Does our community’s culture make poverty more difficult for LGBT people?
Iowa native George K. Gramer, Jr. is the president of the Colorado Log Cabin Republicans.
Our community has been known for fashion and labels. Remember Queer Eye for the Straight Guy? I don’t think our community’s culture makes poverty more difficult for LGBT people, I think superficial people do. You all know them and there is one word to describe them: plastic! They are the ones who put someone else down because they don’t want to deal with their own issues. They are the ones who’d rather drive an Audi, BMW, or Mercedes to look flashy, and will then mooch off their friends for drinks because they don’t have any extra discretionary money. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not talking about everyone that drives those cars. I am talking about those who live outside their means. Wealth does not define us, we define wealth. I know my friends would give me the shirt off their back, a place to stay or a hot meal if I needed one and we do that for each other not because of what we wear or drive but because we simply care for each other. When did we as a society start allowing material possessions to define us? Who cares? Are people really going to stop being friends with someone because they don’t wear a name-brand label? Let me know who they are and I’ll blast them on one of my late-night Facebook rants. Do we all want to be richer and have more money, sure. But does money truly buy you happiness? No! Are all members of our community superficial and plastic? No! So then, why do we let those who are dictate how the rest of us should look, act and be in our own community? Oprah Winfrey once said, “Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” That’s wealth and true friendship and no dollar sign can be assigned to that. ] Shanida Lawya’
Nita Mosby Henry is the Executive Director of the Career Service Authority – the City of Denver’s Human Resources Agency. She is a member of the One Colorado Board of Directors and the Tony Grampas Youth Services Board. She is the founder of Girlz Pushing the Button.
In the U.S. today, there are many reasons for poverty, but poverty is not a good thing for anyone to face. Almost 50 years after President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” is the U.S. any better in any poverty demographic? Today, 15 percent of Americans live below the poverty level ($23,050 for a family of four). It is estimated that 58 percent of all Americans will spend one year of their life between age 25 and 75 below the poverty line. The LGBT community’s culture creates a utopia of high-end automobiles, vacations to Key West and Palm Springs, designer clothing, luxurious homes, and even perhaps costly bad habits. Reality grounds us that most of the utopia is only that, and we live within a lifestyle our income permits. Research (all statistics I have used come from the Center for American Progress, a liberal-progressive think tank) yields some interesting results: LGB couples are at least as likely to be poor as heterosexual couples, and lesbians are consistently poorer than their heterosexual counterparts. Lesbian couples over age 65 suffer a poverty rate twice the heterosexual couple average. The transgender community suffers high unemployment and low earnings. Surveys indicate that (and this is a very wide range) 22 to 64 percent of transgender earnings are less than $25,000 annually. Further, there is a high homeless rate among the transgender community. One final comment: LGBT youth probably suffer poverty most. Many are homeless, confused, not in school, and on a dismal life track. Many resort to illicit activity for income or become substance dependent. Poverty is indeed serious for all Americans and especially for the LGBT community. ] George K. Gramer, Jr.
Nita Mosby Henry
There are realities and there are myths about wealth in the LGBT community. There is the myth of great financial wealth running rampant throughout our community. Because of this stereotype or myth, it is easy to feel an undue pressure to “look and behave like the stereotyped norm.” The reality is, like any other community, there are a percentage of us with financial wealth, a percentage of us in poverty and a percentage us who are somewhere in the middle. It is fair to say, however, the wealthy can be more obvious to the community, the media and to those who stereotype others, in some cases because of the work they are doing, the circles they are in and the magnitude of their experiences. They stick out. Because wealth often comes with illumination – the person, whether they ask for it or not, becomes the focus of the spotlight. The attention-getter. The story. Our culture of celebration and partying also disguises the realities of our community. For the person who cannot decipher stereotypes from reality, it looks like we’re all constantly having a blast! The “blast,” in reality is a farce. We do know how to have a good time, but there is real pain in our community, even when techno is playing in the background. What’s the impact to our community? Most often it buries important stories. It covers up the reality that there is indeed poverty and pain within the LGBT community. It minimizes where we need help. It creates exclusion versus inclusion. It is a terrible burden to pretend wealth and joy are the only acceptable attributes in our community. In my mind, the true joy comes when we acknowledge that our community is similarly situated to the rest of the world. We have our “haves” and “have nots.” The difference is, I think, our community has the wherewithal to do something about it. ]
Shanida Lawya’, also known as “the firey red head of the Rockies” is an activist, volunteer and entertainer in Denver. Shanida hosts Bingo at X-Bar every Wednesday, DREAMGIRLS every 1st, 3rd and 4th Fridays at Hamburger Mary’s and every other Sunday in Denver’s DIVAS at Charlie’s. Follow Shanida on twitter @Shanida.
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march 20, 2013 | outfrontonline.com
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COVER STORY: Young, Gay and Broke: gay men who live outside the margins of traditional society.