Too Queer for Radicals and Too Radical for Queers
"The Right Fit"

Going on several interviews, job seekers often try to find ways to improve their chances in getting a job through asking for critical feedback. Often, this request falls on deaf ears, if you are lucky, you may get someone who is willing to help you out. However, sometimes, this feedback is rather trite, superficial and given just to not make things awkward. Over the 15 interviews I’ve been in (over half in which I made it to the final rounds) I only received one or two organizations who gave me useful feedback that I could use to improve my application and interviews. I have collected a few stories over my 8 month job search process:

"We Need Someone who has Connections to XYZ Officials"

This was an interesting story. I was fortunate enough to get an informational interview for a job that I applied to doing policy work. The individual doing the hiring was definitely interesting and hearing his story about how he moved to the city he currently lives in out of graduate school (with his MPP just like me) for his current position gave me a little hope. He spoke a lot about how he didn’t know anyone in that city and how the organization took a chance on him, which later benefited the organization as a whole. The purpose of the interview was to get to know him and understand his journey, when he finished, I thanked him for his time. He stopped me however and said “I know that you applied for our XX position and I did look at your resume and thought you are extremely qualified for the position.” I got excited and thought to myself that he may have liked what I had to say and that he wanted to schedule a real interview with me. And then he said “… but we are looking for someone who has connections to XYZ officials. So unfortunately we won’t be interviewing you.” As a job seeker, I heard ‘I was able to be successful in my job without knowing anyone because I was exceptional… although you are extremely qualified and you have the same exact degree as I do, I don’t want to take a chance on you… kbai.” It definitely left me confused and had me try to work my networks that much more when applying for jobs and interviewing…

"We are Looking for Someone with More Experience"

I saw a job posting that I found to definitely be out of my reach (in terms of how executive the title was). I also wasn’t sure if I was prepared to do the job if I got it. However, when I asked for feedback they told me that they were “looking for someone with more experience.” Although understandable, I wondered why they even interviewed me in the first place? They saw what I had to offer in my resume and cover letter and with the initial phone screening. It was definitely a great interviewing experience for me but felt their feedback was a bit generic.

Your Experience is too Specific to a Community

My main career objective is to work for communities of color/LGBT communities and to do economic justice work (housing, economic development etc). I applied to an organization that specifically looks at economic disparities, particularly between communities of color and the white community as a whole. However, when I presented my experience, they told me that my experiences were too specific to a community. It baffled me that they as an organization did not understand that the skills I learned were transferable to the work they do. In fact, because I’ve worked in both the LGBT and API communities, I had a lot more to offer than someone who just worked in general economic justice organizations. In the end, they chose a white woman who has only lived in CT for most of her life (went to school there) and worked with women in domestic violence shelters. I am not disparaging the work she did, as that work is extremely important. However, for them to say that my experiences are too specific to a population and they can’t how I can transfer my skills to their work and then hire her who has also worked in specific populations raises some questions.

"The Right Fit"

I do believe that there is such a thing as the right fit but in many cases, this is used as a cop out for many employers. I’ve heard this particular feedback on multiple occasions and in some cases I understand and in other cases I am confused.

These are my experiences, anyone else have similar thoughts/ideas/experiences?

Reframing the LGBT Movement

This is a paper I wrote back in grad school which is the inspiration for my career. I really want to reframe the LGBT movement which has been successful in mobilizing and raising resources to begin using those skill sets to work on important issues around poverty within the community.

Reframing: Shifting the Paradigm of the LGBT Movement

The media describes the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) movement as a modern day civil rights movement; making numerous strides in advocating for “equality.” Establishing itself as a legitimate voting block and having resources to mobilize, the LGBT community has been successful in creating policy change. However, the issues being advocated for do not reflect the needs of the community as a whole. Advocacy around marriage and anti-bullying has turned a movement that addressed systemic oppression and lack of resources to a movement promoting heteronormativity and individual rights that disproportionately benefits the more privileged. Because of its ability to fundraise and mobilize, the LGBT community has a unique opportunity to position itself as a movement that advocates for all equality, including economic and social justice.

Marriage equality is perceived as a common issue that affects everyone in the LGBT community. Therefore marriage advocates have spoken on the community’s behalf. The organizations that were considered to be leaders in the LGBT movement began to create an organizational culture of donors, pushing a grassroots approach to the side (Dettmer & Botkin-Levy, 2010). Consequently, gays and lesbians who were able to provide financial support to these organizations also set the policy agenda. For them, marriage became the final hurdle to truly reach equality (Dettmer & Botkin-Levy, 2010). The framing of a marriage movement was established despite the fact that over 50% of the LGBT population is single and not everyone in the community wants to define their relationships and families through marriage.  (Dettmer & Botkin-Levy, 2010). Once a community defines its families through marriage, questions of family legitimacy arise.  As opposed to advocating and validating current queer family structures, organizations chose to assimilate into the system and take on an individual rights framework (Dettmer, 2010). Additionally, by framing the issue around pension and property rights transfers, those who are unable to access these assets are subsequently excluded (Dettmer & Botkin-Levy, 2010). This framework is contrary to what the movement attempted to achieve in its earlier years of dismantling homophobic systems and proves to be harmful to members of the community who do not adhere to the norms set forth. This exclusion also negatively impacts work that is being done around economic justice.

