Grace Bellavue, daughter, friend, sex worker and advocate, passed away this week.
Smart, funny, compassionate and fierce, Grace Bellavue (Pippa was her private name) was a sex worker who spoke her truth and the truth of a community. She was active in a number of communties (including the sex work and hip-hop communities) and her loss will leave a unique, Grace-shaped hole in many lives.
Grace wrote a number of posts for Mamamia, dispelling many of the myths that so many people cling to about her sex work. She never condemned people for their misunderstandings – she encouraged, informed and shared.
In this post, which is perhaps her most poignant, she talks about how she told her parents about her sex work. Using the story as a lesson for people who have had limited exposure to sex work, she encourages people to think about the language they use: “Next time sex work comes up in discussion, use myself, use us all as an example of what does exist, what truly should be battled. Take a check of your language, if you object to the objectification and don’t know what this work entails, curtail your viewpoint.”
It is a powerful lesson: Language can break hearts. It can also heal them. Thank you, Grace, for your strength, your wisdom and your kindess. You will be missed.
Grace Bellavue writes…
At the end of the day, language becomes our identity.
I remember the first time the language surrounding this broke my heart.
“Where is all this money coming from Grace? You’re only seventeen, you can’t be earning this from the bakery. What are you doing? I don’t believe you’re selling drugs, but it’s the only thing I can think of. You are saying you’re going to parties you aren’t attending, you’re not our daughter anymore, you’ve turned into something else.”
My mother paced the kitchen as I sat at the table playing with the runner, twisting its tassels between my fingers.
“No I’m not selling drugs mum, I’m a prostitute. I f*ck men for a living.”
My mother visibly retched, as my father leant against the back wall for support. I’ve never seen him grow so old in a moment since.
“Oh god, I’m going to vomit,” mum said. She steadied herself on the doorframe, half running to the toilet.
My father began to cry. I’d never seen my father cry before.
A highly successful manager, and alpha male, he always dominated and led his men. He could walk into a pub and have a bar surrounding him in a few minutes, engaging, talking. People were attracted to my father like moths to a flame. There was something strong, good and fiercely independent about him that women flirted with and men followed.