June 26, 2008

Liveblogging the first-ever congressional hearing on trans issues.

Whee! We're excited! You can watch the live webcast here (or just read my brilliant commentary below - keep refreshing the page). More about the hearing and witnesses here. This is historic, exciting, and we are here to keep you in the loop, even if you're secretly reading us at work. ;-)

1:45: This concludes your liveblog of the first-ever congressional hearing on trans rights in the workplace. I think it was generally awesome, and the witnesses did an amazing job. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below! Now, I should really go eat some lunch. And maybe do some work.

1:42: As the hearing wraps up, Sabrina Taraboletti goes over to Mr. Lavy. He says that he hopes she finds a job soon. She says, "I do too. And on a personal note, I am a practicing Catholic -" And then the feed cuts out. I sure would like to have heard the end of that conversation.

1:39: Rep. Andrews is wrapping things up. He stresses "job ability and work ethic." He promises a vigorous debate about these issues, and how to "accommodate reasonable concern of employers in the workplace" and religion issues. But he doesn't think it's that complicated - if the person is the best for the job, they should get the job. He notes that "progress in this country is glacial" but encourages optimism, given progress made in terms of rights for women and people of color. He notes that when Rep. Payne was born, that he might serve in the House was unthinkable. He said that he had gay classmates who killed themselves. Things will change over time. Hearing is adjourned.

1:37: Ms. Miller is angry because someone suggested she didn't understand the link between discrimination against trans people and the discrimination against women! She knows about sexual harassment! But she also had mentors who were men! She went to a women's college!

1:30: Rep. Hare takes issue with Mr. Lavy. Excellent. He reminds Mr. Lavy about this guy from a long time ago who hung around with those people who no one wanted to associate themselves with. I think you know who that is. He also believes we can legislate "what is right, what is just and what is fair."

1:28: Diego says that part of it is to "consider us a partner" and work together across the country. Help "make it safe for us to be with you in communities." Sabrina Marcus Taraboletti mentions that the National Center for Transgender Rights, the Task Force and others are available to help out.

1:25: Rep. Payne wants to reassure everyone that there was no "conspiracy" to start the hearing late. There was voting that didn't get finished yesterday. Now he forgot what he wanted to ask. Laughter. Oh - how can we educate Americans?

1:23: Shannon Minter is annoyed by all these restroom questions. C'mon, let's listen to "medical protocol and common sense." Transgender men and women are men and women, and coworkers will quickly come to recognize that. This is a straightfoward issue. Ms. Miller says that maybe it would be a good idea to look at policies about bathrooms that already work. What a novel idea!

1:20: Rep. Payne is here! He is "opposed to all forms of discrimination."

1:18: Colonel Schroer says that this is a similar situation to gays in the military, where a very qualified pool of people are passed over. She notes that such discrimination is common, both in blatant and more "obtuse" forms. We need to send a message that being transgender is "not abnormal or abhorrent."

1:13: Rep. Linda Sanchez is NOT scared of litigation! She thinks people should be protected from on-the-job abuse and harassment. She asks Shannon Minter to elaborate. He notes that laws "make it perfectly clear to everyone...that we as a society condemn discrimination on these basis because they are completely unrelated to someone's abilities..." In the absence of such laws, we have "blatant, shocking" discrimination, like the type described on the panel today. Rep. Sanchez thanks Colonel Schroer for her service to the country and asks her what the country misses out on by denying her job opportunities.

1:07: Time for Rep. Kline. He notes that Mr. Andrews has really enjoyed trying to determine which is the best law school. He wants Ms. Miller to tell him about the distinction between "regarded as" and "perceived as." "Perceived" is "vague language" that can cause "a great deal of confusion" among "managers and human resources people" and of course, litigation. Litigation! How scary! We can't legislate people being nice to each other or their internal thoughts and processes. Um. What? I thought we were talking about not being fired for being trans.

What about white supremacists? Should they have the right to refuse to hire a person of color, if they held deeply held religious beliefs about white supremacy? Lavy says no. Hypocrisy! The Chairman wants to know why, if we do not allow religious beliefs to excuse racial discrimination, we should allow religious beliefs to excuse discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. Mr. Lavy says the issue isn't that simple. It's about "deeply held religious beliefs." The "race issue" is something that has been determined already, apparently.

What about pacificists? Could they refuse to hire a Marine Corps veteran? The Chairman is getting a little out there with the hypotheticals. Levy says the pacifists should be able to refuse to hire the Marine Corps guy.

