Local PDX artists BOUD and Bad have created original art in honor of Ashley Moody, a trans sex worker of color who was a beloved member of the sex work community in Portland. Cat Hollis of Haymarket Pole Collective interviewed Ashley Moody’s friends and family to learn more about Ashley’s life, and to help tell her story. The art process was documented through photography and videography by local artist Valentine.
Ashley Moody was an erotic adult service provider living and working in Portland. While outwardly vivacious and playful, Ashley was deeply impacted by struggles with mental health.
Ashley’s died from a lack of health and mental wellness resources, by suicide — an injustice we see far too often in our communities. Access to mental health resources are both vital and lacking in our society. Sadly, but unsurprisingly, these resources are particularly difficult for the most vulnerable among us to obtain.
Society needs to extend increased access to wellness resources, particularly for sex workers and people of color. Ashley’s community believes that with increased access to health and mental health resources, Ashley would still be with us today.
With this project, we hope to honor Ashley Moody and the impact she had on our community. We also aim to destigmatize mental health — specifically within the sex work community — to raise awareness about the ways in which racism, transphobia, and criminalization lead to the neglect and mistreatment of trans sex workers of color, and ultimately to connect the sex workers with resources that will keep them well and safe.
Irene Merrow, Community Manager & Publicist
Sex Workers Know What Justice Looks Like
Even legal, licensed sex workers were explicitly left out of PPP loans. So, when the strip clubs closed down, local organizers knew no one was coming to save them. Like many times throughout history, sex workers self organized. Sex workers are part of a multigenerational history of mutual aid, yet our stories of resilience are often not told.
Portland’s #OldProProject City coordinator Valentine, in partnership with Haymarket Pole Collective, helped advocates gather oral histories and documents to preserve the stories and lived experiences of Ashley Moody, an important community care giver and adult service provider who took her own life.
The Portland team has put together a film reel and created a beautifully illustrated banner to preserve Moody’s impact on the Portland sex work community, and to honor her role in sex work history. By giving voice to Moody’s story, they hope to galvanize the people of Portland and inspire them to fight for sex workers’ rights.
As an artist herself, Valentine shot and edited the film reel, and local sex worker and sex worker activist Cat Hollis, founder of Haymarket Pole Collective, provided the research for the project. Local PDX artists BOUD and Bad collaborated to create the illustrated banner.
This video will debut on January 25, 2021 as part of a live #OldProProject YouTube event that will stream on oldproproject.com.
This will serve as an opportunity to remember Moody’s life, and to remind the city of Portland that sex workers — particularly trans sex workers of color — are neglected and denied access to the mental health resources they need to survive. It will be both a tribute and a call to action. The fight for sex workers’ lives in the city of Portland is not over, but the people in this fight are not alone.
“I think this is a really amazing step to remind people to care for and idolize, not only the beauty, but the fracturedness of our past traumas. And to take that in context with the care that we give,” says Cat Hollis.
Contact; Irene Merrow, Community Manager & Publicist firstname.lastname@example.org
(207) 400-07869 (cell)
This History is for Everyone
The Oldest Profession Podcast, in partnership with Sex Work Rights, SWOP Behind Bars, and the Sex Work Project at the Urban Justice Center is funding an art build in five cities across the country to celebrate the anniversary of the first sex worker led protest in the United States. The #OldProProject is a nationwide community collaboration that brings the lives of historical sex workers to life through a variety of art mediums, from music videos and murals, to posters and zines.
The #OldProProject provides resources to sex worker artists and advocates to celebrate our shared history. #OldProProject is working with City Coordinators connected to active decriminalization efforts in five cities. Those City Coordinators, in collaboration with their community, proposed art projects to capture and celebrate their local old pro history. This year we are working with communities in New York, NY, New Orleans, LA, Portland, OR, Seattle, WA and San Francisco, CA.
On January 25th, 1917, 300 sex workers in San Francisco led a protest to fight the imminent closure of their brothels, where they lived and worked. Their basic demands were ignored but their story continues to inspire living sex worker rights advocates.The #OldProProject seeks to celebrate this historic moment, which you can learn more about on The Oldest Profession Podcast episode, Why January 25th Matters.
“It’s important to remember that we’re part of a multi generational struggle, and that sex workers have been resisting their criminalization since the beginning,” explains Savannah Sly, National Coordinator of the #OldProProject.
Dr. Charlene Fletcher PhD, historian for the #OldProProject says, “This history is for everyone. These stories belong to all of us and they should be celebrated.”
All of the projects being undertaken in cities across the US can be viewed on the #OldProProject website. The national team, as well as local artists and advocates working with the project can be reached through our publicist, Irene Merrow.