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Why We Need to Be Talking MORE About The LGBTQIA+ Community When We Talk About Money

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It’s pride month (YAYYYYY – all the rainbow emojis) but this isn’t why I am writing this.

If you’re new here, I identify as pansexual meaning I am attracted to people of any gender. I am also married to my beautiful wife and best friend, Ally.

I will refer throughout this article to the LGBTQIA+ community meaning – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transexual, Queer or Questioning, Intersex, Asexual.

The initialism continues to grow to be as inclusive as possible (even though it might still fall short).

As someone who is so openly in a queer marriage, I don’t feel like I talk about queer money enough. And I should be.

This doesn’t mean that if you are also in the LGBTQIA+ community that you should be 100% representing at all times, talking about all the issues, and doing everything you can to speak up. That depends on if you want to continually come out, over and over, and over again. It’s exhausting and you aren’t expected to do that. Especially when it is a danger to your life.

Some will disagree with me on this but you have to protect yourself first before you can protect and fight for yourself and others.

In the U.S., it is very dangerous in some states and areas to be open about your sexual orientation and gender identity. It is also still legal to be fired for your sexual orientation and gender identity in 29 states. (Update: June 15th right after I published this article, the Supreme Court ruled it illegal for an employer to fire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is a huge victory for the LGBTQIA+ community and we will see how this evolves in states with a federal ruling.)

As most of the world’s economy is very much set up for cisgender heterosexual people, couples, and families, there aren’t enough resources out there in our community to help us.

Let’s talk about some of the areas that affect your money as a queer person, as a queer couple, and/or family or other, and how you can find resources in these areas to help you succeed.

Note: I’ve sourced stories and quotes from those in the LGBTQIA+ community so I could share perspectives that weren’t just ours. I will try to touch on as many issues as I can and give as many resources as I can but there will still be some that I miss. There are a lot of intersectional things at play here and that power intersection all trickles down to our money. Being “good” at money doesn’t just mean negotiating for more pay, spending below your means, saving enough, investing, and wah-lah – you’ve reached rich status. The system is set up differently for different people. It sucks but it’s true. If you have a story, perspective, and/or resource you want to also share, please do so in the comments. Thank you! (But also, any hate in the comments won’t be approved and will be deleted so …be a cool human please).

Making Money

We will start with the green piece of paper that makes this cis-het economy go round: money and how we make it.

You’ve heard about the gender pay gap which refers to the difference in earnings between men and women. We know that women on average make $0.82 for every $1 men make.

But that’s just for white women. When you start to look at the data for BIWOC (Black, Indigenous, and Women of Color), Black women are getting paid $0.62 for every $1 white men make, and Latinas are getting paid $0.54.

I think some of the biggest struggles my wife and I face as a couple, as it relates to money, is because of our gender and sexual orientation. We both identify as women, and just by the very nature of that, we are generally not paid the same amount of money relative to our male counterparts in our respective industries. On top of gender, I also face pay disparities as it relates to race. For example, my white former male colleague internally referred me to a job within his department. I had more experience than him and more certifications, yet I was offered $65k, where he openly told me that he was offered $75k. He advised me not to take the job. 

– Carmen Perez, Make Real Cents

Carmen’s experience illustrates the gap between femme couples vs masculine couples but also the pay disparities she faces as a Black woman.

The gap gets even larger for women of color and those living intersectional realities. According to the Williams Institute, women in same-sex couples have a median personal income of $38,000 vs. $47,000 for men in same-sex couples vs. $48,000 for men in different-sex couples.

However, we need to stop thinking of this gender pay gap as being the gender binary of male and female. Gender is not binary and we need to stop excluding trans and nonbinary people in that data.

Transgender females and femmes experience all the same discrimination as normal cisgender heterosexual females plus the discrimination they face as transgender individuals. Trans masculine individuals will also face similar discrimination. Then add on top of that any other characteristics that might add more discrimination such as their race, nationality, and/or disabilities.

So yea, it is great that the Supreme Court recently ruled it illegal in all 50 states to fire LGBTQIA+ individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but this has no effect on current hiring policies (yet). Most trans folks have an especially hard time getting hired in the first place which makes it even harder for them to better their lives financially.

