Queer Money Fear$
VOX: Hi Nancy!
VOX: Hi Nancy!
VOX: Hey Nancy!
VOX: I have been thinking about fear around queer finances.
VOX: I had to sigh a little ‘cause...
VOX: I realized how impacted I've been by this.
VOX: What we're finding out more and more is just how much the financial system is just geared toward cisgender and heterosexual individuals.
VOX: There was this implicit unspoken expectation that I would probably marry a man somewhat young and he would kind of be the breadwinner and take care of all the finances.
VOX: So that really affected how I dealt with money.
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VOX: From WNYC Studios, you’re listening to Nancy.
VOX: With your hosts, Tobin Low and Kathy Tu.
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KATHY: Yes Tobin?
TOBIN: I don’t know if this is happening to you, but I feel like all of my straight friends are getting married.
KATHY: Yes it’s 100% happening to me.
KATHY: So many weddings to go to.
TOBIN: So many weddings! And it sets off this chain reaction of events I’ve noticed...
KATHY: Uh huh.
TOBIN: ...which is to say that like, so, my straight friends get married. And then inevitably like a year later I get that text that’s like, “Surprise! We’re pregnant!”
TOBIN: And then sometime after that, you get like the holiday card where they’re sitting on the steps of their house with their adorable baby and they’re all just laughing.
KATHY: Yeah, yeah. Not posed.
TOBIN: Yeah! And it’s sort of this feeling that their lives just sort of roll into the next step. And all those steps come with, you know, security...financial perks...legal protections.
TOBIN: And the more you and I have talked about this, the more we have arrived at this realization.
KATHY: Wait for it.
TOBIN: The economy is built for cishet people.
KATHY: Just let that sink in a little bit.
KATHY: Even though queer people have access to a lot of these same financial milestones, they all come with a cost.
TOBIN: Literal bills, y’all. Which gets to what you heard at the top of the show. Those were all Nancy listeners who reached out with their queer money fears. You know, the stuff that keeps them up at night about how they’re trying to navigate this financial system that wasn’t built for them.
KATHY: So for you, Tobin, what is your queer money fear?
TOBIN: For me my queer money fear is I have a vague sense that I have want to have a child someday but I know that that will cost a lot however I do it, so I am afraid of that cost in the future.
KATHY: My money fear is how much money I have to put in my emergency fund to feel comfortable as a queer person in this country right now because you just never know where the laws are going to go.
TOBIN: I think that we need to be thinking and talking more about money as queer people.
TOBIN: Because there are a lot of roadblocks for queer people, whether it’s having a kid, getting healthcare, or even something as basic as finding financial independence. It can feel harder if you’re queer.
KATHY: So to open up this conversation, we’re launching a special series called Queer Money Matters. We’re going to be covering a different financial milestone over five episodes, and breaking down the extra challenges queer people face.
TOBIN: And when we asked you, Nancy listeners, if you had queer money fears...you responded.
VOX: As soon as I realized I was queer it was just like, oh my god, this changes things.
VOX: Things that our straight friends and straight colleagues don’t have to think about.
VOX: You know I feel like my finances are impacted by my constant effort to be a visible queer person.
VOX: We had to really make a choice. Do we want to have a home? Or do we want to have a family?
VOX: When I did my research and looked into the different ways that queer couples make families, I landed on a technique called reciprocal IVF. But I'm really worried about how expensive it's going to be.
VOX: While adoption and surrogacy are touted as options, the reality of those alternatives are not exactly as easy as one might hope.
VOX: I'm 21 years old now but when I was 16, I was kicked out of my house because I'm trans.
VOX: I work for a tech company and overall we have like really good insurance. But up until this year we didn't have any trans coverage on that insurance.
VOX: Basically everything about being a transgender woman is expensive.
VOX: Every time they did a blood draw and I'd have to pay that out of pocket, and that was like anywhere from like $250 to $450. Like, that is something that cis people don’t have to deal with.
VOX: If I don’t have enough money for rent, I could be homeless again.
VOX: ...which is really scary.
VOX: We were denied coverage and paid about $30,000 for an IVF attempt that ended up in miscarriage. This benefit is covered for heterosexual partners.
VOX: We used all of our wedding presents and all of our savings up to that point and put it towards the surrogacy process.
VOX: Um...just hope my future wife is rich.
VOX: Obviously. Now…
VOX: Both of us are going to be affected by the gender pay gap and honestly I think that's why I'm grayer than most women my age.
VOX: So you know fuck the patriarchy.
VOX: It may seem petty but anything like a haircut, the right clothes, the right makeup, being in the right place. There’s a fee, there’s an entrance fee.
VOX: And then you add the layer of being queer in there and that just complicates it even more.
