LGBTQIA

Queer Finances: Should Queers Have Their Own Credit Union?

QUEER FINANCES: SHOULD QUEERS HAVE THEIR OWN CREDIT UNION?

 Queer folk can face discrimination at banking institutions. Is it time for queers to have their own credit union?

Queer folk can face discrimination at banking institutions. Is it time for queers to have their own credit union?

If you subscribe to my monthly newsletter, you'll notice that I include a section that I adorably call "News Bites": a curated list of news and media pieces related to chocolate and/or the queer/trans* community. November's issue of the Cocoa Communiqué contained a piece from Forbes (though the original interview was a podcast episode from Queer Money(TM)) and it asked the question: "Should the queer community have its own credit union?"

Dozens of internal responses engaged immediately in a mental traffic jam, desperately trying to nudge their way past another to get out first.

Here's why:

  1. I'm queer and I have some thoughts about how I would like my personal and business finances handled.
  2. I used to be a stockbroker and have a certain amount of financial and economic professional knowledge.
  3. I have an advanced degree in sociology and tend to think about systemic issues, such as the economy and LGBTQIA2+ communities.

Hence, this blog post.

Do I think the queer community should have a credit union of its own? Yes. 

But.

The original interview between Phillip Endicott (who is attempting to launch a queer credit union: Equality Credit Union) and John and David, the hosts of Queer Money (TM), contained some references to data that were interesting and, on the face, very convincing:

  • “In 29 states, you can get married and be denied a home loan because of who you are, how you live and who you love,”
  • Endicott struggles with the notion that LGBTQ people are “considered wealthy and well-off when, in fact, we’re struggling financially.” He continues, “We’ve been adversely affected by all the years of fighting for equality and acceptance.”
  • Endicott says, “We’ve been fighting the HIV/AIDS crisis. We’ve been fighting for marriage equality and equality in general. We’ve been fighting for our rights for so many years.

However, I think there were elements of homogenizing the homos to make a point.

It is true that there have long been battles that the queer community has waged, but some of those battles have been labeled as "LGBTQ issues" instead of what they might have been more accurately described as "cis white gay men" issues. And that's problematic.

Demographics of Wealth and Homeownership

Discrimination of any sort is wrong, particularly when it leads to a barrier preventing financial betterment. In Endicott's reference of discrimination at the bank when applying for a home loan, the only folks who might be shocked or find themselves seeking pearls to clutch are white folks.

People of color (PoC) have long been denied home ownership, which has led to a staggering generational wealth discrepancy between white households and non-white households.

In 2009, a representative survey of American households revealed that the median wealth of white families was $113,149 compared with $6,325 for Latino families and $5,677 for black
families.
— Shapiro, Meschede, and Osoro. 2013. IASP Research and Policy Brief.

These figures are before any consideration is taken regarding sexual orientation, but we can cautiously extrapolate this to mean PoC who identify as LGBTQIA2+ are multiply marginalized and increasingly less likely to enter into homeownership due to discrimination and socioeconomic barriers and, thus, lose out on the biggest wealth generator in our economy. 

Discrimination was pervasive throughout the entire sample, yet the combination of anti-transgender bias and persistent, structural racism was especially devastating. People of color in general fare worse than white participants across the board, with African-American transgender respondents faring worse than all others in many areas examined
— Grant, Jaime M., Lisa A. Mottet, Justin Tanis, Jack Harrison, Jody L. Herman, and Mara Keisling. Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Washington: National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 2011.

Trans* folks were surveyed and found to have a homeownership rate of less than half of the general population (32% compared to 67%).

To layer on an additional challenge that is far too frequently ignored, our aging LGBTQIA2+ folx are being crushed by our nation's economic machinations. According to a 2014 report by SAGE, our queer/trans* elders are facing "adverse differential treatment against older same-sex couples seeking housing in senior living facilities" and "this report attests to the role that discrimination plays in worsening this housing instability among LGBT elders."

Housing instability affects millions of LGBT older people around the country, many of whom face severe financial hardship, challenges with employment and unequal treatment under the law.
— SAGE and ERC Documents Discrimination against Older Same-Sex Couples. 2014.

Sexual orientation and gender identity minorities face housing and banking discrimination, but PoC and the elderly are suffering disproportionately when compared with younger and white cis gay males.

As a small favor, I will begrudgingly leave out the rural/urban divide that can also be layered onto this verbal model I'm outlaying! You're welcome!

Queer Financial Struggles

It is also true that the queer community struggles with the duality of being stereotyped as having gobs of money to spend while also not actually having a strong financial situation or outlook. But this might be simply because of lumping folx together who have vastly different experiences and levels of privilege.

According to Experian's 2012 survey, married or partnered gay men have the best financial partnership out of any possible couplings. The average annual household income for such pairings is approximately $116k while married or partnered heterosexual men household earned nearly $22k less, on average.

When it comes to individual income, gay and straight men may earn roughly the same amount, but married or partnered gay men personally take home nearly $8,000 more, on average, than their straight counterparts.
— Experian. 2012. "Understanding Your Customer."

In a clumsy attempt to compare the venerable apples-to-apples, Experian's survey also referenced that lesbians--single or married/partnered--earn more than straight women, but all this does is muddy the waters surrounding the wage gap between men and women, regardless of sexual orientation. 

This is not to be dismissive of the financial challenges faced by straight, unmarried women but rather point out that the notion of a cis white gay man saying "we're struggling financially" while sitting atop the financial mountain falls flat.

Yay! Queers can get married! Now what? wait, where'd you go, gay guys???

When trans* PoC are being murdered at terrifying rates, with 2017 already surpassing the number of such murders in the previous year, planning nuptials isn't at the forefront of their minds for causes worthy of fighting. Whereas, cis white gay men have the majority of the same socioeconomic and political privileges as their straight counterparts, the main thing they lacked in terms of institutional access was in the ability to legally marry their partners. Thus, the cause célèbre of same-sex marriage was born.

This is not to say that other queer/trans* folx didn't benefit from being able to marry whomever they unapologetically loved, but consider that there has been a deafening silence from cis white gay men on a myriad of social justice and civil rights issues after they won their SCOTUS ruling. The amount of capital (social and financial) gay men initially had to invest in the cause of same-sex marriage had a tremendous return; but where are they now?

The backlash against queer/trans* being given a modicum of equality has led to a more focused attack on our community, particularly the trans* community, with a rash of so-called bathroom bills and preventative measures against enacting the passage of hate crime bills.

Gay cis white men need to use their access and privilege to help build a safer and more just environment for the most marginalized in our community before trying to win over our support for a new cause célèbre of wanting a credit union.

Do I think queers should have a credit union for our community? Yes. Credit unions serve communities and we are a community that has unique financial conditions. But a queer credit union does not need to be led by cis gay white men and it does not need to come into existence through the exploitation of the marginalized socio-economic and political contexts of those in the  LGBTQIA2+ community who do not share in such privileges.