1:00: Apparently Mr. Lavy thinks that accommodating a transgender person is like "making an Orthodox Jew eat pork." The Chairman wants to know if an Orthodox Jew could refuse to employ a Catholic. Mr. Lavy says no. One point for Rep. Andrews.

12:59: The Chairman thanks all the witnesses. He also introduces a letter about fair business practices and notes attendees from Garden State Equality. Now, he's going to take on Mr. Lavy. Exciting!

12:54: Shannon Minter, Legal Director for National Center for Lesbian Rights, is the last witness. He is testifying about the "urgent need for a federal law to protect transgender persons." He talks about workplace discrimination, citing the case of Susan Stanton. He says that we "need more than a patchwork of state and local laws and policies." In most parts of the country, transgender people who are fired or harassed at work for being transgender have no legal protection. This leads to transgender people being forced into "persistent, chronic poverty and homelessness." We need Congress to "take action to protect us."

12:48: Sabrina Marcus Taraboletti, Former Space Shuttle Engineer, is the next witness. She was fired in 2003 after announcing she was transitioning from male to female. She was told the investigation and subsequent firing was the result of an "anonymous" phone call. She was the fourth transwoman she knew of who was either fired or forced out before leaving. One of those women took her own life. There are no standard policies or procedures on these issues at the Space Center, because there are no federal laws on them, so things were left up to the whims of supervisors. She felt humiliated, and was fired with no severance pay after 20 years of employment. She still has not been able to find a new position in the space program, the field that she loves. Sabrina says that "being transgender is something you are born with." She notes that being fired also made it difficult for her to provide for her family, and her loss of self-esteem affected them too. "It needs to stop," she says.

12:46: We're back to restrooms. People have "genuine privacy concerns." He says there are "men who are are allowed to use women's restrooms before having gender reassignment surgery." No, those are actually WOMEN. Restrooms pose a risk to employers. He doesn't want the committee to make a "moral judgment" on "transgendered people," but he doesn't want them to make the moral decision for other people. Or something. OK, he's done. Thank you.

12:44: Some employers might not be able to accommodate people in restrooms. Now he's talking about "actual or perceived" discrimination. How problematic! Employers could be sued at any moment! Gender identity is a "subjective category." Unlike race, which the employer can "simply tell by observation." More about religious beliefs.

12:43: Glen Lavy, Senior Counsel for Alliance Defense Fund, is gently hassled for not having gone to Cornell Law before proceeding to tell us why trans people shouldn't have protections under non-discrimination laws. He's already used the word "immoral." Right on schedule. Some employers have "deeply held religious beliefs about these issues."

12:41: DOW's policies emphasize good communication between transitioning employees and their supervisor, as well as training for coworkers and updating company documents. He says "on the whole, our program has gone remarkably well."

12:38: Dr. Hendrix is up! DOW has 4,300 employees. Diversity "underpins our workplace." He knows that "creating a respectful, inclusive working environment" actually "gives us an advantage." He says that his LGBT employees often have more protection under DOW's policy than under state laws, and that his policies improve retention and commitment of LGBT employees and allies. They first added "sexual orientation" in 2000 and "gender identity" in 2005, and this has been implemented globally for the company.

12:36: Men might be looking through holes in the women's bathroom! I was wondering when that would come up. We need to "have some sensitivity to the employer." OK, she's done. But still concerned.

12:33: Unclear statutes can cause lawsuits! You better be careful. Gender identity and transgender are unclear terms. "Mannerism" is a disturbing term! She's "concerned" about "perpetuating stereotypes." Haha! Like, what if someone gives a firm handshake. Mannerisms can be changed but "intrinsic characteristics" can't. Um.

12:31: After some banter with the Chairman about whose law school is the best, JC Miller, Partner at Thompson Hine, is here to tell us about "unintended legal obstacles" that "cause a disruption in the workplace." You know what that means.

12:29: He talks about a friend, Ethan St. Pierre (who runs the Remembering Our Dead web site), who lost his job for being transgender, about friends who have to show IDs that do not match their gender. He talks about growing up in the South where he was not allowed to swim in public pools because he was not white. This, he said, "feels like a flashback." He asks people to treat others as they would want to be treated and concludes his testimony. Yay Diego!

12:26: He talks about living as a transgender Latino man, about growing up in a military family in Georgia, and about his family supporting his gender identity. He worked in many corporate companies, including Coca Cola, Holiday Inn and others worldwide. He waited to transition because he was afraid of being who he was: "Diego Sanchez, an honorable man." He said that he "struggled to have self-respect in a world that would seemingly never allow someone like me...I could be honest about everything except myself."

