The Financial Survival Guide
The world is, slowly, becoming a more accepting place for LGBTQ people—and that extends to the world of money. From the legalization of gay marriage to the increasing insurance coverage available for medical transitions, financial concerns unique to queer people are lessening in this country.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still money-related issues that are specific to the LGBTQ community.
There isn’t necessarily a wealth of data on the subject—as in so many areas of life, the queer experience with money hasn’t caught up with mainstream representation on the subject—but the research and resources that are available do point to one conclusion: Being a member of the LGBTQ community presents its own financial challenges, and occasional advantages. And how much you’re impacted depends largely on which letter you identify with.
Due to wide societal and policy strides in the last decade (particularly in blue states like Oregon), the L, G, and B parts of the queer alphabet face considerably less workplace and healthcare discrimination than they used to. But while incremental progress is being made for trans people, they still remain by far the most economically vulnerable people in the LGBTQ community.
According to a 2015 study from the National Center for Transgender Equality, nearly one third of trans respondents lived below the poverty line—that’s compared to 12 percent of the general US population—and only 16 percent of trans people said they owned a home, compared to 63 percent of Americans.
Twelve percent said they had experienced homelessness in the last year, and that this hardship was a direct result of them being transgender—meaning they had been kicked out of their home because of their gender identity or had faced significant problems finding steady work because of discrimination.
And the cost of medically transitioning—a process that many, though not all, trans people say is essential for easing their dysphoria—can be staggering. In fact, online crowdfunder GoFundMe has a section of its website that invites trans people to use the platform to fundraise for transitions. Fortunately for Oregonians, the Oregon Health Plan covers most (though not all) costs of medically transitioning.
The Wage Gap
You are most likely familiar with the gender wage gap—the fact that, on average, women take home less pay than men, and that gap is also exacerbated for people of color. The wage gap affects queer people in a unique way, particularly those of us in same-sex relationships.
While gay male couples have nothing to worry about when it comes to the gender wage gap—and indeed, often benefit from it—women in same-sex relationships are doubly impacted, with lesbian households making less than straight couples, according to a study from UCLA.
But queer women do tend to make a bit more money than straight women. The authors of the UCLA study posit that queer women generally don’t experience the same pressure to maintain a work/home balance, perhaps because they don’t have a husband straight out of an episode of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo pressuring them to do the housework.
If you’re a local queer person who’s having trouble navigating insurance coverage, facing housing or job discrimination, or just has no clue how to plan for retirement in a way that’s conducive to your particular situation, there are local resources available.
The Q Center has an entire database of LGBTQ-friendly local businesses, so you can find a realtor, lawyer, or accountant who will have the appropriate experience and willingness to help you. Prism Health, a project of the Cascades AIDS Project, is a great starting point for accessing affordable healthcare, including PrEP prescriptions and HIV and STI testing.
And New Avenues for Youth’s Sexual & Gender Minority Youth Resource Center provides academic support and job training for LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 and 23.