NYC: Queer Activists Rally for Economic Justice

QEJ Action Flyer

We’re Not Expendable Income or People: LGBT Activists March to End Poverty on First Annual Community Day of Action For Economic Justice

Who: Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ) & hundreds of other Activists and community members
What: Community Day Of Action for Economic Justice
When: April 17th, 2008
Where: 3pm Rally at Union Square; 4pm March to Judson Memorial Church
Why: To highlight issues facing poor and working-class LGBT/Gender Nonconforming people

Dispelling the long-held notion that the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community is “white, without dependents and with expendable income,” hundreds of LGBT activists will rally at Union Square to make visible the many bread and butter issues facing queer New Yorkers. Activists say that addressing poverty in the gay community is usually missing from the news stories, glossy ads, and television shows that too often represent the “gay” community.

“Gay cruises and a vacation home in Fire Island just isn’t the reality for many queers, who are simply trying to survive, says Joseph DeFilippis, Executive Director of Queers for Economic Justice. “Many of us our are worried about keeping just one roof over our heads, making a decent wage, and getting access to healthcare and public benefits. This rally is the first step in making economic justice issues in the queer community visible.”

But visibility isn’t the only thing the marchers hope to achieve. Many poor LGBT people who access services public assistance programs through NYC Human Resources Administration (HRA) are organizing to break the red tape that prevents many people from even getting access when they’re in need. In addition to preventing all recipients from attaining higher education and being subject to invasive “home visits,” queer people often face additional barriers to getting public assistance.

“There are new rules for increased proof of citizenship and identification that prevents many people from accessing benefits,” says Reg Gossett, Welfare organizer with Queers for Economic Justice. “Transgender people, homeless people, immigrants and anyone who doesn’t appear to the caseworker to match their ID can be prevented from getting benefits. Also, domestic partners can’t apply for benefits for their partner’s children.”

Though there is very little data on how poverty affects the lives of LGBT people, there are some indicators. The NYC City Council last year commissioned a study showing 30% of all homeless youth in NYC identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, many of whom are black or Latino. But the cycle of poverty doesn’t end at age 18. With a lack of affordable housing, educational or employment opportunities, those youth struggle to become financially secure well into adulthood.

In addition, New York City has nearly 2 million people on Medicaid, many of whom are living with HIV. There are over 100,000 people living with HIV in NYC, and black and Latino men who have sex with men are a large majority of people living with HIV. HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA), a department of HRA, served over 31,000 New Yorkers in February, all of whom have to meet income requirements to qualify.

Queers for Economic Justice’s Welfare Warriors group is currently conducting a community research project, documenting the lives of low-income LGBT and gender-non-conforming people.

The groups co-sponsoring the march and rally include the Ali Forney Center, the Audre Lorde Project, Brecht Forum, Bronx Community Pride Center, Casa Abatex Ache, Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP), Child Care Collective/Regeneration, Coalition for the Homeless, Domestic Workers United, Empire State Coalition of Youth and Family Services, FIERCE!, Generation Q, Housing Works, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Irish Queers, the LGBT Community Center, Metropolitan Community Church, Movement for Justice in El Barrio, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, NYC Association of Homeless and Street-Involved Youth Organizations, NYC Anti-Violence project, Q-Wave.

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