Project details

Start date: 1 February 2023
Status: Finished
Duration: 5 months
Country: The Netherlands
Coordinator: Julia Rosales, Mischa Tydeman, Daniela Burba

Sustainable Development Goals

reduced inequalities

PAR with LGBTq+ sex workers new to the Netherlands

This project aims at tackling the issues related to stigma against LGBTq+ sex workers new to the Netherlands. Particularly, in previous research conducted by SWAD (Sekswerker Alliantie Destigmatisering) and SOA AIDS Nederland, transgender asylum seekers and refugees in the south of the country appeared to be exposed to heightened risks of violence, isolation and difficulties in accessing transgender-specific medicaments. Indeed, most sex workers and transgender led organisations are located in the north of the country, and their outreach capacity in the areas of Brabant and Limburg is limited. Following this research, SWARP (Sex Workers Action Research Project) obtained a public grant to lead a Participatory Action Research to bring a broad community of stakeholders together to tackle such a complex issue. As PAR practitioners from SWARP, Daniela, Julia and Mischa interviewed LGBTq+ asylum seekers, municipality representatives from Tilburg, AZC and COA staff, academics and members of sex workers and LGBTq+ organisations. In the multiple rounds of data collection between February and June 2023, several needs and desires of the PAR community came to light, among which: the need for more information (on the asylum procedure, on transgender rights, on LGBTq+-specific healthcare support), the need for a transgender-specific clinic in the south, the desire of having a solid LGBTq+ community to rely on, the hope to build relationships of trust within such a community.

Moreover, many individual talents and skills emerged: from artistic and sport talents (tailoring, horse-riding, cooking, make-up, flower composition…) to organisational skills (project administration, financial auditing, team coordination…).

In the four focus groups that took place from June to July 2023, the community discussed their needs, interests and priorities, and agreed that their desired situation was to have a strong LGBTq+ community. Therefore, during the focus groups, the efforts were directed towards community building, a safe space where relationships of trust could be established. The objectives of such the creation of such a community range from addressing the group’s urgent needs as well as developing individual talents and skills. From these reflections, an action plan took form: the PAR community decided to work towards a fashion show (the Trans Sisters’ Fashion Show) with the following aims:
1. tackling the issue of stigma and self-stigma against transgender migrants and promoting bodies’ diversity;
2. putting individual strengths at the service of the community;
3. building trust within a strong LGBTq+ community by working together on a project.

Such action plan entails multiple steps, among which five sessions of tailoring workshops, a make-up academy, hair-styling and cat-walking workshops, and fundraising activities. The municipality of Tilburg offered support for the organisation of the final event, and other local organisations offered locations to host the workshops. A first workshop, consisting of a flower composition class given by a member of the PAR community, already took place at the Student Hotel in Eindhoven. The realisation of such activity boosted the confidence and the desire of the PAR community to continue working towards their planned goal. Generally speaking, the PAR community is showing great enthusiasm into playing an active role towards changing the current situation.

Situation

The main points that emerged from the data collection regarding the current situation were:
  • Heightened stigma against LGBTq+ sex workers new to the Netherlands, causing isolation, violence, lack of trust in the authorities;
  • Lack of transgender- specific healthcare support in the south of the Netherlands;
  • Lack of a migrant LGBTq+ community in the south of the Netherlands, especially among asylum seeker and refugee transgender;
  • Existence of self-stigma among transgender asylum seekers and refugees;
  • Lack of knowledge of LGBTq+ asylum seeker sex workers needs and problems among the authorities;
  • Lack of safety for LGBTq+ asylum seekers in Dutch AZC;
  • Lack of trust of LGBTq+ asylum seekers and refugees towards the police.

PAR Design

PAR-goal

  • Reducing stigma, violence and isolation for LGBTq+ sex workers new to the Netherlands in the south of the country;
  • Improve access to healthcare for LGBTq+ sex workers new to the Netherlands in the south of the country.

Outcome

The community has come together and worked towards an action plan, the Trans-Sisters’ Fashion Show. The first initiative of the action plan, a flower composition workshop, took place at the Student Hotel in Eindhoven the 20th of July 2023. Moreover, events and meetings (such as the workshops outlined in the action plan) have been organised by the PAR community, that will take place in the next months.

Impact

The impact that we are capable of witnessing at the current stage of this PAR are:

  • The creation of a PAR network where relationships of trust are being built;
  • The creation of a space where knowledge and information relevant for this group are shared (e.g. in monthly meetings and whatsapp group chats);
  • The LGBTq+ asylum seeker and refugee community has bonded with other stakeholders, in particular with the municipality of Tilburg, Seksworks (sex workers’ organisation in Brabant), and LGBTq+ activists in the south of the country, who are willing to support them;

A more accurate impact measurement of the PAR goals such as reducing stigma, violence and isolation for
LGBTq+ sex workers new to the Netherlands as well as the improvement of their access to healthcare will be
possible after the monitoring phase.

Project images