Sunday, February 08, 2009

Freedom To...Starve?

I don't know about you, but I'm long past sick of the elitist tunnelvision of these so-called marriage equality advocates.

America is in the beginnings of a massive recession. Americans are losing their jobs by the millions. LGB and especially Transgender-Americans, often the last hired and first fired even in good times, are hurting and hurting badly economically. An inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is due to be introduced in Congress later this year. And what do we see from our so-called activist elite? This nonsense.

Let's be clear: LGBT Americans, like the rest of the country, need jobs, we need them right now, and a lot of us need those jobs right now a hell of a lot more than we need the ability to file joint tax returns.

Anyone who pays attention to national politics, or even anyone who subscribes to the most basic common-sense American political realities, knows that same-sex marriage is going nowhere federally for a long time at best. Even if all of our realistic wishes in that regard come true and SSM becomes legal in New Jersey, Vermont, and again in California, it will then be legal in just 10% of American states.

Compare that to the potential impact of the passage of a fully inclusive ENDA. With an inclusive ENDA as the law of the land, it would be illegal to discriminate against LGBT Americans in the workplace in all 50 states, not only directly affecting a far greater number of LGBT Americans, but also directly impacting far more basic needs for most of us then the ability to get married.

After all, of what use is the ability to become legally married when you can't afford to clothe, feed, and house yourself and your family? How does the ability to get married help those who can't afford health insurance or even a single prescription or visit to the doctor when they become sick? Obviously, the ability to get legally married is of most value to those who already have nice homes and well-paying jobs, those who don't go to work each day wondering when their own pink slip is coming or those in even more desperate straits, already unemployed and increasingly unable to provide the basic necessities of life for themselves and their families.

Yet here come the Queer elites once again, touting same-sex marriage, potentially generating a renewed surge of religion-based anti-LGBT bigotry at a time we can least afford it, getting the right-wing worked up against us all over again just before the matter of our right to work is due to be taken on in Congress. I mean really, just how selfish and shortsighted can these people be? Have they learned nothing from the last time they tried this? What, 45 states banning same-sex marriage and a nearly-passed Federal Marriage Amendment as a result of their last attempt wasn't enough of a clue, they need to risk our chance to finally be protected from discrimination on the job too?

It makes just about as much sense as when Republicans promote failed Reagan-era theories of massive tax cuts, rather than targeted government spending, as viable economic stimulus. Everyone knows, even if they refuse to admit it, that same-sex marriage is overall a loser issue politically in this country right now and that will probably continue to be the case for decades to come. To promote this proven loser issue and risk riling up the right-wing at a time when what we need most right now is for Congress to be able to muster the political will to protect LGBT workers and their families who depend on their incomes to survive from discrimination is beyond simply irresponsible, it's downright unconscionable.

Isn't it interesting how we don't see this kind of effort and these kinds of online events directed toward getting an inclusive ENDA passed (until we get fed up with the selfishness of the elites and do it ourselves, as with UnitedENDA)? Where are the blogging contests and cash prizes offered for speaking out on LGBT Americans right to work? You won't see them coming from us, of course. Most of us are just too busy saving every dime we can scrounge just to get through the week.

Perhaps if these self-involved Queer elites put 1/10 the effort they do in promoting their (currently) lost cause into something that can make a real difference in people's lives like protecting the right of LGBT Americans to make a living, we'd be better able to advocate for same-sex marriage in the future when it's more politically palatable and when people have more money to donate and more time to give to such a cause. Unfortunately, what we see is these elitists emulating the GOP, continuing to push an issue which is not only guaranteed to fail to draw popular support politically but carries with it the very real risk of diluting hard-won and long-awaited political support for a more basic need of far greater and far more immediate importance to a far larger number of people.

As unfair as it is, no one's going to die because they can't get married. Tragically, the same can't be said of those LGBT's who can't get work or provide basic needs for themselves and their loved ones. It's time these elitists took their heads out of the sand and realized their own narrow and selfish agenda is not what our community or our country needs right now.

There are people dying out here, right now, right in our backyards. LGBT Americans are losing jobs, homes, families, and yes, even lives, to legally-sanctioned hate, discrimination, and bigotry. Real LGBT lives are being lost, real LGBT families are suffering in poverty and homelessness. It's all happening right now and it's been happening for generations. Even more importantly, there's now a real chance of fixing the problem or at least of starting the process of fixing it, hopefully this year.

