GAYNZ.COM ARCHIVED ARTICLE
Title: LGBT Communities, Poverty and Social Policy Credit: Craig Young Comment Sunday 29th November 2009 - 5:46pm1259469960 Article: 8240 Rights
 
Why is New Zealand's LGBT community so silent when it comes to poverty and homelessness? Social inequality mushroomed in New Zealand from the seventies onward. Labour and National administrations alike presided over corporatisation, privatisation, user-pays service introduction, benefit cuts and social service withdrawal during the eighties and nineties, which was only slightly improved by relative prosperity and strong economic growth during the Clark administration for most of this decade. An 'underclass' emerged as a result of this social policy neglect, which led to violent crime, gang affiliation, drug-dealing and negligent parenting practices as a primary causal factor, which led to some intergenerational continuity. How does class mobility work or not work for gay men? In my own case, I originally came from Riccarton, a working-class suburb of Christchurch. My parents scrimped and saved to send me to Middleton Grange, that notorious fundamentalist private school which also spawned convicted pedophile Graham Capill. With a hand-eye coordination problem and respiratory difficulties, I tended toward academic achievement and was largely excluded from "tough guy" working class peer groups who 'acted out' against the restrictions that were imposed on them at that institution. I finally escaped through university exams in the seventh form and made it to university, upward mobility and professional status. They didn't. Granted, my story happened to many other straight and gay pakeha working-class young men and women during the baby boom era. Gayness added incentive to my quest for upward career mobility and self-improvement. It led to a dichotomy, though. I discovered Marx at university and although I questioned its historical applicability and ultimately rejected it, I still vote Labour, support trade union membership and collective action, a functioning public health and education sector and comprehensive welfare state. Does the existence of lesbian/gay sexuality lead inevitably to upward mobility, though? Not all working class background young gay men are bad at sport - look at former NRL professional Ian Roberts, for example - although there haven't been any gay rugby league or union professionals since, one notes. As yet, apart from Black Fern Louisa Wall, there's no corresponding stories about out LGBT professional athletes. Some younger lesbians and gay men 'marry upward' if they find an attentive 'sugar daddy' or lesbian 'cougar' to bankroll their consequent educational and employment mobility. What if lesbians and gay men don't make it out of their humble beginnings, though? There are several reasons why this might happen. One is mental illness, which leads to considerable educational or employment disruption, transient housing and beneficiary status. These may contribute to inability to enter LGBT social networks, venues or maintain membership within such communities. Moreover, religious social service and housing providers may provoke resistance to LGBT identity formation or maintenance within the disability support sector. Another is alcohol or drug abuse. This leads to social interaction with a social network of 'heavy drinkers' for whom their primary drug of choice damages prospects of stable housing, durable employment or resultant community participation, particularly if they engage in verbal or physical aggression against other LGBT community members while under the influence. As a result, they have peripheral or non-existent LGBT community affiliation and may even be excluded if they break the rules once too often. Some might respond that 'we' don't want 'them' anyway. To complicate matters, though, class does complicate how one deals with psychiatric disability, so that a middle class gay man with mental health problems may seek and obtain early medical treatment, so that his educational or employment history may not suffer as significantly. Added to which, the diagnostic category affects matters too. People with depression have better outcomes than people who experience schizophrenia. Substance abuse is a different story. There is some recognition that LGBT clients have specific needs within the A  
 
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