Gloria Nieto

Poverty is a Queer Issue

Filed By Gloria Nieto | June 29, 2010 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: bad economy, Don't Ask Don't Tell, ENDA, gay issues, global recession, poverty is a queer issue, queer issue, unemployment insurance

Over the weekend, as there were Pride celebrations in many parts of the world, I visited with old friends. What was completely astonishing to me was the state of poverty that we find ourselves in right now.

All of us are well over 50. We are the only ones to lose our home at this point; the other friends are barely holding on. Of the four of us out the other night at the Egyptian museum, only one of us has a job. help_graffiti.jpgThe other three hobos, I mean homos, have all been gainfully employed all our adult lives. One has owned and operated several businesses over time. Her unemployment just ran out on Friday. She is one of the 1.3 million who were dropped that day.

My unemployment ran out back in April. No income since then so my spouse is trying to keep both of us afloat.

The other friend is on disability and her partner is her paid caregiver. The Governator is about to drop that program so that poor disabled will continue to bear the burden of this Depression. They live a half hour drive out of town and cannot afford to move in closer to town so they are facing down foreclosure also.

I have to give a shout out to fellow blogger Patricia Nell Warren for also talking about the financial crisis many lgbt folks find themselves in, including herself. We are losing our houses, our savings, and our dignity in this disaster.

In all the latest rumblings about LGBT rights, I wonder how we get more of our own folks realizing the recession is a queer issue? ENDA is a jobs bill, so is DADT. But ultimately my life and ability to be a participating member is tied up in the Senate and their lack of understanding of our realities - straight and LGBT.

It was finally explained to me during my last visit to DC. It is an obvious answer, really. None of the legislature, Senate and House alike, ever see needy people every day. There is always money in DC so since they don't go outside of the comfort zone of the Hill and their homes, why would they see the other realities?

There is no urgency on the economy. There is no urgency on anything. When I heard the President tell the folks on the Gulf Coast that they were not going to be forgotten, I thought, "Well what about the rest of us? You have forgotten about us and left us. We have no help and there is no help on the horizon." Abandoned.

Let me ask this - how many unemployed people were invited to the White House cocktail party last week? All the glowing reports of words from the President are irrelevant without action. There is no action because we have been forgotten and left behind. Again.

This continued depression has a strong effect on our community. How many LGBT centers are struggling? The AIDS prevention money was stripped from the California budget so who will be the next wave of infected gay men in California? How many activists are sidelined because they have no resources and cannot devote time to planning or activism because we are crippled by poverty? Getting turned down repeatedly for jobs doesn't do a lot for a person's self esteem, trust me.

There is a price to pay for this disaster. Unfortunately, those who should be paying for it are summering in the Hamptons. The rest of us are stuck with the bill, both financial and emotional.

So during this month of Pride, while we celebrate all our victories over the years, try to remember those on the sidelines, struggling to keep our heads above water. Equality should mean an equal chance to contribute to our communities, live a good life, and hold our heads high.

Mr Fierce Advocate, this is your chance to make a difference for all of us.

(Picture via Minnesota Public Radio)

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Let me get this right: you had a home to lose.

I wonder about all the women on the Remembering List who were reduced, long before the housing bubble inflated the wealth of those who had homes, and were doing survival sex work--probably for many who had homes.

I'm sure all those women are sitting at their public access sites reading your comments with the next person on the waiting list yelling unprintable words at them.

I'm fortunate enough to have an apartment--and have worked all my adult life, and been lucky enough to have minimum-wage. I'm sure you are, now, no worse off than I.

DADT may be an employment bill for some; I just wonder that it was used as the LGBT legislation, a substitute for ENDA.

Let me get this right: I am not allowed to have a home because others are also struggling?

Poverty is not a new issue and certainly not a new queer issue.

Gay and trans youth, gay and trans people of colour, and many gay and trans people not part of the professional class have long NOT been part of the comfortable classes, though their existence has not been a fashionable issue when others are concerned with marriage.

You are perfectly entitled to your home, Gloria, you're just not allowed to declare this as some sort of NEW issue simply because it, now, affects you and you notice it.

There are many people, include gay and trans people, not also struggling but have been struggling all the time you have enjoyed your house.

jay scott | June 29, 2010 6:22 PM

How is this economy mess considered a new, or only affecting this community? There are lots of heterosexuals in the same boat. Anyone not of the "comfortable class" is struggling.