12:25: Diego!! AHH! An amazing guy.

12:24: The Library made many claims why she could not be hired, all of them clearly false. Colonel Schroer says that she hopes every day that the Library will call and tell her they made a mistake, and she can continue serving her country as she has so well.

12:22: Colonel Schroer applied for a position at the Library of Congress working on CRS reports, while in the position of transitioning from male to female. She was hired almost immediately. She had lunch with her future supervisor, and told her of plans to transition from male to female. Her supervisor called her the next day and said that she was "not a good fit" for the library.

12:19: Diane Schroer, Retired Colonel, US Army, is the first witness. She is talking about her vast military experience, including humanitarian de-mining operations in Southern Africa, Special Operations work and programs all over the world. She has done basically every homeland security, counter-terrorism, classified, top-secret military thing ever.

12:17: The Chairman is reading the list of witnesses. He also notes that Cornell Law School is the best in the country, although he may be biased. The speakers will have a green, yellow and red lights to signal their time to speak.

12:15: We're back!

11:48: Still recessed. Hang in there. How is everyone's Thursday going? Leave me some comments.

11:32: The Chairman thanks Rep. Frank and says that he tries to determine the content of hearings by the "depth of the grievance suffered." The committee is adjourning briefly for some people to go make votes on the Floor. Stay tuned.

11:29: Barney notes that if you are uncomfortable, how do you think trans people feel?! He's not asking for you to take anyone to the movies. Just "let em work!"

11:26: Barney says some stuff about how sometimes stuff need to happen incrementally. I think this is about that ENDA thing. The burden of proof is on the person charging discrimination and the disruption argument "just doesn't work." When he first realized he was gay, he made himself uncomfortable. But he got used to it! And so did other people!

11:24: He notes that he doesn't buy the "redundancy" argument (that trans people are already covered under other legislation). He notes that his colleagues are rarely reluctant to use a few extra words. And he also doesn't buy the "it could be disruptive" argument.

11:23: He notes that his colleagues often feel "trapped in the wrong body" when their legislation goes to the Senate. Laughter.

11:22: Barney Frank. He thanks the Chairman for making this hearing a priority.

11:21: She says that it is "high time" that American "declared discrimination based on gender identity and expression to be unlawful." Did I mention we love her?

11:18: She notes that hate crimes against trans Americans are "tragically common" and that trans people also face discrimination in the "mundane and everyday." She talks about having to choose in her own life to live "with truth and integrity" as an out lesbian, and the way that Wisconsin's non-discrimination law made a difference for her. She says, "the importance of non-discrimination laws cannot be overstated." They tell people to "judge your fellow citizen by their integrity, talents...rather than their sexual orientation or gender identity...that irrational fear, irrational hate, have no place in our workplaces."

11:15: Tammy Baldwin is speaking. We love her. She wants to clarify why people want workplace protections that do not "leave behind the smallest and most vulnerable part of our community." She defines gender identity, and explains how it differs from sexual orientation. She notes that there are thousands of trans Americans who lead "incredibly successful" lives, as parents, community organizers, defense contractors and much more.

11:14: Barney Frank is on the first panel. The Chairman notes that he has a great sense of humor. Tammy Baldwin (!!!) is also on the first panel. The Chairman says she is a great listener in "divisive" situations. I believe that was an ENDA reference.

11:13: Rep. Kline says he's looking forward to the hearing. He wants his statement recorded.

11:11: He also notes that ENDA was passed without protection for transgender people, and that he believes it should, and then says some nice things about minority leader Rep. Kline.

11:10: Chairman Rep. Andrews notes that someone's "presentation" is an "irrelevant prejudicial criteria" and that it has nothing to do with how someone "writes code...or fixes someone's car" and that people should be judged on their performance at work. Rock on!

11:09: Chairman Rep. Andrews thanks everyone for coming. He says, in all likelihood, someone today will apply for a job and be denied because an employer does not like the way they look. He says that someone will be denied a promotion because an employer is uncomfortable. He notes that this is legal under federal law.

11:08: The hearing is starting!

11:01: The video feed says:"Will begin shortly." And the most recent liveblog updates will now appear at the top of the post.

11:00: OK! Exciting news. The video feed now says: "Committee on Education and Labor, Health Employment and Labor Subcommittee Hearing on "An Examination of Discrimination Against Transgender Americans in the Workplace."' We're getting started!

: The amendment does not pass. A substitute is agreed to. Now there's another roll-call vote. Stay tuned.

