Two days before what would have been Wendy Babcock’s 33rd birthday—or, as she claimed, her “Dirty 30”—over 100 friends and admirers met at the city’s “pansexual playground,” Goodhandy’s nightclub, on Sunday night to celebrate her life’s work.
Toronto graffiti artist Javid live-painted a portrait of Babcock on a balcony atop the stage, liberally spraying slashes of burgundy hair as performers paid tribute below. “She had this really mischievous grin that showed her passion, her spunk, her fun side,” Javid said, gesturing to a photo of Babcock grinning under her black-framed specs. “I’m trying to bring that out.”
Babcock’s life story was unconventionally inspiring—she entered sex work at age 15, eventually becoming an advocate for sex-workers’ rights and pursuing a law degree at Osgoode Hall to further her activism. At the time of her death from an apparent suicide last year, she was reportedly working on a memoir, to be released in time for her graduation in 2013.
Sunday night’s MC, Morgan M. Page, befriended Babcock in 2008 when the two counter-protested Church-Wellesley residents who wanted to ban trans sex workers from Homewood Avenue. “Before Wendy, I was a high-school dropout, working on and off in minimum-wage jobs,” said Page. At Babcock’s urging, she earned a GED and became an advocate for assaulted women and children.
Organizers milled about in t-shirts with “We Believe in Wendy” emblazoned on them, rearranging cupcakes and manning a silent auction (which raised $6,000 for a bursary to send a woman living at a local shelter to university).
“She was going to change the system,” said Emily Wright, a community advocate, who also struggled with homelessness and drugs. “I’m a better person for knowing her.”
Above the crowd, Javid continued his struggle to render Babcock’s personality on the wall-sized canvas: “Right now it’s just a little too tame.”