We are sad to share that SWOP-South Florida Founder Diana Hemingway took her life on December 20, 2016.
Diana, 46, was known for tireless activism around trans/queer issues, sex worker rights, disability rights, economic justice, racism, and issues impacting the kink community. Diana started the started the first local chapter of SWOP (Sex Workers Outreach Project) in South Florida. She was also a photographer, a jewelry-maker, and a sculptor. For anyone that knew her, online or in real life, she exuded selflessness and compassion.
As an organization, we deeply miss Diana. “I met Diana last April at her home in Fort Lauderdale, after having corresponded with her long distance via the SWOP Network for about a year,” Savannah Sly, SWOP-USA Board President, wrote. “Diana gave me a GREAT hug when I really needed one, as well as clear insight into the complex world of social justice activism. Diana surrounded herself with art, and was herself a skilled landscape photographer. She gave me a tour of her well appointed home dungeon, she was clearly a hot shit Dominatrix who I would have loved to have doubled with. Sitting in her presence, I knew I was in the company of someone kind, wise, and luminous. I am heartbroken by the news of her early departure, and I am sending love to her spirit and all those who were close to her <3″
Alex Andrews of SWOP Behind Bars wrote, “When I received the news of your passing yesterday morning, I was sad. Selfishly, I was sad for me. You not being here means I will not be able to enjoy your deep wisdom and your sarcastic wit. I will miss your honest assessments of ideas I “ran past you” – even the one where you laughed and said “That’s a horrible idea!” I loved the way you allowed me to be who I was even though you probably thought I was silly and entitled. I respected the gentle way you would guide me to be a better activist without demeaning me and how you instructed me how to be a better ally without condemning me. I am grateful that you allowed me to share my emotional pain over a difficult personal circumstance without judging me for my choice or giving me advise that was inappropriate. You were a champion of personal autonomy – in fact you were the one who told me what that was and you explained it in a way that made me understand how important it was to respect another persons choice even when you might disagree with them.”
Diana has touched so many of our lives, offering cheery banter, frank wisdom, brilliant ideas, and comeradery. Her death is an enormous loss to trans, activist, kink, and sex worker communities.
Landon J Woolston, Diana’s partner wrote on a blog he created to keep Diana’s love and spirit and legacy alive, “If you’re wondering what pushed her to leave us, know that the primary reason was fear of losing the life she had “worked so hard to build” (per her suicide note)….If Diana had gotten a job in the last six months, and especially one with benefits, I really do not think she would have taken her life,” and “I feel like if this loss doesn’t teach our local community the importance of hiring trans people (especially in the non-profit sector), nothing – and I mean NOTHING – will.”
In Diana’s memory, let’s continue our fight against discrimination against trans folks, people involved in the sex trade, and people with mental illness. Let’s commit to doing a better job of coming together, supporting one another, and holding organizations that serve trans folks and sex workers accountable in hiring from these communities.