Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Guest Post: When Pride alone is not enough

As you know if you read this blog, I rarely feature guest posts. This is one of those exceptions and it happens to be an extraordinary opinion piece by someone I consider to be one of my best friends, Gloria Nieto.  Additionally, I'll make this pitch even if she hasn't asked me to do so: If you know of any job leads for one fierce Latina lesbian please feel free to contact her through Twitter. Details at the bottom of this post...

Photo: Gloria Nieto appearing on Orgullo Latino, an In The Life pride month special airing on some PBS stations.

When Pride alone is not enough
by Gloria Nieto

June 19, 2012

Ah, the sun is out, the bees are buzzing, the Pride flags are unfurled all over the country and many LGBT people across the globe are planning what to wear to the biggest parade of their year. The change in décor can mean only one thing - Pride month is upon us!

I have been lucky enough to get a couple of spots on national media this June, which together encompass some pretty big portions of my life right now – and where I am, unfortunately, is not cause for unambiguous celebration.

In The Life, the national LGBT newsmagazine airing on PBS, is doing an episode, “Orgullo Latino,” on Latino/a LGBT people during this month of Pride. I am in that show because of my involvement with what used to be the national LGBT organization, LLEGO. It used to be based in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, it no longer exists.

I was also featured in a recent report on NPR’s All Things Considered about long-term unemployment. I am now three-plus years without a job with no change in sight. I am no longer getting interviews for anything. It has always been my contention that I am past the expiration date for employment these days. I have all the basics one would think an employer would want: marketable skills, a history of success and even awards.

But I am fifty-seven years old. I am pretty sure that the dye job doesn’t cover the wrinkles popping up around my eyes. As I said in the NPR interview, I am looking at the prospect of never working again in my life.

I am now in the group of people I have always worked to assist: Those with diminished opportunities and limited resources, and who are struggling to make it one month to the next. My physical condition, which no one can figure out, does not allow me to just take a job at the local Michael’s or PetSmart. I am on disability, but I don’t have insurance.

This can make Pride month difficult. The long-term effects of this unemployment on my psyche and sense of self-worth are really an enormous detriment to facing every day with any kind of hope, let alone Pride.

Being unemployed does not help when it comes to experiencing pride – and nor does not having a national LGBT Latino organization. We are not there at the meetings at the White House. We, the Latino LGBT community, don’t have a representative for our very specific concerns regarding immigration, schools, hate crimes, and employment discrimination.

In my previous life as a member of the Democratic National Committee, I was able to have conversations with candidates like John Kerry, Howard Dean, Tom Udall, Bill Richardson, Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin. I was part of a small meeting with President Bill Clinton in the White House. As a Latina lesbian, my experience was different than many of my colleagues who were there representing their respective interests. For example, I was not there to represent the transgender community because that is not my experience. Being supportive of my brothers and sisters does not make me an expert nor make me a representative of communities I am not part of.

In the same way, I don’t expect our national organizations to represent my experience as part of the broad advocacy of the LGBT communities. I do, however, expect to see Latino representation at all levels in every organization. I think this has been missing for a while.

In that regard, also, some of us who are unemployed and have a rich history of success, failure and breaking barriers are still ignored. Somehow we are no longer valued in so many different places, and all our skills are wasted while we try to find things to do and ways to be helpful. We continue to seek to show our Pride in whatever way we can in the limited ways we can do it.

I volunteer at a couple of different places now. I am learning more about urban farming. We eat the potatoes I grow, and the tomatoes are hopefully coming in big bunches soon. There are onions and garlic, squash and cucumbers. My animals are happy because I am home all the time.

During Pride month, I will continue to be proud of who I am in my community and with my family and neighbors. My Latino community will continue to find ways to support each other in the ways we know. It is my hope that some day we will find a way to recreate a national organization that speaks for us in our distinctive way. Until then, seguiremos celebrando nuestro Orgullo. We will continue to celebrate our Pride.

About the author: Gloria Nieto is a Latina lesbian activist and a native Californian. She has spent many years in the contact world of politics working on campaigns, as a member of the Democratic National Committee, President of the Silicon Valley LGBT Democratic Club and as a founding member of Marriage Equality Silicon Valley. She is also the only Latina lesbian to have ever spoken on the floor of the National Democratic Convention.  She currently writes for City Brights - the online blog section of the San Francisco Chronicle - and at Miss Wild Thing. Gloria lives with her esposa, three dogs and three cats and is an avid gardener and Sharks fan.

Editor's note: This guest post has also been cross-posted at LGBT POV by journalist Karen Oacamb.  Karen ads an introductory note that is well-worth reading. Read her comment here.

  • The full episode of In The Life's Orgullo Latino can be seen here.
  • Gloria Nieto tweets at @sjgloria

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