Gay and Progressive Politics Are Not Strange Bedfellows

Gay and Progressive Politics Are Not Strange Bedfellows
By Frank Pizzoli

Politics makes strange bedfellows. But there is nothing strange about the forces of gay politics and Progressive ideas crawling under the covers for a warm embrace.

When Hartford (Conn.) Courant editor Charles Dudley Warner (1829 – 1900) and friend of Mark Twain made his pronouncement he could not have foreseen the state of affairs for today’s LGBT individuals and issues of economic justice.

Although 12-year old Queers for Economic Justice is closing due to funding crunches, their mission remains noble: To challenge and change systems that create poverty and economic injustice…and to promote an economic system that embraces sexual and gender diversity. Economic justice and sexual and gender diversity are not strange bedfellows.

Amber Hollibaugh, QEJ founder, recently repeated to Central Voice what she told a larger media audience.

“It’s profoundly disquieting that in the midst of the current economic crisis, you have no idea that the recession had an impact on our community. It makes me insane, because this idea that all LGBT people are wealthy, and mostly white is a dangerous myth,” she said.

There were 46.5 million people living in poverty in 2012. That means about 1.4 million of them were in the gay community.

Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues in “Out for Change: Racial and Economic Justice Issues in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Communities” and the Center for American Progress note the economic difficulties within the gay community.

Ongoing discrimination against LGBT workers leaves them economically vulnerable and makes it difficult for them to financially provide for their families, the center reports.

Almost one in four children living with a male same-sex couple and 19.2 % of children living with a female same-sex couple are in poverty, compared to 12.1 % of children living with married different-sex couples.

Furthermore, 14.1 % of lesbian couples and 7.7 % of gay male couples receive assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, compared to 6.5 % of different-sex married couples.

Black LGBT people in particular lag behind in multiple areas of economic security due to the heightened vulnerability that stems from race-based and anti-LGBT discrimination and stigma.

The LGBT community is economically and racially diverse despite media depictions of gay families as financially secure and predominately white. In fact, a 2012 Gallup poll revealed that nonwhites were more likely than their white counterparts to identify as LGBT, with African Americans topping the chart as the racial and/or ethnic group most likely to identify as LGBT.

This security in their identity as LGBT people does not make them immune to the effects of bias and discrimination. Black LGBT people are more likely to be living in poverty than their peers, and black same-sex couples have poverty rates at least twice the rate of black different-sex married couples.

Black men in same-sex relationships are more than six times as likely to be in poverty than white men in same-sex couples—18.8 % to 3.1 %, respectively—and black women in same-sex relationships are three times more likely to be poor than white women in same-sex relationships—17.9 % to 5.1 %, respectively.

Trying to find an LGBT organization that does more than pay lip service to the idea that
“the gay” and economic issues go hand-in-hand is like trying to find a virgin at an orgy.

“It seems to me the mainstream LGBT movement groups depend on labor for muscle and mostly don’t return the favor on economic justice issues. In fact, the LGBT groups take big corporate donations from some of the worst actors in the corporate world (Citibank, Walmart, Paul Singer, David Koch, etc.) which buys those companies and individuals good will and makes the groups shut up about their injustices,” observes Andy Humm, co-host with Ann Northrup of New York City’s Gay USA weekly news broadcast.

Humm means economic injustices.

One way to measure – and reward – companies with gay laurels is to include questions around economic issues of social justice. Perhaps someday a high HRC rating will reflect a commitment to both gay and economic justice issues.

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