Tag Archives: transphobia

Poverty: The Lynchpin of Trans Discrimination

2 Mar

http://money.cnn.com/2013/02/22/pf/transgender-unemployment/index.html?iid=F_Jump

They say money makes the world go round. Certainly, it is a game changer for trans people. When you have money you can find housing in safer neighborhoods, you can take a cab instead of walking after dark, you can afford flattering clothes and cosmetics; you can pay for an education and skills upgrading, you can eat healthy foods, you have better access to health care, and the list goes on. These things are a struggle to nearly impossible without money.  While this is true for everyone in our society, it is especially true for a trans people, who are at increased risk of violence because of their gender identity or gender presentation (Transgender Law and Policy Institute) and need additional health care (for sex reassignment surgery, hormones etc.). For them, these financial matters are magnified beyond that of the rest of the population.  It is in financial areas that trans discrimination is both visible and reinforced. It is in the different economic realities of trans men and women where the results of educational and employment barriers are visible, as well as the causes of these same barriers.

While there have been more trans stories reported in the over the last few years, they are usually very limited in scope. Mainstream media tends to focus on violence and outright discrimination (Hate crimes and murders or  access issues) when they get it right or view as scandal and spectacle (Beauty pageants etc.  )  when they get it wrong. Economics is rarely the focus of trans portrayals in the media.  While it is very important to highlight violence and discrimination cases, or (more rarely), to have cases of happy, successful transitions, there is much more to our reality than this. This is why I was very glad to see the CNN report linked above about the staggering barriers to transgender employment, and the very real economic barriers our community faces every day.

The CNN article includes examples of stories I have heard again and again from people in the local trans community. Each of these stories highlights the fact that we need to address the systemic problem of poverty in the community. One such story in the CNN article, that of Keisha who was kicked out of her house at 16 and forced to live in a homeless shelter, is a familiar one for trans youth.  Many trans youth do not come out to a friendly environment at home and end up homeless or in shelters where they are unable to continue education. Without education a person’s economic future is bleak and we need to provide shelter/housing solutions and economic supports that allow trans youth to continue their education in a safe environment.  The story of Jennifer Chavez is also a typical story for those who come out in the workplace later on in life. Few workplaces have policies in place to accommodate transition on the job or policies to specifically address the kinds of harassment a trans person coming out is likely to face.  A huge portion of trans people I know in this situation have had to leave their jobs and take jobs at a lower base salary with less seniority and security, if they are able to find jobs at all.

Perhaps the most insidious problem is highlighted by Rebecca Juro’s case; not getting hired at all. Most of the trans people I know who end up unemployed or who are just entering the work force face this issue. Trans people will drop dozens and dozens of applications, seldom ever finding a job. As was highlighted in the article, frequently the job continues to be posted but the trans person simply is not hired. While a lack of job history or difficulty finding work references is part of the problem, but it is only one of many roadblocks. Sometimes the trans person gets to the interview phase, but for those who don’t pass well or have inconsistent gender marker on their documentation that is where it ends. It is really hard to prove discrimination in these cases because employers can usually find some excuse to say that the trans person was not the best choice or did poorly in the interview. Even when the discrimination is clear, most job seeking trans people don’t have the money to pursue legal action. This is a very real problem faced by trans people every day.  A major study of barriers facing the trans community in Ontario, the Trans Pulse project reported that “while 71% of trans people have at least some college or university education, about half make $15,000 per year or less” (Trans Pulse Project) . This statistic is so far off the general population that it is hard to attribute it to anything but bias.

I worry for my friends; I worry for the next generation of trans youth and I worry for myself. I see recent surveys that say that 97% of trans people face harassment and discrimination in the workplace (National Transgender Discrimination Survey ) and 47% experience negative job outcomes. Is that my future? Am I going to accumulate student debt for a nursing diploma only to be unemployed or underemployed? I am already going back to school in my 40’s because I have been living in poverty for over 20 years so this is very real to me. I was unable to fully transition as much for economic reasons as any other reasons and have never been in secure living situations to do so. Economic supports, housing supports, workplace policies for transition and harassment, and employment incentive programs for trans people are needed as much as anti-bullying policies in schools and gender inclusive washrooms in public places. The playing field is not level and we need public policies in place and media attention to our situation to give us the opportunities to show what were capable of. We deserve the chance to make our lives better, to succeed or fail based on our performance, not our appearance. If money does indeed make the world go round, it is time that we got the chance to be part of the trip.

(For my regular readers I want to apologize for not having blogged in a while. School has been much more work than expected and I have a new and wonderful fiancée that I will be sure to blog about in the future)

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For those Christmas charity pots:

4 Nov

The Salvation Army is an extremely unfriendly organization to the GLBTQ community. Check out this and  this and  this and very much this if you want to know why I say that.

I strongly urge you not to donate to them this Christmas. There are clearly better charities to give your money too. I have also stumbled onto an interesting to campaign that give you a way to tell the Salvation Army that you are making this choice.

Give money to a GLBT friendly charity, print out a few of these, and put them in those Salvation Army kettles when you see them this Christmas. Maybe the Salvation Army will finally see that hatred of the GLBTQ community is no longer acceptable in our world.

A letter to the bathroom bigots:

26 Oct

To all of the people who don’t want me in your bathrooms Roseanne Barr ,  Rob Anders  and all the rest:

The bathroom issue seems to come up somewhere on nearly a daily basis. All of you claim to be well meaning, protecting woman from a possible danger that we could theoretically pose. You say it’s all about safety. Let me tell you a bit about safety.

I have never ever in my life felt safe. Not once that I can bring to mind. This in varying degrees is the reality for nearly all of the trans community (I would never claim to speak for everyone). It is not just physical safety either; I don’t feel economic safety, emotional safety, or social safety.

We have realities you don’t face and don’t seem to understand. In many jurisdictions we can be openly fired from our jobs or, even in the places where we can’t, we are driven out of our jobs or excuses found to fire us.  Housing is uncertain even in places where we have protections. So many times you are living with hostile neighbors, landlords who find excuses not to help you, or in neighborhoods where walking as trans is very dangerous. When we face abuse or homelessness there are huge number of shelters where we are simply not welcome or not safe. We attempt to go to school and face bullying and a curriculum which ignores us or vilifies us.

It all reinforces itself. Many of us end up undereducated, underemployed, living in poverty, with few resources and inadequate supports. Even when we miss those outcomes we still have to deal with the hostile stares if we don’t meet cis standards of proper appearance, or have to pull out an ID with the wrong gender tag on it. We often can’t even share our own past and life experiences without risking someone realizing our trans histories and treating us with scorn or worse.

I want you to think about that bathroom bigot. Imagine a life where the best case scenario is often invisibility and praying a bad outcome doesn’t occur. Imagine never feeling secure. Imagine not even being able to go to the bathroom without risk; an absolutely basic bodily function. Then you tell me that were the ones making people unsafe.