The Diana Hemingway Arts and Humanities Opportunity Scholarship is granted to an incarcerated sex worker who has at least one year left to serve in prison. Applications are taken all year around and will be awarded on June 3rd and December 17th. The scholarship can be used to enroll in one semester at Adams State College in the field of the applicants choice. The scholarship program includes tuition, books and testing modules. Applicants must have their high school diploma or GED equivalency certificate. Applicants are asked to send their proof of high school diploma or GED certificate with their application or to let the scholarship committee know how to access it. Applicants must send two letters of reference to support their essay. Letters of reference can be from anyone, including prison officials, chaplains, cell mates, family members or friends on the outside or inside of prison. Please send application essay, GED or high school diploma information and letters of reference to:
SWOPUSA – Behind Bars
Attn: Scholarship Committee
340 S Lemon Ave
Walnut, CA 91789
At the time of her passing, Diana was an openly visible sex worker in South Florida, and she started the first local chapter of SWOP (Sex Workers Outreach Project). She was also a photographer, a jewelry-maker, a sculptor, and a self-proclaimed lover, fighter, seed picker and hack philosopher.
She was madly in love with her partner, Landon J. Woolston.
Support the Diana Hemingway Arts and Humanities Opportunity Scholarship by donating here! Your donation is 100% tax deductible!
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.
Diana Hemingway, 46, was known for her relentless activism around trans/queer issues, sex worker rights, disability rights, economic justice, racism, and issues impacting the kink community. She exuded selflessness and compassion, particularly toward other trans and queer individuals who existed alongside and outside of the margins. In the days following her death, an outpouring of love came from the community, including those who said that Hemingway was many things to many people. Some said that she had saved their lives and was there for them when nobody else was. Others are angry and shining a spotlight on the fact that as a community, we failed her.
Hemingway was born in 1970 to an Irish Gypsy family who traveled across the U.S. while working in the carnival business. Through this experience, she developed an early mastery of folk and indigenous jewelry making. Her family later settled in Fort Lauderdale, where she eventually began working for Greenpeace. In 1989, she left for college to study photography, and got to work alongside famous landscape photographer Michael A. Smith. She began to face new hardships, and left the art scene to explore other career paths.
Hemingway was proud of the diversity of her lived experience throughout her 20s, 30s, and early 40s — prominent environmental activist, ordained minister, master auto technician, code enforcement officer, thrift store operator, and eventually, director of a local HIV testing program created to specifically serve the most marginalized of the transgender community.
Sadly, Hemingway’s exploration of her sexual orientation and gender identity (especially as a genderqueer transfeminine person), caused her to lose several families and to encounter job discrimination. This drove her back in the direction of art and activism. In her own words, her photography and her art, as well as the way she lived her life, was meant to “connect the intersections of gender identity, sexuality, disability, feminism and sex work,” and to “advance understanding and empathy for the multiple oppressions” that she and others faced.
In recent years, Hemingway struggled greatly with unemployment and underemployment.
Though she had decided to embrace and utilize her gifts in sensuality (which she referred to as her “greatest art”), and had created her own business as a trans escort and fetish provider, Hemingway was fraught with trying to make ends meet every month for almost two years.
She continued applying and interviewing for jobs in the non-profit sector on a regular basis, especially in the last year. However, she was also very open on social media (and even in job interviews) about her history of sex work, her struggles with depression and suicidality, and her life as a neuroatypical person on the autism spectrum. Despite wanting desperately to work again, she found that she simply could not get hired.
Those who knew Hemingway have shared that she was a brilliant mind, full of knowledge, trivia, and history. She was a nuanced thinker and someone who sought constant stimulation.
In 2016, Hemingway shared with her partner, Landon Woolston, that she felt like she was deteriorating from the inside out as a result of not having access to gainful employment and health benefits.
Despite feeling despair around no longer being valued by her community — the very community that she had fiercely supported and worked so hard to become a visible part of, she soldiered on. At the urging of her partner and friends, she had begun working with a reputable therapist and taking antidepressants; she told others in recent months that she was feeling the best she had ever felt, but she also expressed that it was “too little too late.”
After several crushing job rejections from local LGBTQ organizations in 2015 and 2016, Hemingway had deemed herself “unemployable,” noted that she was running out of resources, and saw herself facing homelessness again in 2017. Hemingway also developed what she believed to be a bowel obstruction just a week prior to her suicide. She told Woolston that she was worried not only about the medical procedures involved, but also the associated costs of treatment for the obstruction, as Hemingway did not have health insurance.
Woolston, a prominent queer/trans activist and LGBTQ youth worker in Miami-Dade, began blogging about this devastating loss almost immediately as a means of catharsis. He shared not only his grief but also his frustration with the failures of multiple systems and organizations to support Hemingway — especially when she openly expressed on social media her need for formal employment and desire to leave sex work, and was capable and hopeful that she could contribute to our community again.
Woolston said in his blog on Dec. 24, 2016, “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).” Woolston later wrote a blog entry entitled “Raging Pain” that further addressed the struggles that transgender people, disabled people, and/or sex workers often face in trying to access employment — even through organizations that purport to serve these very communities. He said, “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.”
Hemingway signed her suicide note to Woolston, “Yours forever, In Love That Never Dies.” To read more about their intimate partnership and to stay abreast of our community’s sweeping reaction to Hemingway’s suicide, visit Woolston’s blog at: https://inlovethatneverdies.wordpress.com/