10:51: The clerk is calling the roll on the price amendment. He tells Chairman Miller to settle down. Laughter.

10:48: Now they're voting on a fox amendment. Or something. But we're still excited! The people sitting behind the clerk look sleepy.

: Ah, they are voting on a price amendment. Exciting stuff.

10:45: Rep. Bishop wanders in late and is gently chastised for his tardiness and told not to push his luck. He votes.

10:35: Dennis Kucinich is involved! We love him! They are voting on something. Everyone is voting no. Now they are voting "ay" and "no." I'm not sure what this is about. Hopefully things will get more exciting.

10:30 am: The video player says we are recessed.

First Congressional Hearing on transgender issues today!

The first Congressional Hearing on transgender issues is happening at 10:30 a.m. EST today and is titled: "An Examination of Discrimination Against Trangender Americans in the Workplace."

There is a live webcast here (you may have to click on the link and then refresh the page to launch the player).

The people testifying are:

  • Shannon Price Minter, Legal Director for National Center for Lesbian Rights (founding member of NCTE)
  • Diane Schroer, Retired Colonel, US Army (member of NCTE)
  • Diego Sanchez, Director of Public Relations and External Affairs for AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts (Founding Board of Directors for NCTE) - and MTPC member!
  • Sabrina Marcus Taraboletti, Former Space Shuttle Engineer (founding member of NCTE)
  • Bill Hendrix, Chair of Gays, Lesbians, and Allies at Dow (GLAD) for Dow Chemical Company
The minority party has called the following witnesses:
  • JC Miller, Partner at Thompson Hine
  • Glen Lavy, Senior Counsel for Alliance Defense Fund
More information is available here.

Glenn Beck defines "Conservative"

On CNN today, Glenn Beck has defined what he thinks a "Conservative" is.

Some of his definitions I expected; others floored me with their pure ignorance. Here's the list and my responses. I considered trying to put together a definition for "Liberal", but decided to forgo that because: a) It's hard and time consuming; and b) I doubt everyone could agree on one unifying definition. So in the meantime, share your own insights on this list:

A conservative believes that our inalienable rights do not include housing, healthcare or Hummers.
Yes my friends, that is Glenn Beck equating Hummers with "housing" and "healthcare." Apparently all you people who are homeless and suffering from treatable diseases due to lack of money should suck it up; not all of us can own Hummers.

A conservative believes that our inalienable rights DO include the pursuit of happiness. That means it is guaranteed to no one.
I don't think this is an "inalienable" right so much as a simple fact of human existence. People generally try to do things that make them happy. The fact that happiness it is not "guaranteed" though suggests that he is really just saying: "Nobody has a right to be happy. You can all just exist though."

A conservative believes that those who pursue happiness and find it have a right to not be penalized for that success.
Who exactly is "penalizing" people who are happy? Who is going around telling happy people to be sad? Maybe pundits; but I'm not sure who else. Thoughts?

A conservative believes that there are no protections against the hardship and heartache of failure. We believe that the right to fail is just as important as the chance to succeed and that those who do fail learn essential lessons that will help them the next time around.
Apparently we should do nothing to help people who are threatened by "hardship" or "failure" and should instead use that as a learning experience for next time. So the next time that somebody loses their job, cannot afford their rent, is kicked out on the street, and cannot get a new job or home due to their lack of housing/eviction on the record, they should be happy because that was an "essential lesson" that will help them the next time around. I'm not sure when the "next time around" is, but Glenn Beck says you've learned something. Congratulations.

A conservative believes in personal responsibility and accepts the consequences for his or her words and actions.
I believe in personal responsibility too. Except not everything is about "personal responsibility." When teenagers are getting pregnant because they aren't getting adequate sex ed programs, and because condoms are not available to them, etc., that isn't just about "personal responsibility" but rather about how society raises and takes care of their youth. It is a systematic failure, and poor Glenn Beck would rather just blame everybody else rather than himself.

A conservative believes that real compassion can't be found in any government program.
I'm not sure what this means. Government programs cannot be "compassionate"? Firstly, I'll agree that government programs don't have feelings. But if a group of Catholics can get together and start a charity to help poor people, so can a group of average people form a government program to help poor people. Either way, it's fairly compassionate. I'm just not buying this other than: "I hate government."

