One group hit hard by the surge in US unemployment is the transgender community. Though rarely highlighted in media reports that parse the uneven employment rates across class and education level, transgender people are "twice as likely to be unemployed as other Americans, and face even higher rates of unemployment if they are people of color" -- making them especially vulnerable as the job markets remain weak.
But as an article on Women's eNews points out, it's not just the lack of jobs that poses problems for the transgender community. Dealing with government agencies also brings special challenges: because state and federal agencies remain inconsistent in determining how and whether an individual is allowed to change his or her sex identification on official paperwork, many transgendered people find themselves caught in a proverbial "no man's land" when it's time to file for unemployment. Their Social Security card might list them as one gender, while their driver's license might list them as another. In many cases that leads to an uncomfortable outing while applying for state aid; in other cases it can cause outing with potential employers -- and sometimes cost individuals their jobs entirely.
Among the outstanding organizations leading the fight to address the inequalities faced by the transgender community is the Audre Lorde Project. Their Welfare Justice Campaign, which "sought to address the rampant transphobia, discrimination, and harassment that Trans and Gender Non-Conforming people in New York City face when seeking to access welfare/public assistance" is one example of how activist organizations are now winning battles to secure the rights of transgender individuals.
Another is Ms. Foundation grantee Southerners on New Ground (SONG). This Atlanta-based organization works with the LGBTQ community in the southern region to build the power of marginalized groups and organize across lines of race, class, culture, gender and sexuality through its unique organizing school model.
These are organizations that are doing things right for the LGBTQ community, and they have great lessons to teach about the power of grassroots organizing. If little else comes out of this economic crisis, perhaps it will at least help us learn that the vulnerabilities of diverse communities are unique and nuanced -- and require, at best, the input of the people experiencing the problem to develop viable solutions. That's the kind of change we can believe in.