History of the TLC
The TLC was born in 2000 at a Sexual Freedom Coalition Conference, entitled Let's Start the Real Sexual Revolution. One of the speakers, a disabled man, James Palmer revealed his sadness at being a virgin in his mid 40's. When his speech ended, he was surrounded by a sea of loving arms, and a promise from the lesbian commune Rockbitch that he would be a virgin no longer.
The happy James originated the TLC website, and managed it for several years on a voluntary basis. Finally, his continued starvation of love and sex did not improve and he became disheartened at running a site for other people to enjoy the pleasures he could not afford for himself.
A small group of people, including IUSW founder, Ana Lopes and Professor Petrouska Clarkson, James Palmer and Dr Tuppy Owens had become enthusiastic about starting TLC as an educational academy, which which would raise funds to train sex workers and disabled people. A pilot study was launched and it became immediately obvious that sex workers are not at all willing to be told how to work. Nor were there likely to be any funds forthcoming. The group dissipated, and TLC was left with just a website and a skeletal team. In Autumn 2005, a couple who worked together as sex workers in Stratford, Paul and Susie, agreed to join TLC and manage the website.
A meeting of sex workers was arranged to gather ideas on what the website should contain, and we set off on a new design. Then Paul and Susie suffered a succession of health problems and gave up.
Eventually we found our current volunteer to develop an accessible site, which is updated regularly.
In 2007, Dr Tuppy Owens was invited to speak at the Different Strokes AGM. She thought it very important to introduce the audience to a sex worker, so everybody could see what nice people they can be, and useful to help stroke survivors who cannot communicate verbally. Pru was her "surprise guest", and she stood up and spoke eloquently.
In the same year, the Sexual Health and Disability Alliance devoted half a day to the subject of sex workers and disability. Criminal Lawyer John Blandford came and spoke about the law, and Ariana Chevalier came and spoke about her career in sex work. She stressed the importance sex is for a person's health (using a flip chart) and described her services. She made the suggestion "Just as a residential home or college for disabled people has written in its brochure 'priest available to visit' so should it have 'sex worker available to visit'". This met with a round of applause.
When the the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill 2007 came out and we saw that the buying of sex was to be criminalised, disabled members of Outsiders, academics and sex workers decided to demonstrate against this. Our demo took place in the sunshine on Tuesday 26th February 2008. Around fifty people lined the south side of Westminster bridge, many in wheelchairs. There were cameras galore, with a TV documentary team and journalists fighting to interview demonstrators. Placards included "Don't Disable My Libido" and "Disabled and Horny". Women wearing Gordon Brown masks carried placards saying “ 'We will do everything in our power that...the needs of disabled people are properly recognised' Gordon Brown PMQs 23-01-07”. That afternoon, the clauses that would have banned people using sex workers were dropped from the Bill. The battle was over but sadly the war was not won.
In June 2008 Dr Tuppy Owens spoke at the UK Network of Sex Workers' Conference in Manchester. Her talk was about the sexual needs of disabled people and was very well received. Several delegates promised to take her stories to the Home Office. Catherine spoke from the audience in support of TLC.
In September 2008 Ariana Chevalier was invited to speak at the ASBAH (Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus) AGM. The flip chart was joined by a PowerPoint presentation and a suitcase full of props. Ariana is an accomplished speaker, an inspiration and obviously a very professional escort, and we are proud to have her as part of TLC.
Many of us wrote to the Home Office to object to their proposals to criminalise the buying of sex.
The TLC is currently speaking to journalists and reporters on the subject. When we are asked how this would affect disabled people, we make it quite clear that disabled people would be the first and most badly affected. Other clients will continue to visit sex workers but, if you are blind, you don't know if you are being followed by a cop, if you need to be pushed in your wheelchair by a PA, taking part in illegal acts would be breaking your contract with them. Many disabled people find it virtually impossible to be "naughty".
TLC is proud that our sex workers performed at the Royal Society of Medicine in London on 13th November 2008, to an audience who were moved to tears. Sue Newsome made love to quadriplegic Dominic's head. He then spoke about why this has been so important to him. Having been promised help with sex at his spinal unit some 14 years ago, which never came, it was through contacts in the Outsiders Club and Tuppy Owens that he first booked a session with tantric sex worker, Sue. Sue talked about how important this work is for her, and their sessions are all about Dominic. Their performance was followed by Solitaire (see the striptease section on this site) stripping in front of deaf-blind Jimmy, whilst the action was descriped to him via finger language by jj. Once more the audience were captivated. Congratulations to the Royal Society of Medicine for allowing this to happen. We felt as if we were changing the world.
Dr Tuppy Owens' book "Supporting Disabled People with their Sexual Lives comes out in November 2014, with a huge chapter describing all the Sexual Services available to disabled people and how they benefit from them. It will be a revolutionary step forward and fingers crossed it helps the world move forward.