Out of work and low on Pride

  • by Gloria Nieto
  • Wednesday June 22, 2011
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Longtime LGBT community member Gloria Nieto
Longtime LGBT community member Gloria Nieto

Ah, the fabulous month of June, Pride as far as the eye can see. Rainbow flags festooned up and down Market Street, the flag atop the Seattle Space Needle, lots of revelry throughout the country.

For those of us who are queer and unemployed, it is not really a celebration. June becomes another month with no income, no hope, and certainly not pride. I am not alone in this. There are millions of Americans who are unemployed, millions who are LGBT. I won't bother with the statistics. If you are not unemployed, surely you know someone who is or has been out of work in the last few years.

At this time in my life, I am 56 years old. I have not had a job in over two years. My unemployment is long gone. I am part of the elite 99er club, people who have used up 99 weeks of unemployment and have no income from this safety net. Every discussion about extending unemployment has not included us – the most severely impacted unemployed workers. With the exception of Congresswoman Barbara Lee from Oakland, not one scintilla of effort has been made in the House of Representatives to assist us in this horrific economic downturn.

Unemployment is a problem for people of all ages but particularly in my age group. No one wants to hire us. Experience means nothing. We apparently need more money to pay bills for things like car payments and mortgages.

I remember trying to explain this to a congressman last year at Netroots Nation. First, he didn't know what a 99er was so I explained to him the situation and that we were not included, again, in the latest unemployment extension. This was news to him.

Then I made the point, politely, that someone with gray hair will not get hired. It just is not happening right now. I have seen more people my age working at PetSmart and Michael's than at any time in the past. They are all grateful to be there. I would be too if I could work in a job, most any job.

I have been plagued with undiagnosed excruciating pain in both my feet. It makes walking farther than a block impossible. Standing up? Not a chance. I have had three foot surgeries, none of which helped. Prior to the surgeries I had eight different sets of cortisone shots in my feet. That is really not any fun.

Then last year I had the medical crises from hell. The short version is that I was hospitalized twice in a week. I am now the proud owner of two stents in heart arteries and my gall bladder has gone away.

I have done everything I am supposed to do since then.   Followed all the directions, all my numbers are perfect. Yet, I have this horrid pain that keeps me from enjoying anything.

Either of these conditions leads to lots of depression. I am now in a chicken/egg spiral. Job? No. Pain? Yes.

It is hard, really very hard to feel proud when it is difficult to get up in the morning to face another day with no hope. I was the number two finalist a number of times in my job search. But the longer I am out of work, the more suspect I am. It's not as if I am the only person going without a paycheck for years now. But combine the age factor and a resume with some gaping holes, I now don't even get interviews. No responses come to me at all. This is a whole new phase of hopelessness.

I know I have many things to be grateful for right now, too. I am not homeless, although we did lose our house during this time. I have transportation. I have a beloved spouse who I adore and animals who always give me unconditional love. My mother and sister have helped me both emotionally and financially. The generosity of so many people has been a wonderful surprise.

Millions are suffering in this country now. LGBT people are among the millions struggling to find work, to find financial security, and the self-esteem that comes with working, paying bills, and being able to have a little extra money for a dinner out one night. 

Our institutions struggle with lack of donations. The organizations that work to bring us equality don't have the same financial support due to this economic crisis. Individually, those of us without jobs for these long periods of time are left on the sidelines, crippled by the multiple rejections and the loss of faith in ourselves.

This lack of resources plays a huge part on my ability to be proud. When I am dodging the bill collectors on the phone, I do not feel good about myself. When I have been turned down by hundreds of would-be employers, how do I face the world proudly after being told I am not good enough again and again and again?

There are no easy answers. But if you have a little extra Pride, can you share it with folks like myself who could use a smile, a hug, or some act of kindness? We would appreciate it.

Gloria Nieto lives in San Jose.