A conservative believes that each of us has a duty to take care of our neighbors. It was private individuals, companies and congregations that sent water, blankets and supplies to New Orleans far before the government ever set foot there.
Wow. Yes, we should all be kind enough to take care of our neighbors. But sometimes that also comes in the form of helping them through our government. More importantly, this is putting the carriage before the horse. The reason private individuals, companies, and congregations sent supplies to New Orleans before the government ever set foot there was because of our Conservative President! If you hadn't noticed, by shrinking the government and failing to make it accountable, it failed. So he criticizes the government for being big, then here he criticizes it for being small. Hello?

A conservative believes that family is the cornerstone of our society and that people have a right to manage their family any way they see fit, so long as it's not criminal. We are far more attuned to our family's needs than some faceless, soulless government program.
Did anybody else just read this and say: "You're right; I want to manage my family the way I see fit. With two male parents/two female parents/two transgender parents/etc."? I think Glenn Beck favors gay marriage!

A conservative believes that people have a right to worship the God of their understanding. We also believe that people do not have the right to jam their version of God (or no God) down anybody else's throat.
YES! Wow, something I agree with him about. Too bad Conservatives are doing much more shoving God down our throats than vice versa. And, for the record, I'm a flaming liberal who believes in God; but I would never force anyone to see the world my way. Sorry hon; conservatives don't own this one.

A conservative believes that people go to the movies to be entertained and to church to be preached to, not the other way around.
Translation: The First Amendment is wrong. I know how speech should be: Movies should be comedies and Churches should be boring and critical. Any other way is a violation of Glenn Beck's "Order of the Universe."

A conservative believes that debt creates unhealthy relationships. Everyone, from the government on down, should live within their means and strive for financial independence.
Therefore, Conservatives believe that people should not have mortgages, borrow money to attend college, etc. Rather, everyone should be homeless or rent; people should not go to college (or college should be free); etc. Too bad he also believes that the government should not provide housing or education. Ooops; hypocrisy again?

A conservative believes that a child's education is the responsibility of the parents, not the government.
Another one of those odd moments for a conservative. The next one says every human being has a right to life, as if all humans should have equal opportunity to live. Unfortunately, he is saying here that all humans should suffer from socioeconomic position of their parents. Research has PROVEN that people who start in poverty often stay there; those that start in luxury stay there too. Social mobility is more fiction than fact. So if your parents can afford education and already value it; good for you! You'll get your education. If not; too bad you lost the "birth lottery" and ended up with poor parents.

A conservative believes that every human being has a right to life, from conception to death.
A conservative also believes that the government should do nothing for you during that life; should force you into unwanted homes; and has the right to kill you if they see fit (see Capital Punishment). Also, Glenn Beck should consider reading Freakonomics, which has shown that one of the biggest things to reduce crime in the 90's was ABORTION. Yep; fascinating stuff, and highlights a lot about the unfortunate reality of unwanted pregnancy.

A conservative believes in the smallest government you can get without anarchy. We know our history: The larger a government gets, the harder it will fall.
I'm sorry; I must be reading different history books than you. The fact of the matter, and this is hard for conservatives to hear, is that no government lasts forever. And no government sits on top of the world forever. But shrinking a government to near nothingness doesn't save it from falling; it stops it from existing altogether!

Unsurprisingly, the tag line at the end of the article reads:
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

True. So true.

Myths about consulting; or, why consultants aren't automatically greedy mindless soulless corporate minions

This was going to be a comment, but it got way too long ... so a response post it is.

First, a little clarification, since there seems to be some confusion here. I'm not a consultant. I did actually go straight from college into the stereotype of genteel penury, which is to say graduate school in the humanities. I make $18,000 a year, share a one-bedroom apartment in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States, and have a health insurance plan with a prescription-benefit cap that only covers me for about half the year. Most of the people in my program are married and live primarily on their spouses' income; those who aren't, generally receive supplemental money from their families. I'm lucky in that I'll start receiving domestic partner benefits next year ... from a consulting company.

So, yes, despite the fact that I had the luxury of choosing grad school over immediate cash - or rather because of that fact - I'm pretty darn familiar with what actually goes into consulting, and the decision to become a consultant. So I wanted to take this time to dispel a few persistent myths.

Myth #1: People who go into consulting do so mindlessly/by default/because they lack the ambition or imagination to do anything else/because it's what everyone expects of them.

Reality: First of all, consulting companies don't hire people who lack ambition or imagination. It's actually a rather intellectually challenging and creative job, and the people who tend to get hired (out of all those who get interviewed) are precisely those bright, motivated, ambitious people who are likely to leave the company in a few years in order to use the skills they've acquired to do something else (like, um, run a non-profit).

