Monday, August 1, 2016

The economics of life

For many marginalized people, life is a struggle.  There is a saying that says that most people are three paychecks away from poverty.  Many people think that's generous, given the large number of people who have to use payday loans on a regular basis.

Right now, I'm one of the lucky transgender people - I've been able to save up a decent amount of money, and if I were to lose my job again (heaven forbid), I'd be able to get by (for now).  But most of us who are "Out" can say that.  They lose most of their families and friends, and they lose their economic security as they lose their jobs for trumped up reasons.

We are not alone.  There are others who have, for no fault of their own, become just as at risk as we are to the whims of a capricious system. For example, let's look at a rural mine worker after the local mine shuts down.  Virtually all jobs in the community depend directly or indirectly on that mine. Skills which may be needed for other jobs in other areas are in short supply by the the former mine workers. They are also tied down to that community - it's hard to abandon a town one grows up in because the main employer shuts down.  So people fall into time tested routines, routines which no longer are adequate to provide a reasonable standard of living.  People from the inner cities are just as much at risk, also for reasons of people being shut out from the work force. Although there are many more jobs to be found in the city as a whole, the schools fail to educate people, and many are kept from getting skilled work because of prior run ins with the criminal "justice" system.  (I don't want to get into a political discussion here, as much as I want to talk about economics. So please bear with me....)

Transgenders are in the long list of groups who have been marginalized in the workplace due to prejudices beyond our control.  So many transgender people have a very hard time making ends meet. Most of us are unable to go "stealth" and pass beneath the radar. For most of us, our voices and facial features give us away. Since society values people most who look most like the "ideal" persons their genders, transgender people often get discriminated against.  One blogger (whose blog I regularly read) has noted that she will be out of work within the month, and that due to her "non-ideal" appearance, will be unable to find work - even at a low wage / low skill job.  (And this T-Gal has a Master's degree which would otherwise qualify her for a very responsible position.) She lives with another T-Gal, and both suffer because of society's prejudices against us.

About 6 months ago, I was in the middle of a job search. One friend (from Yonkers game night) asked me whether I was applying for work as Marian or as Mario.  And I replied that I couldn't risk the prejudices I would face to apply for work as Marian.  I'd have to live my life as Mario from 9 to 5, and live as Marian once I got home from work.  What would have happened if I transitioned while on the old job?  Even though in NYC (if I recall correctly) being transgender is a protected class, it's hard to prove that you were discriminated against if you didn't get the job.  There is no government agency out there conducting "stings" to monitor the hiring agents who make job offers.

I don't want to encourage anyone to transition or not to transition.  But I do hope that anyone deciding to transition treats it as a multi-year project, a project in which family, friendships, and finances will be the most important things in one's life. It is important that one prepares for long term un/under-employment, as well as the loss of family and friends. If one is well prepared, and manages risk well, this can be a very rewarding journey. If not, it can be a hellish ordeal.  It is up to the transgender who travels through life to make to make the best decisions possible. And I hope my readers considering transition do so....

1 comment:

  1. The editor in me has to point out that I think the line "But most of us who are "Out" can say that" should be " But most of us who are "Out" can't say that"!