I’m LGBTQ, Graduating and Worried About Jobs in Trump Era

by Shirley Acuna-Heredia
Also Featured on KQED

I’m LGBTQ, Graduating and Worried About Jobs in Trump Era

by Shirley Acuna-Heredia
Also Featured on KQED
04.09.20
Photo: Adan Barrera
04.09.20

The decision to come out felt like a gamble. Growing up as a first-generation American in a traditional Catholic family was a tug-of-war between what was expected of me, and who I wanted to be. 

I was afraid being queer would push away my family. While it did change my relationship with a few relatives, being out also showed me the people I could count on.

I’ve gained a chosen family that gives me the freedom to unapologetically be myself — and one place where I’ve found that family is at Mills College. Every Mills class starts with students sharing their preferred gender pronouns, and the bike I use to commute to those classes is covered with stickers that represent my queer identity. It’s always getting compliments. 

Outside of our progressive campus, however, those of us who are graduating may face new and harsh realities.

The stress of navigating jobs feels even greater because of a pending Supreme Court decision. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, protects workers from discrimination on the basis of “race, color, national origin, religion, and sex.” But by this summer, the Supreme Court will decide if sex discrimination applies to LGBT people too. And given the conservative court we’ve got, I’m not feeling hopeful.

If the Court rules that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity are not prohibited by federal law, that would mean — in some states at least — I could be fired, or not even hired, for being queer. And that would be perfectly legal.

In California, legal protections for LGBT people are recognized, so that provides some protection. But more than half of the states in the U.S. lack basic LGBT non-discrimination policies in their state laws. 

My mom immigrated to the United States for opportunities that weren’t possible back home in Peru. After I came out, she was accepting but also worried that I would be treated differently because of who I love. 

Given what’s at stake for LGBT people, I’m worried too.

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