it a try some time [chuckles]! The classes are meant to assist newcomers to be safe and better at their jobs.”

Massage classes aside, Midnight Blue is, in essence, a network system where MSWs can share information to help one another. “For example,” says Yau, “we have a list of clients who either harassed or didn’t pay MSWs. These individuals end up in our newsletter and we send it out to all the MSWs in our database so they can be aware and protect themselves from these troublesome customers.” So, basically, sex workers go to Midnight Blue and obtain useful information and, in turn, Midnight Blue disseminates this information among its visitors. This can also be helpful when it comes to avoiding areas which are under police surveillance (not that prostitution is against the law). Tapping into the network is a good way to avoid the ‘nuisances’ that might impede an MSW’s daily work routine, says Yau.

“We just want to provide a fair working environment for MSWs and promote equality as a whole through our human rights initiatives,” says Yau. There might be a few naysayers that see this as a promotion of sex work – but what Midnight Blue is doing is looking after a group that has been left out and ostracised from society. Because if they don’t, who will?

Midnight Blue Flat B, 1/F, Fu Wah Mansion, 331 Portland St, Mong Kok, 2493 4555; www.mnbhk.org

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