In fact, let me introduce you to the four people from my current university who are joining the major consulting firms next year. "Shane" has coached an inner-city debate team since arriving at college - in her free time, which is to say, when not coordinating efforts to distribute anti-retroviral drugs, clean needles, and condoms, both in our city and in the sub-Saharan African country where the university sent her to study for a semester. "Max" has been volunteering for (and later working for) queer organizations since puberty, organizing more conferences and successful awareness campaigns than can be counted, and (at age 18) producing original legal research that has since been cited by, among other folks, Dean Spade. "Charlotte" spent her summers in a war-torn Eastern European country helping draft their new constitution. And "Stanford" (whom, admittedly, I don't know as well as the others) has been an active member of the ACLU practically since birth.

Let me tell you - none of these people were expected to become consultants. In fact, most if not all of them agonized over the decision and received precisely the same kind of shit from their peers as people are now dishing out here. And at least two of them do intend to make their careers in the non-profit sector; one, I believe, plans to serve the public by working in the government; one, again, I don't know well enough to predict. Each of them chose consulting for different reasons (though there was some overlap), and each of them weighed their options carefully, including the potential they would ultimately have to do good if they accepted one job or another (or if they went straight to school).

It's also not easy to become a consultant. Sure, perhaps it's easy to post your resume on the recruiting website; but by the time you're even halfway through the interview process, anyone who thinks consulting is the easy way out has had to put some serious thought into why they're still hanging in there. And anyone who gets a job offer has been chosen out of a pool of thousands of graduating seniors from the nation's top colleges - for less than 100 jobs a year. Seriously - it's harder to get a consulting job than to get into Harvard.

Myth #2: Consulting drops you straight into the lap of luxury.

Reference Kaya's comment that "the issue we're discussing is ... extreme wealth vs moderation."

Reality: I would love to live in a world where a mid-five-figure salary (for a job where you're working up to 80 hours a week and must live in some of the most expensive neighborhoods/cities in the world*) is "extreme wealth." Now, obviously, it's nothing to sniff at ... but streets paved with gold, it is not.

*hint: if you're working that late and need to commute to cheaper lodgings, you quickly discover that most cities' public transit systems - especially the lines that run to poorer neighborhoods - often stop running before you'll be ready to leave. options? get a car - and spend in gas and workday parking approximately what you're saving on rent - or live close to work, which is to say in the financial district. this is one reason you're getting more money.

Myth #3: The "non-profit world" and the "corporate world" are actually two different worlds.

Reality, point 1: most non-profits are, in fact, corporations. Learning how corporations work is thus actually a useful skill for someone who wants to work for a corporation for the rest of their life, whether it be of the for-profit or non-profit variety. Knowing how to skillfully and efficiently manage an organization with limited resources is not a sin; it's an asset.

Reality, point 2: non-profit money is corporate money. If you take a $22,000 administrative-assistant job at the Task Force, your salary is probably coming out of Wells Fargo's pocket. If you want to work for Planned Parenthood, get used to taking money from the dirty capitalist swine at Bank of America, Prudential, Wachovia, and Disney. If the ACLU can afford to give you a paycheck, it has less to do with the revenue from Anthony Romero's book sales and more to do with Ford, Hewlett-Packard, Merck, Verizon, and Progressive Insurance. (And, um, RJ Reynolds and Playboy. Just sayin'.)

Ah, but what about individual donors? Well, there are folks like me who give small amounts regularly to a few non-profits which are important to us; but honestly, we barely cover the cost of the mailings we get asking for our next donation. The rest of the donors are the big-ticket donors, the folks who simultaneously make enough money to give very large sums of it away and care enough about progressive causes to give it away to us. In other words, if you have a non-profit job, you can thank someone who doesn't. Your money isn't any purer or nobler or more infused with the perfume of justice than theirs; it's the same money.

A corollary - if you're benefitting from a loan forgiveness or loan repayment assistance program (other than those administered by the federal government), your ability to go into a non-profit job without worrying about student debt is directly funded by major corporate donors and wealthy alumni (who are by and large employed by major corporations). Fabulous for you - but don't pretend you're morally superior to the people who are giving you that opportunity.

Reality, point 3: many non-profits want things from corporations. Take, for example, all the people who want SRS to be covered by health insurance. Awesome. Now how, exactly, do you propose to convince a health-insurance company to fund SRS without an intimate knowledge of how the insurance industry works? Working in a consulting company for a few years gives you - dare I say it - real-world experience in the critical area of "talking to corporations and getting them to do things." You can only go so far on the strength of your convictions and the knowledge that your proposal comes from the moral high ground; sooner or later you have to give up on the idea that willful ignorance of corporate structures is a virtue, or give up on the hope of ever changing those structures.

