The Red Umbrella Project (RedUP) amplifies the voices of people who have done transactional sex, through media, storytelling, and advocacy programs. We are a small and feisty community-based organization in New York that is peer-led and works to ensure that cisgender and transgender women, cisgender and transgender men, LGBQ people, people who are impacted by HIV/AIDS, people who are parents, people of color, people struggling with addictions, people with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities, and people with complex experiences of the sex trade have space to share their experiences with a wide audience, fight discrimination, and use this platform to advocate for change.

Our work includes:

Creative Programs

  • Prose & Lore: Memoir Stories About Sex Work: RedUP’s literary journal is published twice a year (Fall/Winter and  Spring/Summer). Most of the pieces in the journal are developed in our memoir workshops, though we also have open pitch periods. The journal is available in print and ebook formats, and we take pride in publishing many writers for the first time.
  • Memoir Writing Workshops: Participants learn and practice the basics of memoir-writing in our free creative nonfiction writing classes for individuals with experience in the sex trade. This workshop is intended for both experienced and first-time writers. We offer eight week sessions in the spring and fall, and drop-in sessions in the summer and in the winter.
  • Trans Women’s Ensemble: Since February 2013 we have been offering improv theatre workshops for transgender women at Housing Works. In fall 2013, we held auditions and formed the ensemble, which devised an original piece of theatre, “In My Skin,” which debuted at Joe’s Pub on November 14, 2013.
  • Storytelling Events: We periodically organize storytelling events where people with experiences in the sex trades shared true stories about their lives. We produced a monthly event at Happy Ending Lounge from July 2009 to September 2013. In November 2013 we did a big production of the Diaries show at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater. During the series, we recorded everyone who wishes their story to be documented and have published more than 80 episodes on our Red Umbrella Diaries podcast, which is available for free on iTunes and SoundCloud.
  • The Red Umbrella Diaries is a feature-length documentary film about seven LGBTQ sex worker storytellers as they prepare for the biggest performance of their lives, a night at Joe’s Pub in NYC. The performers will tell true stories about their experiences in front of an audience of over 200 people and as they prepare for the big night they’ll share intimate portraits of their lives, all documented by an Emmy Award winning film crew. The film is currently in production and we are aiming for a spring 2015 premiere.

Advocacy Programs

  • Access to Condoms: Since 2009 we have been organizing with our community to pass a state level bill that would prevent police and prosecutors from using condoms as evidence of prostitution related offenses. This practice is a public health disaster which discourages sex workers and people profiled as sex workers (particularly trans women and gender non-conforming people and people of color) from carrying condoms at all. In 2013 the bill passed the NY State Assembly for the first time.
  • Media Training: Participants in our weekend-long intensive media spokesperson training learn to create strategic responses to media and public events. We cover the skills needed for staying on message while being interviewed, producing press releases and letters to the editor, developing media campaigns, evaluate the risks and rewards of being “out,” and more.
  • Advocacy Workshops: Participants in our free day-long advocacy workshops learn from a veteran staffer of the state legislature how bills become law, how to monitor bills as they make their way through the process, and how to talk to elected representatives about issues that impact people in the sex trade. We offer advocacy workshops in the spring as we prepare community members to do legislative advocacy, or whenever a specific campaign arises.
  • Past Campaigns: In collaboration with members of our community, we have run campaigns to stop the arrest of sex workers in Long Island during the ongoing search for the Long Island serial killer, encourage collaboration with harm reduction service agencies, and raise awareness about the humanity of sex workers.

We are a member of the PROS Network, the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, the National Alliance for Media, Arts, and Culture, and the New York Council of Non-Profits.

The expansion of our work has been made possible by grants from the New York Women’s Foundation, the New York Foundation, the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), the Craigslist Foundation, Feminists For Free ExpressionPoets & Writers / New York State Council of the Arts, the Sparkplug Foundation and generous private donations.

If you are interested in supporting our work, please contact RedUP’s director Audacia Ray at audaciaray@redumbrellaproject.org.