To say it's a queer issue is simply incorrect. We all lost our cushy bank jobs, gay, bi, lesbian, trans, queer, questioning, and yes, even the heteros.

It sucks for everybody equally, not just you and whichever letter of the alphabet soup the community has become that you identify with. Where were you when the rest of us were struggling thru whatever event in our lives caused us to have to struggle to get by? Enjoying your house.
Welcome to the party.

Gee, I don't recall reading anywhere that Gloria said it was a new issue. She said it was a queer issue because it affects our community and is something we should all be working on.

So while I see you complaining that Gloria's post somehow oppresses people of color or trans folk, I don't see how her call for greater work on poverty issues does any of those things - and instead would benefit those smaller communities inside of the larger LGBT umbrella.

The Oppression Olympics is an unwinnable sport. But, if it makes you feel better, you win the gold medal; now can we go back to finding ways to end poverty instead of simply attacking the author?

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | June 29, 2010 5:09 PM

Poverty, unemployment and mass homelessness are poised to take center stage and leave the Obama administration in the garbage dump of history. In the last day or so AmericaBlog, AlterNet, the New York Times and others have run a series of articles about the ongoing financial crisis that contain some very bad news for people who work for a living or who used to and still want to.

BIS (the Bank for International Settlements) is the international central bank that services national central banks. BIS is nervous. Very nervous. The recent conference of the Group of Eight (G8) Industrialized Nations in Toronto exposed an unregulated banking crisis and clueless 'world leaders' staring into the oncoming headlights of global economic collapse.

The bank bailouts here and in Europe were a stop gap measure that failed to end the global financial crisis, although they did whet the appetite of the looter classes for more trillions in handouts. At Toronto none of the G8 nations - France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Japan, United States, Canada, or Russia - took the desperately needed measures to regulate finances and stabilize their economies.

An English newspaper, The Independent noted that "the ultimate calamity - payments systems freezing and cash machines running out of money - was only narrowly avoided when the US investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008" Now the BIS is saying that "governments may not be able to repeat such a bailout in the event of a second crisis, which some commentators fear could be triggered by another economic shock." In addition the Royal Bank of Scotland is warring it's investors of a new economic collapse.

Aside from refusing to enact tough regulations to muzzle the greed of banking giants like Goldman Sachs, who contributed $994,795.00 to his campaign, Obama is continuing giveaways to big business and continuing to avoid massive job creation efforts. Trillions are being given out to the looter class but wages are down, mass homelessness is on the rise and unemployment (BLS U6 index) is steady at about 16-17%, social programs are being cut and unions are being busted. The last President who tried to cut wages and reward the looter classes during a severe recession was Herbert Hoover who pushed the crash and recession into the Great Depression.

Now for the REALLY bad news. It's official. Paul Krugman Nobel Laureate and professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton says it's a depression.

We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression (of 1873) than the much more severe Great Depression (of 1929). But the cost - to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs - will nonetheless be immense...
After all, unemployment - especially long-term unemployment - remains at levels that would have been considered catastrophic not long ago, and shows no sign of coming down rapidly. And both the United States and Europe are well on their way toward Japan-style deflationary traps."

Now more than ever it's time for GLBT folks to abandon the idiocy of being slaves tied to the electoral requirements of Democrats and Republicans and to get into unions. Unions are the heavy infantry of social change.

The looter rich much prefer working with Democrats like Obama and the Clintons - they're greedier, they fool more people and they're able to get away with a lot more than Republicans.

Absolutely, Bill!

The call at the G20 in Toronto this weekend, a stone's throw from where I write in Ottawa, called for cutting budget deficits in half by 2013 and stabilize or reduce debt to GDP ratio by 2016.

The billion dollars spent on security by a reactionary government, bent on eliciting violence, is the one area where there will not be restraint; rather American: lots of money for police and prisons.

The cuts everywhere else--as in Greece, England, and soon in the U. S.--will hurt, not those who had pleasant conversations within the security zone, but those dependant on social expenditure. The economy will also suffer, because it cannot bear further reductions in demand.

As if planned, this past Saturday, America Speaks, a creation of the hedge fund billionaire, Pete Peterson, took place; his decade's long campaign to cut Medicare, Medicaid and other social programs, as the only way to address the budget deficit is gearing up.