TOBIN: We wanted to know if people who aren’t Nancy listeners felt this way. So...drumroll please...we did a survey!
KATHY: Our very own national survey. I’ve decided to call it “Nancy’s 2019 Money Survey of a Representative Sample of the Queer and Non-Queer US Population.”
TOBIN: Or you know...maybe something shorter.
TOBIN: We can workshop it.
KATHY: No...I think we’re gonna keep it.
TOBIN: Okay [LAUGHS] So, the reason we decided to do our own survey is because there’s not actually a ton of data out there about queer people and money.
KATHY: We partnered with Morning Consult. They’re a firm that does national polling for places like Politico and the NY Times.
TOBIN: And they surveyed over 6,600 people from across the country and asked them a bunch of questions. Some were feelings-y questions, like “What emotions come up when you think about your finances?” And some questions got at hard numbers.
KATHY: And we really want to share some results with you because they are fascinating.
TOBIN: Okay so this is where I have to confess something.
TOBIN: When we got all these numbers back...I just like full on retreated into my turtle shell.
TOBIN: Like numbers scare me. I can’t do data. It freaks me out.
KATHY: The light left your eyes.
TOBIN: Exactly. [LAUGHS]
KATHY: [LAUGHS] It’s okay, Tobin, I’ve got you. I’ve looked through this data with our super smart data folks here at WNYC, and I’ve chosen the juiciest bits to share with you.
TOBIN: Oh god, I am so relieved. Please tell me what it all means.
KATHY: Okay so the first thing I’m gonna bring up is that queer people associate finances with anxiety, depression, and shame more than straight folks.
TOBIN: That actually makes sense to me, but like how much more are we talking about?
KATHY: So, for example, when it comes to anxiety, 52% of queer respondents say they feel some or a lot of it when they think of their finances, and only 41% of non queer people do.
TOBIN: Huh, so that is, that is a big difference.
KATHY: Yeah. And 25% of queer people say that their sexuality or their gender identity has had an impact on their finances.
TOBIN: Wow, so a quarter of queer people.
TOBIN: That’s so many people.
KATHY: So this next stat is also kind of a bummer, but actually not surprising. I feel like I already knew this, but it’s kind of another thing to really see the numbers, you know?
TOBIN: Okay, I’m ready.
KATHY: When queer people come out, it seems like a lot of them lose their financial safety nets. For example, 35% of them say they could rely on their family or friends for financial support before coming out about their gender identity. And then after? 20%.
TOBIN: Uh huh okay. So is there like a stat that is just interesting and not like a downer?
KATHY: Um, sure! Depending how you feel about children maybe? 57% of queer people in our survey say they don’t have kids compared to 36% of non-queer people.
TOBIN: OK, OK, I’m gonna spin this and I’m gonna say that could be an advantage.
TOBIN: Like if you don’t have kids, that could translate to more expendable income. Maybe you end up better off financially because of this aspect of your identity.
KATHY: Yeah, that idea actually has a fancy name.
KATHY: They call it “gay affluence.” And coming up, we’re gonna talk to the woman who wrote the book on so-called gay affluence, about whether or not it’s actually real.
KATHY: Oh, and by the way, if you want to see more of the data from our survey, head to nancypodcast.org/money.
TOBIN: And while you’re there, if all the stuff we’ve been talking about sparks something for you, it’s time for you to get in on the action. We want to know: what is your queer money fear?
KATHY: Go to nancypodcast.org/money. Who knows...there may be a Queer Money Matters patch in it for you!
KATHY: So before the break, we brought up this idea that people sometimes talk about: gay affluence. It’s a pretty widespread idea that gay people must have more money since they might not be spending it on things like kids.
LEE: I think it’s something people wish were true.
TOBIN: Lee Badgett is an economist who’s been studying the financial lives of queer people for more than two decades. Back in 2001, her book, Money, Myths, and Change, was among the first research to debunk this myth of gay affluence.
LEE: Basically LGBT people run into all kinds of headwinds that keep them from having the economic security that they want, having the income they want, the jobs that they want, the families they want, so there’s lots of ways that we see that, that stereotyping undermined.
KATHY: Lee believes the stereotype came about because the most visible queer people are often celebrities or other public figures, and the idea that gay people are living fabulous lives got stuck in our collective consciousness. But it gets applied across the board.
LEE: That's why I actually started doing this research was hearing that myth and thinking, “Whoa that doesn't make any sense at all.” It doesn't fit the lives of the LGBT people that I know or my own.
TOBIN: Lee’s research has shown that queer people are not a monolith, something you probably already knew. Some are rich, lots are in the middle class, and then there’s the sobering fact that queer people have a higher rate of poverty than straight people. And there’s kind of a hierarchy within the queer community.
