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Sex Work, Queer Economic Justice, and Communicative Ethics  

Carly Leilani Fabian

There are various academic and activist perspectives on sex work as an area of inquiry at the intersection of queer, feminist, and class politics. Exploring this topic with an eye toward a communicative ethic helps to foreground consent and mutuality when considering some of the major theoretical topics connected with sex work. A historiography of the sex wars of the 1970s and 1980s illuminates how public discussions about feminism and sexuality were influenced by the emergence of pornography as a major media force. Taking seriously the refrain “sex work is work,” how labor can be a useful analytic for connecting sex work to the broader economy is considered, while also pointing to the limits of categories such as “sex,” “work,” and “labor.” Situating sex work in the contemporary context of neoliberal and paternalistic rationalities of the state, how advocates for sex workers are caught in a communicative double bind is discussed. Taking into account shared commitments among scholars of sex work in the communication discipline, alternatives to criminalization provide scholars and activists a place to start in imagining a future that is safer for queer bodies and practices.


LGBTQ+ Workers  

Elizabeth K. Eger, Morgan L. Litrenta, Sierra R. Kane, and Lace D. Senegal

LGBTQ+ people face unique organizational communication dilemmas at work. In the United States, LGBTQ+ workers communicate their gender, sexuality, and other intersecting identities and experiences through complex interactions with coworkers, supervisors, customers, publics, organizations, and institutions. They also utilize specific communication strategies to navigate exclusionary policies and practices and organize for intersectional justice. Five central research themes for LGBTQ+ workers in the current literature include (a) workplace discrimination, (b) disclosure at work, (c) navigating interpersonal relationships at work, (d) inclusive and exclusive policies, and (e) intersectional work experiences and organizing. First, the lived experiences of discrimination, exclusion, and violence in organizations, including from coworkers, managers, and customers, present a plethora of challenges from organizational entry to exit. LGBTQ+ workers face high levels of unemployment and underemployment and experience frequent microaggressions. Queer, trans, and intersex workers also experience prevalent workplace discrimination, uncertainty, and systemic barriers when attempting to use fluctuating national and state laws for workplace protections. Second, such discrimination creates unique risks that LGBTQ+ workers must navigate when it comes to disclosing their identities at work. The complexities of workplace disclosure of LGBTQ+ identities and experiences become apparent through closeting, passing, and outing communication. These three communication strategies for queer, trans, and intersex survival are often read as secretive or deceptive by heterosexual or cisgender coworkers and managers. Closeting communication may also involve concealing information about personal and family relationships at work and other identity intersections. Third, LGBTQ+ people must navigate workplace relationships, particularly with heterosexual and/or cisgender coworkers and managers and in organizations that assume cisheteronormativity. Fourth, policies structure LGBTQ+ workers’ lives, including both the positive impacts of inclusive policies and discrimination and violence via exclusionary policies. Fifth and finally, intersectionality is crucial to theorize when examining LGBTQ+ workers’ communication. It is not enough to just investigate sexuality or gender identity, as they are interwoven with race, class, disability, religion, nationality, age, and more. Important exemplars also showcase how intersectional organizing can create transformative and empowering experiences for LGBTQ+ people. By centering LGBTQ+ workers, this article examines their unique and complex organizational communication needs and proposes future research.