Prostitution was already illegal in Louisiana. Then Republicans crafted an even more damning law used to target trans sex workers. – Scalawag

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At Southern Decadence 2019, on the streets of New Orleans’ French Quarter, thongs abound. 

Southern Decadence is a five-day LGBT celebration that draws thousands to the Big Easy each year, featuring such dazzling events as the Hot Ass Contest, a “Hung Over and Broke” Happy Hour, and a midnight “BATTLE OF THE BULGE.” It’s Saturday afternoon, two days before Labor Day, and festival-goers are preparing for the Bourbon Street Extravaganza, where live music, rainbow get-ups, and an air of tasteful raunch will come together in a supersized Southern revelry. 

But Wendi Cooper isn’t on Bourbon Street. In fact, she isn’t at Southern Decadence at all. She’s a mile away at Duncan Plaza, the green in front of New Orleans City Hall, wearing a full-body prison jumpsuit.

Cooper is a 42-year-old Black transgender activist from New Orleans. She’s standing on stage leading a demonstration, flanked by her coalition: Black legislators, cis allies, and almost a dozen costumed trans women wearing outfits that symbolize the harsh criminal justice system they’ve endured.

Cooper and her fellow activists are calling for the repeal of the Crime Against Nature by Solicitation statute—a Louisiana law known colloquially as “CANS”. It was passed in 1982 in a vote of the Louisiana State Legislature that almost no one—not even the bill’s author—admits to remembering. But according to Cooper, this law has been used as a tool for the lifelong subjugation of trans women of color in Louisiana ever since.

She calls it “the matriarch of our destruction.”