The National Transgender Discrimination Survey reported 15 percent of transgender and genderqueer people live way below the poverty line and earn under $10,000 per year. Those same numbers rose to 28 percent for Latinx and 34 percent for Black transgender and genderqueer people.

The numbers don’t look the greatest and aren’t from the most inclusive or solid of data. These still paint the obvious picture here and that is it is harder for those in the LGBTQIA+ community to make money and better our lives financially.

You can save all the money you want but if there isn’t a lot of money coming in or no money at all, it becomes impossible to save and plan your financial future. Especially when you already come from poverty.

When The Laws Aren’t in Place, Your Employer Makes The Law

I am one of the lucky ones where I work in the private sector for a company that is vocal about their support for the LGBTQIA+ community. But it shouldn’t be up to the companies to decide this in states where there are no protections.

Even after the Supreme Court ruling to make it illegal to fire employees based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in all 50 states, LGBTQIA+ individuals still may face discrimination during the hiring process and/or in their day-to-day work.

Darcy chooses to completely leave her sexuality out of the situation at work and is not openly “out”.

I’m not “out” at work. I’ve yet to meet anyone on a professional level that’s overtly homophobic, but I’ve also seen past colleagues react with hesitation and awkwardness with openly queer customers and vendors. Although there’s been some awesome progress for us LGBT folks, there’s still a long way to go for ensuring your sexuality doesn’t negatively impact your professional relationships. I don’t date much so my queerness hasn’t come up in casual conversation at work, and I hope to keep it that way as long as I can.

Darcy at We Want Guac

In addition to that, there is little to no support for those who work independently for companies. For these people, they can never be their true selves at work and are under a great deal of stress because of it.

Kate Dore is a bisexual woman who experienced discrimination for her sexuality while working as a traveling concert promoter.

There are no protections for LGBTQ+ workers in Tennessee. You can be fired at any time for any reason. For this reason, I was never out at work.

As a concert promoter, I often witnessed homophobic remarks—but never had an HR department to complain to. Unfortunately, there is little recourse for blatant sexism, bigotry, and discrimination on the road.

– Kate Dore, Personal Finance Writer

Workplace Discrimination Internationally

Emilia is a bisexual, genderqueer person who lives and works in Poland where they never directly experienced workplace discrimination from the employer. However, they are treated differently by coworkers.

When it comes to workplace discrimination, I never had a direct confrontation but I do get a lot of mistrust because most people think I’m gay or trans. And they show themselves to be homophobic and transphobic. I’ve had many instances of people directly asking me about my sex (we don’t have a separate word for gender but contextually they asked about sex not gender).

Emilia from własny$pokój

When It’s Illegal to Be Who You Are and Love Who You Love

I gotta say it again as referenced earlier in this article: On top of all this data that isn’t as complete as it should be, in countries like the U.S. you can still get fired from your job for who you identify as or who you love in 29 states. It is ridiculous that in 2020, our employer has so much power to take away our source of income in an instant. (Update: June 15th right after I published this article, the Supreme Court ruled it illegal for an employer to fire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is a huge victory for the LGBTQIA+ community and we will see how this evolves in states with a federal ruling.)

As sad as that sounds, homosexuality, in general, is still illegal in 73 countries around the world including Jamaica, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Dominica, Indonesia, and more. The earning potential for LGBTQIA+ communities in those countries goes way down.

Getting Married

In the U.S., it is perfectly legal to love who you love and openly identify but it isn’t all rainbows and sprinkles. Same-sex marriage has only been legal since 2015.

Yep, it was on June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, legalized it in all fifty states, and required states to honor out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses in the case Obergefell v. Hodges.

With same-sex marriage being legalized, the LGBTQIA+ community finally had access to the legal and tax benefits that come with that but many still suffer financially.

David and John both struggled with money due to low self-worth and little financial encouragement as gay men.

Growing up in the 70s, 80s and 90s, we didn’t have a lot of gay role models. And, those who could’ve been were disparaged and dismissed by our family and churches. By the time we were on our own, we both struggled with low self-worth issues because we were gay.