Such deficit terrorists are now represented at the heart of the Obama government with the Commission, appointed by Obama, with a majority of those whose goal is to cut and headed by Alan Simpson.

The litmus test, I propose, is whether you believe the way forward is austerity, the cutting of social expenditure.

Or do you believe cutting military spending, or, even more radical, actually printing money is the way to go.

I'm reminded of King's Riverside Church speech more and more these days. He recognized, all those years ago, that it was less and less about race, and more and more about class.

Class war is the reality of our lives--especially if it is denied; the stronger the denial, the greater its truth.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | June 29, 2010 6:56 PM

Thanks Gloria. Poverty is most certainly an issue for GLBT folks however they describe themselves.

The crisis of mass homelessness was precipitated by predatory leaders seeking out members of communities of color and other working people, offering them sub-prime loans, often had the goal of foreclosure. John Edwards, your typical Democrat hypocrite and all around jackass profited from foreclosures against Katrina victims. NCLR, the National Council of La Raza and the NAACP are both critical of the uses of these bogus loans. The NAACP describes them as financial apartheid.

Mass unemployment, stable at Great Depression levels is the leading cause of the growth of the foreclosure crisis for working class people as a whole, including LGBT folks. The likelihood is that millions of those now unemployed will remain jobless or drastically underpaid for a decade of more.

Too bad we lack a fighting organization to address these problems because most GLBT 'leaders' are tools of the Democrats. We'll just have to build ourselves one.

Good points, Gloria. They really, really don't care about poverty or job creation, treating it like an abstract problem that involves, mostly, accepting a sky-high unemployment rate while cutting the safety net. Their arrogance and nonchalance in this time of crisis is appalling.

But telling them about your suffering won't change much. The fiscal conservatives get off on making the rest of us suffer. What we need is a fundamental shift in understanding these issues in the US, make people get that rich folks aren't looking out for their best interests and that everything they've been taught about individualism, victim-blaming, and wealth-worship has all been about making them accept their second, third, fourth, etc., class status.

Every power structure in the US is working against that sort of understanding, so easier said than done, of course.

Lee Sonoflaw | June 30, 2010 9:41 AM

Now is the time for us all to start gathering in our community centers and churches and our breakfast/lunch/brunch/supper groups and start addressing issues on a one to one basis. We start by asking the question: "Do we know someone in our community who is in distress and needs help?" Then, “What can we do to alleviate their problems?” The answers are not only simple, but if we don’t honestly ask the questions, we will never find a solution.
I know a lot of us have problems of our own, but experience has shown me that those with the least always seem to be able to come up with an extra can of beans. The recession forced some of us to give up 1 cup of Starbucks. So lets volunteer the time it would take to drink that cup.

If you don't have a community center or bunch you meet with, START ONE. Lets get up off our effete asses and actually do something to help.

I'm uncertain how this individual responsibility model will help when state governments go bankrupt because Republican and 'centrist' Democrats require funding for teachers, unemployment, health workers, state police, and all the other state employees and services must be balanced by cuts elsewhere--but don't believe the same discipline should be applied to either defense or war funding.

The litmus test is neither what individuals can do for other individuals, but rather what can people as a collectivity do for themselves.

Socialist? Absolutely!

But then, the banks have socialism.

The health insurance companies have socialism.

The oil companies have socialism.

the military-industrial complex has socialism.

Why shouldn't people have socialism?!?

I can't help but sympathize with Jill's point. My state has no job protections and I lost job opportunities based on my sexuality and gender presentation before the recession. I was in poverty before the recession. I was disabled before the recession. The fact that I can't work over summer before law school because if I do I will loose medicaid and the medication I need to live is a problem with our health care system that was around before the recession. I remember when the recession hit, watching the wealthy kids at my college distressed, crying, living better than me and thinking that their lives were so fucking tragic. Your parents can't pay for you education now? Join the rest of us. My family isn't any worse off now, because we started so low to begin with. "We are losing our houses, our savings, and our dignity in this disaster." Nice for you to have it to loose, a lot of us never did. The 'disaster' of the recession is a blip on the radar of the disaster that many of us live in and I think that's what Jill was getting at.

Jay, on the other hand, is just being an ass. Queer people, especially trans and gender variant people experience a lot of employment discrimination and are often the last hired and the first laid off. Our employability is far more fragile than hetero people's, including in low wage jobs, trust me, I have lost the fast food job spot because I was queer and refused to put up with homophobic shit.