When Doing It the “Right Way” Doesn’t Work


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Many of us did everything the “right way”. We went to college and got a degree. We logged years of experience in our field. We went on to get an advanced degree. We logged more years of experience in our field. Some of us went through the process of ordination. Then suddenly we find ourselves at a crossroads where there is no job security. I have over ten years of experience in Youth Ministry and two degrees to back it up. On the most recent job listings? Positions for ten hours a week at ten bucks an hour. It’s getting to the point where many of us literally cannot afford to stay in our field.

When I transitioned I knew that I would have a tough time finding a job. I knew that many churches (even the affirming ones) would not consider me for positions. I didn’t realize that in addition to those challenges that the world of church work would shift so radically. Not only are many churches still discriminatory in hiring of transgender people, there just aren’t that many full time jobs to go around.

Here’s what I’ve been learning: queer and trans people have to create our own security. We cannot depend on anyone to do it for us. Institutions and foundations and corporations won’t look out for us. We need to find ways to take care of ourselves and our communities.

Everyone once in a while I’ll get some pushback for starting some kind of new endeavor (and especially for charging money for it). People don’t understand that what I am trying to do is create a safety net for myself. If no one wants to hire me, I need to create my own jobs. If there is no security, I need to create it. If no one will “pick me” I need to pick myself.

I’ve dedicated my entire life and career up to this point to the church. I don’t regret that, but when I look at my resume, that’s all of my experience. If the church suddenly stops hiring me, what am I going to do? If church jobs and church funding dries up, what is my solution?

Transgender people, women, people of color; we need to create our own livelihoods wherever and whenever we can. We can’t rely on other people to care enough to even hire us let alone support us.

That’s why I’ve been creating businesses. It’s why I start new projects. It’s why I ask to be paid for the speaking and writing that I do. I’m trying to create a safety net for myself; to make sure that I can pay my rent and put food on the table.

I want to be able to use my skills and talents to support myself. I’m writing about this because I’m becoming more and more convinced that for many of us this will be the way forward. For those of us without traditional support systems, for those of us without access to structures (like publishing, churches, other institutions), for those of us who don’t have money saved or money from family to jumpstart our ideas we have to figure out ways to do it on our own.

Here’s what my life looks like right now:

Here’s what I’m trying to do to create more safety:

All of this is an attempt to create enough income streams to support myself while still allowing me to do the ministry I am called to.

There is no shame in creating your own safety. As a marginalized person you have to take your future into your own hands. So often there is no one looking out for us so we need to find ways to build the systems that allow us to survive and thrive (and hopefully to give back to others). You deserve to have a living wage. You deserve to get paid for the work that you do.

So every time I start a new project I am doing two things: Starting something I believe in and am passionate about and trying to create another strand in my safety net.

What are you doing to support yourself? What other queer/trans businesses have you seen that are allowing people to live and to do work they love? How are you creating a safety net for yourself?

There is so much shame in talking about money. We feel like we are unworthy or that it somehow dirties us to talk about getting paid for the work that we do. Let’s work to erase that shame and support one another in creating opportunities to support ourselves and our community. We can do this work together.

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