Lives are quite literally on the line here. We need jobs and we need them now, just like the rest of America's workforce. We need our ability to provide for ourselves and our families protected from discrimination under the law. Most importantly, this is a basic, fundamental need shared by all LGBT Americans, one which we can have a real and lasting positive impact on if we act right now. I'll put those priorities above anyone's joint tax return any day of the week.


Gina said...

Yup, Rebecca, while marriage equity is important, it's certainly not on the same level as housing, jobs, healthcare, education and support for LGBT youth (especially in foster care and transition to adulthood). Let's face it, this is a bone that's being thrown at GL people who they're counting on for fundraising. They want David Geffen and Ellen DeGeneres to come to their fundraisers, not a bunch of "trans losers."

helen_boyd said...

As a legally married queer, the ability to be legally married is economically important, as in: shared health insurance, social security benefits from/for each other, etc.

Is is Freedom to Marry Week, btw. Not the beginning of a campaign that won't end ever. Just a week of consciousness-raising.

But yes, I freely & proudly admit I'm guest blogging for marriage equality this week:

Unknown said...

Helen, I agree with Gina here. There's no way I'll ever believe that the right to get married is as important or as urgent as the right for people to be able to work and provide themselves and their families with the basic necessities of life.

In a lot of cases, we're literally talking life or death here. To me, that trumps pretty much everything.

VĂ©ro B said...

Rebecca, the thing about the economy is that to a large extent, is has to come back on its own. The government tries to help the process but can do only so much, even with billions of dollars. Meanwhile, people hopefully try to help each other.

Still, the world doesn't stop during a recession, and civil rights are no less a concern in economic hard times than in good times. As Helen says, the issue of equal marriage is even related to the issue of economic recovery. It's not either-or.

Nancy Nangeroni said...

For my two cents, I could do without long, insulting rants, especially against other people doing their best to advance civil rights for all people. If you must criticize, either do it more concisely, or show some ability to understand not just your own concerns, but also those of the voices you're critiquing. If you want respect, show some. Nothing is as black and white as your writing seems to imply.

helen_boyd said...

maybe not as important, but important. yes, food & shelter comes first. but the ability to create & sustain a family is vital -- especially for those with children.

i don't understand positing this as either/or. can't we work for both? i'm planning on it.

Gina said...

This is not just about the economy going up and down, it's acknowledging that sizable parts of our communities can't get jobs, healthcare, housing or appropriate social services. It's acknowledging thousands of LGBT youth are being pushed away from their families or into the foster care system.

Yes, Helen, I'm a single adoptive parent and a former teacher, and I think what Rebecca mentioned is far more important at the moment than marriage equity. If we really care so much about our communities, why can't we put 1/10th the effort and money into helping at-risk youth and disenfranchised queer/trans people? And the reason this doesn't happen is because the community people with money are largely disconnected from those issues. They want mainstream rights (such as marriage... which they totally deserve) and, quite honestly, don't feel they have a lot in common with at-risk populations. I think this is a shame and a shortcoming. We can do both, but putting marriage equity ahead of all other issues on the LGBT plate is a case of poor prioritizing.

Nancy, I feel Rebecca's post poses a vital question that begs to be asked and I'm sorry you're the one with an axe to grind.

Unknown said...

I disagree Nancy. I think it's black and white in this case. I don't think it's unreasonable to say that the plight of families that are homeless or going hungry due to unemployment are a more urgent problem than the ability of a much smaller group to be able to marry.

For decades, we transfolks were told to wait our turn. I don't think it's unfair to ask marriage advocates to do the same, especially not when lives literally hang in the balance.

Nancy Nangeroni said...

There are always greater and lesser needs. Should transgender people wait for their rights until poverty is eliminated, or the recession ended? I don't think so, even though those issues affect far more people. If we were to follow your reasoning, we should give up everything until genocide and poverty overseas is eliminated.
Gay marriage advocates should advocate as much as they feel is warranted, and I don't feel it's my place to tell them how to prioritize their need.
Please forgive if my prior comment offended, but long posts push other posts off the page, and authors ought, I think, to be considerate of others and constrain their wordiness. There's also the issue of horizontal hostility, or attacking others within your community or movement. I came under such attack as ED of IFGE, and it's not fun. Rebecca, you could make the same points without the name-calling. Your post is more self-righteous and divisive than helpful or healing. I know you're capable of being more reasonable. You're a good writer, I just wish you would show others, in whose shoes you haven't walked, a little more courtesy.

