NetWerk: We Are All In This Together

by Sami Gardner, Education and Employment Resource Specialist

There is a lot of love about being queer but economic inequality isn’t one of them.
There is a lot to love about being queer but economic inequality isn’t one of them.

20% of LGBT youth are homeless.

Have I got your attention, now?

I wanted to come up with a snappy, sexy intro to this blog entry, but the statistics only get more depressing.

• 40% of homeless youth are LGBT
• 64% of trans* people earn less than $25,000 per year
• 90% of trans* workers have reported workplace harassment as have 43% of LGB workers

NetWerk Blog 2Queer economic inequality is a complex issue that intersects with race, class, disability, mental health, and more. The media might portray the queer community as white DINKs (Dual Income, No Kids) with a penchant for fashion and night clubs, but the reality is far from the yuppie set.

In a 2012 Gallup survey, 6.4% of young adults (18 to 29) self-identify as LGBT which is double the rate for the 30 to 49 age range. Millennials are coming out earlier than their forebears and many find themselves alienated or kicked out of their families. That isn’t the only challenge that they are facing.

NetWerk Blog 3

According to General Progress, “More than one-third of self-identified LGBT young people in the country are people of color, and almost twice as many women ages 18 to 29 self-identify as LGBT than men in the same age group. These two groups—women and people of color—face their own unique challenges in the workplace that add to discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and age.”

Now add in the fact that millennials are facing a struggling economy, loss of domestic manufacturing jobs, rising tuition, crippling student debt, and stagnant wages.

These trends muffle a community in a political environment where money talks. They strengthen barriers to education and employment. It makes queers even more vulnerable in a society of food deserts, school to prison pipelines, police brutality, rape culture, and more. Economic strength means that queers can have greater freedom to express themselves through politics, fashion, gender confirming surgeries, arts, community building, etc. It also means more protection so queer folks can afford lawyers, housing, transportation, healthcare, and more.

When I talk about queer economic strength, I don’t mean that I want us to all put on red power ties, buy a Subaru, become accountants, and assimilate into heteronormative suburbia. I am talking about creating our own path, queering our workplaces, and gaining security.

A way to fight against this is netWERKing amongst the community to help each other. Refer a friend for a job. Mentor a youth. Propose a partnership with your company and a LGBTQ youth group to create an internship. Support LGBTQ businesses. Work with your HR department on queer inclusiveness. Create your own business and hire awesome queer folk to staff it!

We are a strong community that has supported and built up our chosen families. Economic inequality is the next obstacle to overcome, but we can do it together.

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• The ELIXHER Index: Black Queer & Trans Women Businesses & Resources
• National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
• Tucson GLBT Chamber of Commerce
• Association of Transgender Professionals
• Out Professionals
• Echelon Magazine


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