Work to do on two fronts
This year's San Francisco Pride celebration theme, "For Racial and Economic Justice," highlights unmet goals for the Bay Area's LGBT community. Even as we mark the one-year anniversary of same-sex marriage, the battle for equality continues.
Economic justice means seeking economic parity for LGBT people. People of color and transgender people are particularly vulnerable in a volatile economy. Studies have consistently concluded that transgender people remain underemployed and unemployed. The minimum wage has risen in cities around the Bay Area, but the high cost of living here means that the higher wages don't go far. San Francisco's unemployment rate is a measly 2.9 percent, yet many trans people and people of color struggle to find jobs.
What can be done? For starters, LGBT nonprofits that focus on workplace issues need to broaden their reach beyond big corporations. The regional economy depends on small business owners, who often hire locally. It's these mom-and-pop shops that can really make a difference by hiring qualified LGBT workers. Additionally, San Francisco has many programs to help small businesses, including the recently passed Legacy Business Registry and Historic Preservation Grant, which was created by Proposition J that gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos spearheaded and voters approved last November. The resource is meant to provide financial assistance to keep the city's "legacy" businesses open.
At the national level, instead of cozying up to anti-gay Republicans – gay Apple CEO Tim Cook is reportedly hosting a private breakfast fundraiser next week for House Speaker Paul Ryan (Wisconsin) – tech CEOs should be leading the charge to pass federal legislation such as the Equality Act. The Equality Act, which was introduced in Congress, establishes explicit, permanent protections against discrimination based on an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity in matters of employment, housing, access to public places, federal funding, credit, education and jury service. In addition, it would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in federal funding and access to public places. Old manufacturing jobs aren't coming back in this country. Tech and so-called green jobs are where the future is. LGBT workers can and should be given an opportunity to get those jobs without fear of bias.
Regarding racial justice, there is a need, as the SF Pride Committee stated, to "illuminate the intersections of our movement with the broader population, acknowledge our connected struggles, and ignite our obligation to address all forms of inequality." Despite progress, LGBTs of color often face discrimination – even in our own community. We experienced this in the Castro, when bars used to demand multiple forms of ID from people of color. A decade ago there was the protracted Badlands discrimination case that was eventually mediated to a confidential settlement. Here at the Bay Area Reporter, we are constantly aware that we must reach out to communities of color, not only for stories about their experiences, but also to seek comment in the regular course of gathering news. Adding more people of color to the staff is also a goal to which we aspire.
There is white privilege in the gay community, and being aware of that is the first step to making changes. Queer Latinos should have been on the stage at the June 12 vigil in the Castro hours after the Pulse nightclub shooting rampage in Orlando, yet they were mostly absent and were compelled to organize their own march to the Mission district last weekend. That's the sort of disconnect that should concern all of us, no matter our politics or our skin color. The tragic deaths of 49 mostly gay Latino men, African American women, and others at Pulse nightclub should unite us all as we seek answers about the anti-gay hate crime in the months ahead.
We are stronger when we're working together. And these days, as LGBT people, we need to stand together with others more than ever.