Monday, August 18, 2008

Transgender Delegate Blog: T-Minus One Week And Counting

This is a break from my typical TransPolitical blogs as I undertake this new assignment with Huffington Post. Essentially this is a delegate’s story, first-person (more auto-bio than the more detached editorials).

So I thought I’d just start with why I am a delegate.

“Economic Recovery,” recovering from the disaster of Bush/Cheney’s economy, began for me on Jan. 1, 2003. My job was outsourced. Afterwards I went 26 months without steady work. I went from earning $45,000 a year to under $4500 during that 26 month stretch for a family of two (my mother and me) and for six months with my sister as well (who was also not working with no other place to go).

Once upon a time I had excellent credit. While I’m a homeowner who’s never paid a late house payment, and managed to pay off my car note off on time as well, the rest of my credit is thoroughly trashed. Once had dreams, now my home is my only asset and is falling in disrepair in an era of tight budget, tight credit and falling home prices.

Even with that somewhat bright spot, the rest has been a struggle what with utilities doubling and gasoline shooting beyond three times what it was. To make ends meet I’ve been living without air conditioning or heat since 2003 (living in Houston makes the winters without heat doable, the long summers are tougher). Without medical insurance, I stopped the doctor visits after 2004. My prescriptions lapsed in 2005. Things like buying clothes, eating out and trips (save for Democratic conventions and lobbying) have completely stopped.

Rather than feeling bad, though, I feel I’m part of a larger trend. To borrow from the fashion industry phrase: Poor is the new “black.”

What compounds my personal situation is the fact that I’m also transgender. Being a trans delegate makes me a rare breed – even amongst GLBT delegates as a whole. However, I’m one of six delegates and two committee members this year. Most particularly, I’m giving voice to the unemployed, under-employed and economically marginalized in our community.

No, I’m not unemployed. At the moment, I work as a temp for one of the big five oil companies training my counterparts in India to assume the jobs I and my other team members do currently. Yes, we work in accounts receivable and accounts payable – or as George W. Bush puts it, “jobs that Americans won’t do.” (Funny thing is I’ve been doing all facets of accounting for over twenty years now.)

Additionally, I’m more fortunate than most. I’m now making about 75% of what I made at the beginning of this millennium, but I’m working fairly steadily, at least for the next two months. While I’m lucky to not be in the position of some of my friends: an endless spiral of joblessness and poverty at the moment, the memory of that period is as fresh as yesterday. Like many of my other friends, I know well the tenuous nature of jobs in the 21st century. We’re still in the neo-con conceived Economic Recovery, jobs grow ever-tighter by the day and costs keep rising to match.

While it seems I’m only concerned with transgenders, it only speaks to what I directly represent.

My community and I realize it’s not just us getting crushed under the wheels of maximized profit – everyone is. The haves have become the have mores. Income disparities increase remarkably. Our social fabric continues to split and diverge. These days collusive price fixing (or gouging), rising costs everywhere and flatlined wages and offshoring jobs are the norm.

As soon as you think it’s truly bad, you realize how much worse it is for others. Still recall vividly my friends fleeing all the folks who were pulled out after Hurricane Katrina. As bad as times were for us, it was exponentially worse for New Orleans. Even my friends who came to Houston ended up fleeing a month later when Hurricane Rita hit our area and points east.

George W. Bush talked about accountability and bringing respect back to the country when he first ran for president in 2000. There has been no accountability – no one is ever responsible in this government. And respect is rapidly vanishing around the world. Indeed our own self-respect is beginning to tremor. When you see even Republicans trashing their own party’s elected president, and doing everything to avoid being affixed to their party’s image, you know the self-respect is failing.

For me, hope is also starting to disappear. There’s only the faintest of glimmers at the moment, and I can only have faith that I’m placing my trust in something that won’t help crush hope completely. Time will tell. But in the face of what we’re seeing from the other major party’s candidate, and to what lows their presidential nominee will go in forsaking his own values for winning an election, I can only cleave to that hope.

Looking down the road from where I stand, there’s a foreboding darkness. I only hope we make it through.

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