Written by Eugénie FitzGerald, Director of Economic Development, San Francisco LGBT Community Center
Years ago I was bullied and threatened on the job after my coworkers met my gender-queer partner. I really needed the job so I downplayed my anxiety and hoped that they would drop it. Instead it escalated, and one day they tried to push me off of a moving vehicle. It was a turning point for me -- I realized that I, too, deserved a respectful workplace. I brought this forward to my boss, nervous but resilient. 24 hours later I was fired, and I was left devastated, broke and confused. But I also walked away with a vision -- one of working in a safe and affirming workplace. It took some time and the support of many, but the next job that I got was the best that I had ever had.
At the SF LGBT Center, we are in the business of visioning. We work with transgender job seekers learning computer coding on the path to a high-tech job. We work with individuals coming from the street economy and leverage their skills to make headway in the formal job market. We work with bold entrepreneurs working hard to earn an income for themselves and create employment opportunities for others. We work with people in many different life situations, and we have learned that these are often really challenging roads, especially in this job market. For those of us who have visions of returning to work, of improving our job situation or otherwise deciding to stride brazenly towards a stronger economic vision for ourselves -- in this market we often need the support of many, we need a village.
At the Center, the village we draw from is each other. We ask our community to give back and become mentors. We advocate and support our corporate partners to create more affirming workplaces. Everyday we roll up our sleeves and offer multiple services concurrently to support our participant's success. Cameron came to us for career counseling and wound up working simultaneously with our credit counselor to improve their credit score. Pau, a burgeoning entrepreneur, came to us for support in launching their business and worked with our employment team not once, but twice. Initially to get a part-time job while starting a business, and a second time a year later, to hire employees for their new and growing enterprise.
We all need a village, and it is definitely true for those of us who are LGBT. The economic health of our community is not well mapped. The mainstream media often paints us as some version of "dual income no kids" or ignores us altogether. In many states there are no legal protections in the workplace for LGBT people. Discrimination exists -- and for those of us who experience multiple forms, like racism, ableism or ageism, this discrimination is a multiplier. Most importantly, everyone, including those most affected by homophobia and transphobia, deserve access to education, employment and housing. In fact, every member of our very gorgeous, very diverse community deserves economic security.
Where do you see yourself in a year? My vision is that I will be making significant contributions to the economic health of LGBT people across the United States. Tell me your dream! Let's inspire and educate each other, let's make sure that employment initiatives everywhere hear our voices, and let's ensure that decision makers across the country hear our truths as well, in all of its diversity, and through all of that discrimination. Because I think it's time to make a fuss. It's time to make a vision for ourselves, and set a course for our community.
Job-raising, village-raising, it all starts with the same point. It all starts with a simple question -- where do you see yourself in a year? Join our village -- tweet us your story, come by and see us, and please contribute to our work by donating to our jobraising challenge, any amount will help support our community.
Visit us at Sfcenter.org.