Funding for LGBT organizations that do not focus on marriage is extremely sparse. The Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues’ LGBTQ Grantmakers 2008 Report Card on Racial Equity found that organizations focusing on affordable housing, anti-violence and poverty issues, received only nine percent of funding from the LGBT community (Espinoza, 2008). These issues, which affect a larger percentage of people in the LGBT community, are not viewed as a priority. In addition, former priority issues such as HIV/AIDS, which effects low-income people, have taken a backseat to marriage. 

In 2008, conversations about marriage equality permeated the California political discourse with the introduction of the Proposition 8 referendum. Mainstream LGBT organizations mobilized and spent $43 million dollars on the failed No on 8 campaigns (Dettmer, 2010). However, simultaneously, the California state government made $85 million in budget cuts to AIDS funding. Although perceptions of solidarity in the LGBT community appeared in the No on 8 Campaign, there was virtually no response from the community about the AIDS funding budget cuts (Dettmer & Botkin-Levy, 2010). Programs that effected predominately low-income communities inflicted with the disease, such as services and housing assistance, were cut. Additionally, marriage advocates also failed to examine the impact marriage may have on low-income couples living with HIV/AIDS. Couples living on disability benefits adhere to strict poverty requirements. If a couple on disability were to combine their households through marriage, they could lose their benefits. According to Brian Bassinger from the AIDS Housing Coalition, the majority of people living with HIV/AIDS in San Francisco live in poverty, so loss of benefits is common (Dettmer, 2010). Negative impacts of advocating for marriage are apparent, as this issue may not be a priority for the community as a whole and because funding amongst the organizations are not evenly dispersed. What issues should the community support and how will the community develop this support?

Funders have identified marriage as a priority issue for the LGBT community. However, poverty, housing and access to appropriate healthcare are mainstay issues that have received little attention recently.  According to the Arcus Foundation, the issue of poverty not only affects communities of color, but LGBT people with intersectional identities are disproportionately affected by negative policies that disadvantage marginalized people (Sen, Wessler, & Apollon, 2010). 

The Center for American Progress reports that 24% of bisexual and lesbian women and 9.4% of lesbian families with children live in poverty (Quintana, 2009).  According to the report, lesbian couples were significantly more likely and gay men slightly more likely to live in poverty than their heterosexual counterparts. Looking to the transgender community, a segment of the movement that has virtually been left out of agenda setting, the prevalence of poverty is higher. Transpeople are twice as likely to live under the federal poverty line than the general population and twenty percent reported being homeless once they came out. Additionally, high unemployment and reports of low earnings for this group, with 22-64 percent earning less than $25,0000 a year support these claims (Quintana, 2009). LGBT youth, show higher levels of poverty and homelessness than their heterosexual counterparts. In a report done by the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, an estimated 115,000 to 640,000 homeless youth (20% to 40% of the total homeless youth population) identify as LGBT in the United States (Ray, 2006). Without an education, marketable skills or stable living environments, many youth turn to survival sex to find shelter and food. This high-risk behavior increases their chances of contracting STI’s/HIV and further effects their mental well-being (Ray, 2006). Some youth, attempting to find a safe space to live, purposefully attempt to contract HIV to qualify for housing assistance (Berger, 2010).

The current framing of the issues affecting the LGBT community have been heavily influenced by the gay affluent stereotype. Although it is not denied that low-income couples may benefit from marriage, the resources put towards this issue further disadvantages groups within the community who are unable or unwilling assimilate to the established norms. Marriage is not the silver bullet to solve the multiple social issues in the LGBT community but understanding the aforementioned issues in the community, advocates can develop strategies to work on these issues without compromising their resources.

The setting of marriage as the mainstay of the LGBT agenda was a result of donor influence, pushing litigation and the ability of mainstream LGBT organizations to lobby and influence policy makers. The LGBT community is uniquely positioned to have a positive impact on economic and social justice work, as some members of the community have the monetary and political resources to support advocacy efforts towards dismantling systems that perpetuate poverty and inequality. However, how do you influence those who prioritize marriage to begin focusing on issues that may not directly affect them?            

Coalition building across the LGBT community and among other social justice organizations is important when attempting to successfully reframe the LGBT movement. Current shifts in mainstream LGBT organizations that advocate for marriage, have attempted to involve people of color (Dettmer & Botkin-Levy, 2010). These movements understand the importance of building strong broad base coalitions to gain support, however, they fail in developing meaningful connections(Sen, et al., 2010). Two barriers appear, the lack of knowledge in racial justice organizations about LGBT issues and the lack of knowledge in LGBT organizations about racial justice issues.

