We have lots of issues facing us as a community. They are all extremely important (I'm not one to make grand "this is the number one issue facing LGBTQ folks" statements). But one that seems to not get included in the mix very often is something that impacts our community harder than most-
It's the economy, stupid.
Perhaps it is the idea that many (including those in our own community) have that we are all well-to-do, comfortably situated people who may have to tighten our Gucci belts and not buy that third home in Palm Springs. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. The economic meltdown is effecting everyone, but the LGBTQ community has unique challenges during these times.
All around me, my friends in the community are in a state of shock and panic as the economy collapses. Jobs, services, homes, healthcare- all things that many already struggled for in the LGBTQ world- are disappearing at a rapid pace.
Let's face it, we all need some serious stimulation.
While it may not make the cover of the gay magazines, our community is in crisis. The whole country is getting hit hard, but people who are already on the receiving end of economic disadvantages and discrimination are barely scraping by.
Take, for example, the conversation I had with one of my friends who is going through the early stages of her transition. Nearly in tears, she told me that while she was happy she was finally on the path she knew she belonged, she didn't know if she could survive to complete it:
What chance do I have in getting another job after losing mine because I started my transition? Wall Street businessmen with master's degrees aren't able to find a job. Try being a trans woman trying to get a second interview.
It's the same all around. People who lose jobs from discrimination then see that same attitude keeping them from getting work again.
And healthcare, if they can even afford to keep paying for COBRA or some other horrendously expensive version of insurance, runs out with the unemployment benefits. Even if the person has a significant other, shared benefits are impossible to come by in many states with no relationship recognition.
The crumbling economy also leaves our community with nowhere to turn as non-profits and other service providers have to cut programs or shut their doors. Everything from food banks to support groups are turning LGBTQ people away because they just can't survive in this economic climate.
It's not just those in the workforce that are seeing the economy destroy their lives. Many of my friends in college are seeing financial aid dry up. The credit crisis is cutting off student loans. Schools are slashing grants. The life blood of many of these LGBTQ young people is disappearing:
School was my only chance to get away. My parents disowned me when I came out and don't offer any support for school and I know I won't survive in the town I'm from. I don't know how I'm going to do it.
We are in a crisis. Our community is facing some of their darkest times on many fronts. Yet because it doesn't fit into the the overarching "gay agenda", we see little or no talk about it. Even worse, by not recognizing it, we can't begin to ease the effects on those affected in our community.
So let's keep fighting, marching, and organizing for our rights. But let's also make sure we are working together, as a community, to ease the devastation of the economic crisis.
A little LGBTQ stimulation may go a long way.