Sunday, February 23

The Hidden Costs of Being LGBTQ+

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There seems to be a rumor going around that being a same-sex couple means the both of you get to save a ton of money. However, the opposite is actually true: there’s a huge hidden cost to being LGBTQ+.

While it’s true that same-sex couples can split the costs on household and personal items, the unfortunate reality is this: it’s very expensive being gay. 

The systemic cost of being LGBTQ+

I touched on the financial hurdles LGBTQ+ people are faced with briefly in a past article, but since then these disadvantages have only become more prominent in my life. The more I examine it, the more I realize the impact homophobia has on my current financial situation, and the more I realize this is the price for being a member of a marginalized community.

The LGBTQ+ Income Gap

It is hopefully common knowledge that belonging to certain demographics translates directly to your financial standing. Wealth gaps are rising and much of that is due to unequal opportunities, especially in the world of finance. While a white man is offered jobs everywhere he goes, Black Americans have to fight decades of social depravity every moment that they find themselves in a professional sphere. Likewise, women around the world are frequently paid much less than their male coworkers. 

But there’s another group that suffers another pay penalty in addition to those piled on for their gender or race: the LGBTQ+ community.

Unsurprisingly, reports show heterosexual males out-earn any other orientation. Lesbians and bisexual women stand to lose the most, and all members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to be struggling financially. Although the discussion surrounding wealth inequality is growing, I still rarely see anything about the effect that sexual orientation has on your earning ability, despite mounting evidence. 

In other words, who you love can have a dramatic impact on your paycheque. 

LGBTQ+ people supposedly spend more money

In addition to earning less, LBGTQ+ tend to spend more as well. In a study I read, 48% of LBGTQ+ survey respondents considered themselves “spenders,” compared to 32% of heterosexual respondents. I’ve thought about this statistic a lot. There are truly endless reasons why this might be.

Spending money to fit into the community

Perhaps there’s more pressure to spend in the LGBTQ+ community. I know it’s difficult to meet other members in the community in day-to-day life, so maybe paying to go out to gay locations plays a role here. Cover and cocktails never did run cheap!

But coming out can be a really big deal, and many of us spend money when we’re trying to figure out our identity and this is a huge cost of being LGBTQ+. Should I dress more masculine? Do I need an edgy haircut? How do I both signal my sexuality while not drawing too much attention? Sometimes you don’t know what aesthetic feels right until you’ve tried them all, and spent a pretty penny to do so. 

The mental health cost of being LGBTQ+

However, LGBTQ+ people are at a higher risk to struggle with mental illness. The cost of therapy and medication certainly impacts finances, in addition to time away from work. This can really add to the cost of LGBTQ+. 

Furthermore, maybe we’re just angry about discrimination and trying to cope with retail therapy! I can recount more than one occasion a bad day sent me on an irresponsible trip to the mall. 

From personal experience though, one of the most surprising costs is homophobia. I can say that homophobia has directly resulted in overspending. And it’s done this often. 

Homophobia costs us

More than once, I’ve been downtown and made uncomfortable by homophobia. Whether it manifests as slurs being shouted at me from across the street or a direct exposition of my “sins,” it will undoubtedly shake me. Toronto has no shortage of violent discrimination against the Community, so I start to question my safety pretty quickly. I’ve spent upwards of $100 on Ubers to take me directly to my front door in situations like this. 

When I start to think conceptually, I can link homophobia to even more of my spending. When my girlfriend and I were looking for apartments, we first tried to find somewhere close to our university. Transit is expensive, and neither of us has money to spare.

We had bad luck, however, when we encountered several landlords that would tell me they’d happily rent to a couple, only to recant once they found out we were both women. We eventually ran out of listings and had to broaden our search. Long story short, we now have an hour and a half commute to class. That’s both a financial and time cost of being LGBTQ+.

On all levels, from that extra Uber charge to a very expensive daily commute, it seems many of my financial decisions were made under the influence of discrimination. At this point the idea of saving money thanks to being in a same-sex relationship is laughable. Sharing jackets with my girlfriend is a very small pro next to a long list of cons. 

But we are good at sharing

At first, I believed in this secret perk of same-sex finances: saving money by sharing personal items. This is because tangibly, it seems true.

When I shower in the morning I use a shampoo that my girlfriend and I split the cost on. When it’s an extra crisp morning I wear her jacket. I can help myself to double the eye-shadow pallets, double the shoes, and double the lipsticks. We share a few skin-care items as well, which we all know can be especially expensive.

Honestly, for while I believed we were saving money. We even cut each other’s hair to avoid the high costs of salons! Granted, we have obviously-self-cut hair, but I digress.

If you isolate these instances, we end up saving about $15 per month on household essentials and personal hygiene. Unfortunately, our skin-care routine is far from isolated from the rest of our lives.

Splitting our spending is only feasible in theory

Before my girlfriend and I moved in together, we had been living on our own for years. We had spent time and money building our own cache of furniture, clothes, household items, and anything else you could fill an apartment with.

When we moved into our apartment, we just had double the stuff. It’s not like I could’ve stopped myself from buying an expensive eyeshadow pallet three years ago! Past-me wasn’t thinking, “Well, maybe one day I will have a girlfriend I can share with, so I should save my money instead.” 

We also obviously have unique preferences and tastes! We’re different people and we use different things! Truthfully, it’s highly unlikely we share our belongings any more than a straight couple would. Consequently, same-sex couples seem to just benefit from the same money-saving perks that heterosexual couples benefit from. That is, sharing things.

A disclaimer: poverty might be blinding us

My financial hardships could definitely be hindering the possibilities of shopping as a same-sex couple. If my girlfriend and I had any sort of financial leniency, I can guarantee we would buy shared items more often. In any world where we buy splurge items at all, I’m sure we would split the cost.

If we spent more, chances are we would have more opportunities to save money as a same-sex couple. 

Perhaps there truly are hundreds of dollars saved for some same-sex couples out there. But even then, these benefits can only apply to surface-level spending. Unfortunately, financial hurdles are presented to members of the LGBTQ+ community in many more ways on a broader scale.  

As the truly endless financial impacts of a homophobic society are considered, it’s apparent that queer people have the odds stacked against them. And this is far before we focus on smaller things such as budgeting or cutting spending!

Yes, I’m lucky enough to have an extra selection of lipsticks. But I don’t save any money being in a same-sex relationship. 

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About Author

A professional writing student at York University, Toronto. A newbie in the world of personal finance, but writing with MAG I've got the perfect teacher! Literary nerd, writer, and coffee enthusiast.

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