LEE: For transgender people we only have one study that allows us to compare them to cisgender people very directly, and it looks like they do a lot worse.
TOBIN: Lee is talking about a big survey of transgender people that came out in 2015. It shows that transgender people are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than cisgender people and three times as likely to be unemployed.
LEE: We still have a lot to learn on that issue.
KATHY: Lee says that overall, people who identify as gay or bi are financially disadvantaged compared to their straight counterparts. That particularly affects women in same-sex relationships.
LEE: It’s important to just remember lesbian and bisexual women are women and women are, you know, below all men economically and that's true for lesbian and bisexual women as well. They earn less than gay men and less than straight men.
TOBIN: But while queer men still make more than all women, they also make less than straight men. Lee says anti-queer bias affects their job prospects and earnings.
LEE: They're not seen as having the same kind of characteristics as the straight guys are. They’re not seen as having, you know, the kind of male stereotypes of being assertive or aggressive even. In business, we see that in studies that show that that employers tend to treat gay men a lot worse when they're hiring people for jobs where they want those kinds of stereotypical characteristics.
TOBIN: The patriarchy. [LAUGHS]
LEE: Yup. You could definitely call it that.
LEE: It lives.
TOBIN: Right, and so like a lot of what you're talking about here is like this workplace discrimination, or discrimination of any kind, has a real dollar value attached to it. It sounds like being discriminated against costs you money.
LEE: It does. And we know pretty much what that looks like on average for gay and bisexual men. It's somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% lower earnings for being gay or bisexual compared to heterosexual men.
KATHY: What's your biggest queer money fear?
LEE: I'm 58 and you know retirement is at least visible from where I'm standing now...yeah thinking about how how to how to deal with that stage of life where it's mostly just money is just going out and how fast is it going to go out.
KATHY: Lee’s greatest fear is retirement, and we’re going to be talking about how saving for retirement, and finding a place to live when you are retired, can be challenging if you’re queer.
TOBIN: We’re also going to be talking about things like how your identity can limit your career path, and how freaking expensive it is to have kids when you’re queer. All next week.
KATHY: There will be stories of people who are in the thick of these problems, but also context and advice from experts and queer folks who have faced down their own money fears and lived to tell the tale.
TOBIN: Because, you know, doom and gloom isn’t the Nancy way. We’re gonna get through this and we’re gonna get through it together.
TOBIN: So here’s a little preview of what you’re gonna hear next week.
TOBIN: If you were to look at your finances right now, can you give me like one word to describe how it makes you feel?
VOX: Stressed. Just constantly stressed.
VOX: My biggest concern right now is just saving up and budgeting and making sure that I really do have enough money to have this surgery.
VOX: And I had a GoFundMe that fully funded my top surgery fund.
VOX: It's kind of like a lifetime LGBTQ tax or penalty.
VOX: My district manager is absolutely amazing. She is a cis heterosexual woman, but she is probably one of the best allies and advocates I've ever met in person.
VOX: We bought a house together a few years ago and our tax accountant immediately was like, “So you're getting married right?”
VOX: There is I think 1,064 benefits that the General Accounting Office of the federal government counted that are associated with marriage.
VOX: We were using credit cards to pay these bills. We were going into debt. So it was an overwhelming relief to find out that she was pregnant.
VOX: My doctor was willing to diagnose me as infertile even though I'm not actually infertile. And it turns out my insurance did cover the procedure because as far as they could tell I was infertile.
KATHY: What are you hoping retirement looks like for you?
VOX: Enough money to be okay. I am not envisioning a whole lot of money.
VOX: And something that I don't really like to think about too much.
VOX: I quite actively don't think about it. [LAUGHS] It is a very willful thing in our family. Both me and my partner just really avoid the subject.
TOBIN: But WE’RE not avoiding the subject. Far from it.
TOBIN: In fact, dropping a new Queer Money Matters episode every single day next week. So, get ready for some queer money talk.
KATHY: Tune in. Listen. Next week. All week. Every day. [LAUGHS]
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KATHY: Isabel Angell and Alice Wilder!
KATHY: Stephanie Joyce!
TOBIN: Sound designer…
KATHY: Jeremy Bloom and Ania Grzesik!
TOBIN: Executive Producer…
KATHY: Paula Szuchman!
TOBIN: Special thanks to Tigue, who contributed music to this episode, Morning Consult, Adam Auriemma from Money Magazine, and Angela Su and the WNYC data team.
KATHY: I’m Kathy Tu.
TOBIN: I’m Tobin Low.
KATHY: And Nancy is a production of WNYC Studios.
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