the philosophactivist

Monday, September 19, 2011

Random Thoughts on the East Bay

I'm almost ready to emerge from the summer cocoon I've woven here in California. I've got a lot to process after being in Oakland for a few months. I was not compelled to check out the queer scene in San Francisco, I'll admit. My heart was heavy after learning more about gentroqueers and the lack of representation of queer people of color (QPOC) in that particular part of the Bay. Though I know they are there! I saw some inspiring art happening - D'Lo's play, A QPOC art exhibit. I had my moments with the East Bay. Sometimes I loved Oakland, sometimes I just wanted to run from it. There is so much displacement. On the same main street where there were intoxicated and homeless people of color, there were white young people riding by seemingly carefree.  My first month in Oakland I wondered why I got screamed at almost daily on the street. Some friends of mine (brown folks) said that it's probably because I'm black and that kind of pulls me into what's going on. (I was staying in a mostly black part of town). I really think it's because of how I look and how I dress. I will never forget a drunken homeless man who stopped me and a group of friends to ask for some change. He harassed us and suddenly stopped in mid-sentence to say "Oh. you're a girl" to me. He got in my face and stared at me for an uncomfortable amount of time before we asked him to leave. I didn't expect my hats and ties, pants with zippers, and other men's clothing to be such a big deal. ( I guess certain parts of New York spoiled me). I slowly found out it was only in particular parts of town. I contemplated on if I should switch up my style and finally compromised with myself and wore what I wanted but only if I wasn't going to be hanging out where I would draw unwanted attention. I felt like a target.

After about a month, it wasn't as big a deal to me. I knew where I could go.  But it was unsettling to me that I'd actually compromised. Being read as female so much also left me feeling as if I'd gone back in time and had undone all the processing it had taken to get me where I am today.  I became so used to being referred to as "she" that on one fateful day I even used this pronoun for myself in my own thoughts!

I met some great queer activists but I was left wondering where all the genderqueers were. Every once in a while I'd get happy when I saw a transmasculine person or someone who was androgynous. When the Butch Voices conference came around and I got to meet some of the Brown Boi Project, I felt better. But I still felt really lonely once that was over. I just wanted a handful of folks to kick it with that got this particular part of my struggle. I used to feel that there was a lot of tension between transmasculine folks and butches, and I'm sure this still exists but Butch Voices and a lack of a trans/genderqueer community has made me think more. Masculine of Center folks should definitely be allies, no matter how they identify. We have a similar struggle. I recently came across a really hateful blog that seeks to create more tension between FTMs and butches. It also seeks to say that transfolks have no place within  radical feminist and lesbian communities. I've seen a lot of ridiculous ideologies under the guise of "radical" or "liberal" thought lately. When are we going to see that a lot of these homogenous spaces really just perpetuate that which it seeks to eradicate.

Also...Queer Job hunters out there...

I've been looking for employment and it has come to my attention that my resume has a lot of LGBT organizing on it. I remember when one of our faculty told me that I should take those experiences off...well, that's a lot of experience I won't get credit for. So far I've still been sending out my resume with this experience ( I'll admit that I've revised it quite a bit), but I've been thinking about how people might just not be calling me back because of my obvious tie to the queer community. As weird as this sounds, I'd like to think it's just that I'm not experienced enough...but lately I'm growing wary.

I've also been thinking about how it will be at the next job I take. Will I be able to go by they or he? Will I be safe being out? Though these are important questions to ask during an interview...they could also lead to me not getting the position. When I was fresh out of undergrad, these were issues but I opted to be in the closet until I got the opportunity to come out.  Luckily I worked with some great people who had no visible problem with me being out and eventually I was even able to adhere to the  men's dress codes and scrap the women's codes. Now I think about getting a position where I'll have to train or do a lot of public speaking and wonder if how I dress will a) affect the recruiter's decision to hire me and b) affect professional relationships with business partners, or employees of other organizations I might train, be in contact with,etc. Sure, I know that I should just "be me" and not care about all this but at the end of the day- I need to be employed. Do  you know the percentage of trans people who are unemployed or underemployed?

Here are some key findings on the National Transgender Discrimination Survey:
Transfolks face:

Double the rate of unemployment: Survey respondents experience unemployment at twice the rate of 
the population as a whole. 

Near universal harassment on the job: Ninety-seven percent (97%) of those surveyed reported 
experiencing harassment or mistreatment on the job. 

Significant losses of jobs and careers: Forty-seven percent (47%) had experienced an adverse job outcome, 
such as being fired, not hired or denied a promotion. 

High rates of poverty: Fifteen percent (15%) of transgender people in our sample lived on $10,000 per 
year or less–double the rate of the general population. 

Significant housing instability: Nineteen percent (19%) of our sample have been or are homeless, 11% 
have faced eviction and 26% were forced to seek temporary space. 

 In a Maryland survey, 42% of trans people were unemployed, 31% make an annual survey less than $10,000 and 19% did not have their own living space.

There are few policies out there to end this kind of employment and housing discrimination.

So that's the deal.

But I feel like I can't go back in the closet. Not at a place where I spend the majority of my time. Maybe some of you are thinking that I should just get a job at an LGBT organization or LGBT-friendly employer. I've tried. Lots of them are underfunded, aren't exactly trans-friendly (??) and are not racially diverse (to put it nicely). We need more Allgos and Audre Lorde Projects and Brown Boi Projects. Sigh. Should I try to find a queer bubble to hide out in. Queer community,queer job, queer, queer, queer so that I can get treated equally. (Maybe). Or should I risk being uncomfortable, unsafe, or possibly even unemployed. I honestly don't know what would happen if I had to not be me 8 hours a day...40 hours a week...52 weeks a year minus vacations.

that is all.

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