Myth #4: Things that cost money are frivolous; or, anyone can live on a non-profit wage if they live "moderately."

Ok. Let's break this down. Here is a listing of 127 typical jobs within non-profit organizations, complete with their average salaries. Let's assume for the sake of argument that you enter as an "Outreach Worker" - certainly not the lowest-paid entry-level job, but you don't even want to try this exercise with the office-assistant or direct-service-provider salaries, trust me. So you're making $29,752 a year, or about $2,479 a month. (Not bad. More than I make.)

Let's also say your living situation is that of a friend of mine, who's starting work at a Manhattan non-profit in September. She's sharing a sublet apartment in Brooklyn for about $800 a month. (By "sharing," by the way, I mean "more people than rooms.") This leaves you with $1679 a month. You will also need a Metrocard to get to work; at $81 a month, you are left with $1598.

According to the State of New York, you should be able to feed yourself on $200 a month (more or less the maximum amount of food stamps they'll give to a single person). The idea that food stamps realistically cover food expenses is bullshit, but ok. You're spending $200 a month on food. Maybe you're small. Now you have $1398.

You also have student loans. Financial experts estimate that a minimum of 10% of gross monthly income should be spent paying off student loans (if you have an average amount of loans and decent enough credit to get an average amount of interest). They recommend that you pay 15% if you can, to prevent the interest from accruing too fast. But let's not even go there. Your gross monthly income is $2479; 10% of that is $248. You now have $1150 a month.

We forgot your taxes, though! Approximately 28% of your gross pay will never even make it to your bank account; 28% of $2479 is $694. $1150-694=456, which is how many dollars you now have a month.

Let's also say you have my insurance and take one of my prescription medications (the less expensive one). When your insurance covers the prescription, it costs $25 a month; when the benefits run out, it costs $120. This month, I don't have benefits any more - so neither do you. You have $336 after paying for your meds (and trust me, Bad Things Happen when you don't take them). But you also have a $10 co-pay for the doctor who prescribes your meds. So make that $326.

At this point, your apartment is still empty. By combing Craig's List, you find a futon for $60, a small table for $20, a microwave for $40, silverware and dishes for two for $20, and basic pots and pans for $20. You don't know anyone with a car, so add on a $15 cab ride each for the futon and table. Total damage: $190. In the real world, you have to pay for these when you buy them. For now, let's spread out the cost over three months, for approx. $63 a month. This means you have $263 for the next few months. You still haven't bought clothes, but we'll assume your college clothes are all workplace-appropriate and still fit you. Also, you're a monk/nun and never indulge in any form of entertainment that costs money. So you should be in the clear - $263 a month straight to savings!

Except, oh shit. You trip on a broken piece of sidewalk and break your wrist. You can't type, so you lose a couple of sick days. And when the hospital bill arrives, it's over $700 - after your insurance. If you're less than three months into your "save $263 a month" plan, you're in debt or default. If you had three months of savings, they're gone.

You want to have kids someday? Sorry, that might not be in the cards. If you're fertile (and in a relationship that will lead to childbearing without additional medical intervention), expect to pay around $30,000 to deliver your baby in a hospital, with no complications, and stay there for three days. If, like most of the people reading this, your child is going to be born via some or all of artificial insemination, surrogacy, or fertility treatments, triple that. If you want to adopt, you should know that the average cost to adopt domestically is $15,000; from Russia, $25,000-$35,000; from China, $22,000.

You want to transition medically? Hormones and surgery cost money, too. Which category are you planning on cutting back on in order to save up the tens of thousands of dollars some transwomen find their transitions costing?

Oh, and by the way? If you were paying for both my prescriptions, it would cost you an extra $350 a month. If you were a type-I diabetic trying a treatment your endocrinologist recommended but your insurance company didn't yet cover (i.e. tons of treatments), it could cost you - to take the example of the continuous glucose sensor - $1000 at the outset, and about $350 a month thereafter. If you've got a mystery condition that's looking more and more like MS, and your doctor recommends interferon, one month's prescription will cost more than my entire prescription-benefit cap (a month at standard dosage is about $1800).

These aren't random examples, by the way; these are consultants I know who took the job, among other reasons, because they are chronically ill and can't afford not to make more than $30,000 a year.

So, tell me ... where was the frivolous spending, here? What little luxuries should our hypothetical person be eliminating? Why is it so hard to believe that an entry-level wage at a non-profit is not actually sufficient for everyone's legitimate needs?