Many racial justice organizations see LGBT issues as effecting predominately white communities. Conversely, LGBT organizations feel that including racial justice and poverty issues may drive a wedge within their movement and cause them to lose focus (Sen, et al., 2010).  According to a report funded by the Arcus Foundation, there are numerous factors that increase the chances of collaboration between these groups. It is important for these groups to recognize and redefine systems of oppression and liberation as a connected and overlapping issue that, although similar, are not the same (Sen, et al., 2010). Additionally, these organizations can take on an intersectional analysis, encourage leadership from LGBT people of color, share power and resources inter-organizationally, and have a long-term approach on community education (Sen, et al., 2010). Building a robust coalition can be met with some barriers that need to be addressed such as a lack of strategic clarity, fear of community conflict and the lack of funding and resources for collaborations (Sen, et al., 2010). However, the goal to overcoming these barriers and facilitating coalition building must be done through education in both racial/social justice organizations and LGBT organizations.

The education of racial/social justice organizations should include the understanding that LGBT people of color are affected by the issues that LGBT organizations are advocating. Additionally, showing racial and social justice organizations that white LGBT people suffer from similar forms of oppression that prevent many from coming out of poverty is important as well. In order to accomplish this, the mainstream LGBT movement must begin educating their donors and constituencies that this is true as well. The framing method used by many organizations in the past few decades to gain political power has created a stereotype of affluence within the community. If donors do not recognize poverty as being an issue, then the development of a coalition that seeks to combat these problems can be difficult. Additionally, leadership, who tend to be upper and middle class white people, need to be educated in the issues that are relevant to communities of color and low-income communities (Sen, et al., 2010). The current collaborations with racial/social justice organizations have been collaborations with LGBT Organizations of Color. Very seldom have mainstream LGBT groups made those connections. This comes from the underlying assumption that people of color automatically support LGBT efforts, a fatal assumption made in the No on 8 campaign in 2008 (Sen, et al., 2010). Finally, LGBT groups need to begin advocating for issues that are important to racial/social justice organizations. Developing these coalitions and educating organizations on both sides can have a positive outcome on creating impact on the disadvantaged LGBT community.

The LGBT movement has evolved since the 1969 Stonewall Riots. From looking at social justice issues by addressing systemic forms of oppression, such as police brutality, to reframing what oppression means and looking at marriage as a way to obtain equality for the community. The mainstream LGBT movement has had numerous political shifts throughout the decades that occurred because of stakeholder involvement and resource availability. Originally, the movement relied on grassroots strategies and organizing around the people, today the agenda of the movement has been decided by those who have the resources. This creates a hierarchy within a movement that originally sought to make people equal. With numerous victories, the movement has potential of being successful in achieving higher levels of equality for its community. However, what happens after marriage equality is achieved? Will donors continue to support efforts of these organizations unconditionally? The mainstream LGBT movement must go through another political shift and that focuses on addressing economic justice issues. By re-educating its donors, constituents and organizations outside of the community in addition to developing meaningful coalitions, the LGBT movement can truly be a movement that advocates for equality.

Although I am a day late, here is a post about the passing of Derrick Bell, an admired activist and pioneer in Critical Race Theory. I admire his resiliency and beliefs, challenging systems of oppression within higher education. Derrick Bell is an inspiration and the world has definitely lost a great man.

Introductions as the search continues…

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, national unemployment rates have decreased to 9.1% from 10.1% in 2009. Although this may appear to be promising news, looking at the data from a racial economic lens, the story changes. While white unemployment maintains at a lower rate than the national percentage, unemployment rates of people of color maintain at alarmingly higher rates. Analyses around this disparity have produced conversations around systemic issues revolving around education and opportunity. However, what is lacking in these analyses, because of the absence of data, is how sexual orientation and gender identity effect unemployment rates in these populations. This intersectional analysis is desperately needed, particularly for those who are extremely affected; black lesbian couples raising children and transwomen of color that turn to survival sex. However, systemic racial and homophobic/transphobic barriers may also have a lasting effect on those who are educationally privileged and from these communities.

What does this all mean? Although quantitative data on LGBT communities of color is not available, what are available are the stories from those who are disproportionately affected. The purpose of this tumblr is to chronicle my journey as a member of these multiple communities. As a biracial, Filipino-American gay man who has attained academic success (receiving a Master of Public Policy from a prestigious policy school), I wanted to bring voice and awareness to how non-traditional systemic barriers can still inhibit the ability of someone who is the epitome of the American liberalist ideology of “picking yourself up by your bootstraps.” Along the way I will discuss my job search, things I have done to try to overcome certain barriers, hopes, dreams, opinions on subjects surrounding racial/economic/LGBT inequity and my overall mood.  I hope to inspire those who find themselves in similar positions, to continue to be tenacious and resilient as life has a way of working things out… at least that’s what I continuously tell myself…