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  • Writer's pictureJulien Swanson

Thank you, Margo St. James

This is a more personal post than I usually make on our Austin Law Group page, but I wanted to share my recognition of the passing of the amazing love & justice warrior, Margo St. James.

My connection to Margo – as with most things -- starts with my mom, who is herself an extraordinary person. My whole life, my mother has met and befriended people everywhere she goes. For a time, she lived in Sausalito, and popped into the No Name Bar once in a while to meet friends over an Irish Coffee. One day, she met a really interesting neighbor and they became close. During that time, while I was still a teenager, my mom and I would go to this neighbor’s house and hang out for hours on end. One afternoon while we were visiting, her doorbell rang and in flounced a head-turning beauty who, for a second, I thought could have been Carly Simon. She had a million-watt smile and gypsy 70's style. She took my breath away and then took my chin in her hand, tilted my teenage face up to hers, and said "I love a tomboy! What IS your name, dear?" Needless to say, I was smitten.

The four of us spent the entire rest of the day and evening talking about the world and politics, but mostly about sex AS politics. She had my rapt attention, telling me the history of founding COYOTE (Google it!) and how the laws surrounding prostitution (70's vernacular) were a tool of the patriarchy, and that sex rights were women's rights, and all the while, she would casually put her hand on mine -- as if to both comfort and also pass along her ferocity for justice. It was palpable and incredible and life-changing. She left me with many COYOTE buttons and flyers that evening, but what she really gave me was an introduction to the rest of my life. I have been honored to provide legal counsel to the likes of St. James Infirmary, Carol Queen, and Carol Leigh, who carried on Margo's work so valiantly.

And often, when people ask me why my law practice includes sex worker rights and adult entertainment I tell them: “Margo St. James sent me, she changed my life.”

Rest in peace and power, Margo.

Photo credit: John O'Hara 1977

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