Myth #5: I want you - yes, you - to be a consultant

Reality: I don't give a flying rat's left testicle what job you take or what schooling you pursue out of college. I would, however, love it if you stopped acting as if making money was beneath your level of enlightenment; and I'd be thrilled if you didn't act as though people who choose consulting were selling out not only their own souls but the Entire Progressive Movement as well.

June 25, 2008

Elitism, Public Service and Entitlement.

So, I've been thinking about two recent articles on the subject of Ivy League students and career choices - a recent New York Times article entitled, "Lure of Big Paycheck or Service? Students are Put to the Test" and a piece by William Deresiewicz in The American Scholar: "The Disadvantages of an Elite Education."

Kaya over at Afropologe wrote a provocative post about the issues raised (and not raised) in the two articles. Check it out.

June 18, 2008

Racism Watch

Warren Ellis, the übersnarky British bastard comix writer I adore, actually caught this one... a bad sign when bitchy British cultural monkeywrenchers notice how racist the fucking Republicans are.

I’ve long been fond of American political campaign ephemera. This, however, is not something I’d want in the house.

Nor I... gug.

It gets worse, though: he links to the Dallas Morning News, "this badge was found available for sale at a Republican state convention."

There were other pins that weren’t necessarily conveying the positive, inclusive, united front that has been portrayed during the convention. One said, "Press 1 for English. Press 2 for Deportation" and another, "I will hold my nose when I vote for McCain."

Sweet fucking Christ. I have no words.

A list of the available buttons is here, but don't eat too soon before clicking, it made me hurlicious.

Speaking of Warren Ellis, Geeks of Doom made a list of the best Twitterings Warren Ellis has sent out recently. Here's their intro:

It might almost be worth the Arse-beating you’d get from following around Warren Ellis all day to hear what the comic writer and genius wordsmith thinks about during off moments of boredom and inactivity. If you value keeping teeth inside your mouth, twitter provides an alternative.

If you hopped up "House" with caffeine and shaved his head and aimed his scalpel at the general public instead of patients, you'd get Warren Ellis. Also you'd have armed his assistants with fearless loyalty, rusty shivs and unlubed dildos.

June 13, 2008

ShakesSis' Racism-Sexism Watch Update

Yeah, so here I was, reading my usual blogs, when I ran into this. (Shakesville 12 Jun 2008). To quote Michelle Obama Watch,

The exhibit included a picture of Barack Obama’s “Audacity of Hope” switched to “The Audacity of Black Hope”, a giant penis on the wall next to a sign saying “once you go Barack,” hanging nooses, and this picture of Sasha and Malia Obama.

The picture in question:

I'm pretty sure I don't have words. I defer to Shakesville's response, as it has passed the incoherence point and entered pointed sharp words. (I'm still at "Emily SMASH!")

June 11, 2008

Abstinence and modesty

Another quenchista sent over this delightful gem. It's a magazine that seems to be created for middle schoolers who were shielded enough not to know the professional layout of Seventeen and would be captivated by their "colorful graphics" and font that looks handwritten.

Beyond the typical abstinence spiel that claims to be bolstering a girl's autonomy of choice while actually degrading it (see Top 8 come-backs for come-ons), and heteronormativity, the magazine seems to have a dose of victim-blaming for immodest dress as well.

True, in their dating tips, they have a lot of good advice for young girls that can go beyond simple abstinence, whether in regards to rape, sexual assault, coercion, or even just an uncomfortable date, including:

" DO develop high standards and set boundaries of personal space. DO let your date know where your boundaries are. DON'T let him violate any portion of your boundaries. If he does, tell him to stop. If he doesn't stop, LEAVE....DON'T think you owe him any physical or sexual favors even if he helped you or spent money on you. DON'T give in to verbal manipulation. It's a form of abuse and can be a red flag that he wants to violate you. DON'T blame yourself if you are attacked. It is not always possible to ward off an attack."

While I'm sure they mean it to be in regards to just boundaries of abstinence, this does sound like sound advice all around.

HOWEVER, I'm suspicious of the DOs and DON'Ts of dating's intentions when I read "The Inside Scoop on Guys."

"Dressing modestly is important if you desire to protect and assist the guys in your life who wish to remain abstinent as well. You might think that it's "their problem," but guys are wired differently from girls in what turns them on....Start respecting yourself and your guy friends by dressing modestly!"

So many UGGHS with this statement, including the idea that girls need to make a guy's actions/staring THEIR responsibility, that guys are reduced to biological machines, and.. so much.