As to the issues you discuss, marriage equality will benefit all GLBT persons, by normalizing a gender-blind institution at the heart of our society. Yes, it doesn't immediately solve many serious problems. But it is a step in the right direction, and as such, I think that opposing the efforts of those working on it is counterproductive. Here in Massachusetts, the same people who won the right to marry in a hard-fought battle have now turned their considerable resources to Trans Civil Rights, and are proving to be highly effective allies who have secured co-sponsorship of our TCR legislation by half the legislature.
Most of all, I find your opposition to marriage equality advocates via name-calling offensive. I'm long past sick of reading such.

Unknown said...

Nancy, my problem here is not the cause but the timing. I am a staunch supporter of same-sex marriage, but not at the expense of workplace rights.

Let's not forget that transpeople have been stripped from bills (ENDA) or just not included when rights for gays and lesbians were granted (NY, NJ, Mass., Wisc., etc.), always with promises of coming back for us that either never come true or don't come true for a generation or more.

I don't know about you, but what I'm sick of most is being told to wait for my right to make a living free of discrimination and bigotry while at the same time wealthy gay elites take the position that their right to marry, which unlike workplace rights is banned in 45 states, should be granted immediately.

Let's also not forget that to this day, despite all the backlash, HRC still has not withdrawn its support for a non-inclusive ENDA.

Sure, I express my feelings in a direct and often angry tone. I think it's especially appropriate here.

When LGBT people are freezing to death on the streets, living in cars and shelters, not being able to feed their families, and these elitists complain that they should be able to save money on their taxes, apparently not caring that they risk riling up the right-wing against us in order to do so, yeah, I get angry.

People dying unnecessarily, particularly when one of the main causes is legally-sanctioned anti-LGBT bigotry preventing fair treatment in the workplace, tends to piss me off.

Yes, an inclusive ENDA is a more urgent priority than marriage. Saying so in meek, politically correct, hushed tones doesn't get the job done. We know this because we've tried it. It doesn't work.

Only diamond can cut diamond, and I believe it's the only way to ensure success here because we already know we can't trust the elites to stand up for anyone other than themselves.

Nancy Nangeroni said...

"meek, politically correct, hushed tones"? Let me be frank. Rebecca, you seem to have no idea how to actually persuade those who don't already agree with you. This writing does nothing to create change, which is won by understanding the concerns of those who don't agree with you, not by ranting against their disagreement. Instead of helping create change, you are lowering the discourse and adding to a reputation for naive loud-mouthing by our community. A reputation which makes harder the work of those like myself, whose work is conducted mostly behind the scenes, in negotiations with those same activists.

AA said...

This whole argument is pointless. As if ENDA is really going to protect queer people or trans people. Magically companies around the country are going to start hiring all the unemployed trans people out there? Yeah right. And not fire anyone? Cause theyll be really scared that some unemployed trannie is going to win a big employment suit. Good luck with that.

pe1biv said...

Rebecco, I have no idea if you realised you just also did stick a dagger in the back of the LG allies of Transgendered people.

Yes, an inclusive ENDA and other protection of ALL LGBT people is important!

That's why ALSO Marriage equality is important.
Besides that, marriage equality will create jobs and YOU could be someone filling a job in that!

So, I can only conclude you did fall in the same Elitist trap som many LG people have before you and as so many people after you will do again!

Remember5! We have to stand TOGETHER as one LGBT community as though our needs and ideas may not be the same, we all suffer from the same discrimination and intolerance that is put on us just because of the label that was stuck on us at birth!


pe1biv said...

Besides Rebecca,

Do you also realise that Marriage Equality will enable hetrosexual TG people in a relation with a partner of the opposite sex to their gender to marry before they have surgery and all their legal work done?

See the advantage of the protection in this as that now the protection ANY hetrosexual couple now simply has?

Maybe you can also see the advantage in this for same sex couples.
So, see why BOTH cases/issues are equally important.
Yes, we first have the basic human needs, but that is not exclusive to TG people.


And just to make it clear for if it wasn't, I'm an ALL inclusive LGBT advocate.