We, unfortunately, had no evidence or encouragement as gay men to take our finances seriously. We let ourselves become consumed with the carpe diem mentality of gay men from the 80s and 90s who didn’t expect to live beyond their 40s or 50s. We let ourselves become conditioned to spend our money and credit to “buy” validation, which hurt our financial security.

Likewise, prior to the mid-2000s, there was a lack of queer people on finance advertising. Even today, young impressionable queer people are bombarded with ads for makeup, clothes and travel but not investing and saving and banking. This is a subtle form of homophobia – we’re not hurting you, we’re just letting you hurt yourself.

David & John, Debt Free Guys

Having a Baby

When you are in a queer marriage or partnership, chances are you can’t just up and have a baby whenever you want. Having said that, I don’t mean that to be insensitive against those who have trouble conceiving.

I spoke to a woman in a Facebook group I am apart of and she was kind enough to share her own story of how she and her partner got pregnant without convenient access to sperm. They live in the midwest and went to New York for in vitro fertilization. Before that, they had to do trial and error with other methods (which can be very taxing on the psyche).

Total, she says they spent about $30,000 which included:

  • $4,000 for each IVF
  • $1,000 sperm
  • $6,000 medication overseas (because insurance wouldn’t cover those medications and they were too expensive to purchase in the U.S.)
  • $4,000 monitoring (ultrasounds, blood testing locally)
  • miscellaneous expenses for different routes of trying to get pregnant

Others would ask her – Why not just do adoption? Adoption can be just as complicated and expensive, especially in states where they don’t have full adoption rights for same-sex couples (oh, another political thing that affects our lives).

Healthcare

Healthcare is this crazy thing in the U.S. where people go into medical debt from having a necessary procedure like child birth.

You’d think healthcare should be a right? Well not here. Here it is a privilege and not one that many LGBTQIA+ communities have the luxury of.

It’s been painfully obvious to me for quite some time the extent that some doctors will go to ignore their LGBTQIA+ patients. It’s been the most noticeable with trans patients where doctors have limited knowledge and bias as found in this paper and with what I’ve seen first hand.

Once you get a doctor to pay attention to you, you are going to have a hefty bill (especially if you don’t have insurance but either way, insurance kind of sucks these days). The costs throughout transition in general are astronomical. There are the costs for new clothes as you go through a social transition, any legal costs for changing your name, hormone therapy, any other prescriptions, hair removal, speech therapy, gender affirming surgeries, etc.

Now, that is about to get worse as the Trump administration just made it legal for healthcare providers to deny care to LGBTQIA+ patients.

Recently the Trump administration rolled back ObamaCare’s nondiscrimination protections for sex and gender identity.

Advocates and health groups said the policy will make it easier for doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to deny care or coverage to transgender and nonbinary patients, as well as women who have had abortions.

The Hill

Where to Go From Here

How are we supposed to thrive in the same world as everyone else when our community can legally be fired for who they are in 29 states (Update: June 15th right after I published this article, the Supreme Court ruled it illegal for an employer to fire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is a huge victory for the LGBTQIA+ community and we will see how this evolves in states with a federal ruling.) and none of us have the same right to healthcare as cisgender-heterosexual people.

When you add on circumstances such as race, nationality, positionality, etc, the options get more limited. The gaps are all across the board and there are no bootstraps.

Queer money is definitely different than straight money. There are situations queer/genderqueer people deal with that you will never have to come face-to-face with nor pay for as a straight person.

Let’s talk about resources to help you along the way :

A lot of our legal positioning in this country is due to a homophobic government that still can’t get that more rights for a certain group of people doesn’t mean fewer rights for them.

Get involved in your local community, vote in every election no matter how small it is, call your city council and state rep and voice your demands (this is their job), and encourage others to go out to do the same.

Use your right to protest, sign petitions, volunteer, and donate to LGBTQIA+ led organizations.

Speak up to your employer and advocate for your fellow LGBTQIA+ folks, especially trans folks. Challenge them to hire more queer and trans folks because even though the new supreme court ruling protects us from getting fired, it doesn’t help us get hired in the first place.

As much as we all hate to talk about politics, life and money gets pretty political when every law affects your ability to have the same rights as everyone else. Not only that, but the biases that are implanted in people from past laws, the government, and the media take generations to recover from.

If you have any stories, comments or resources to share, leave them in the comments below!

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