When my husband and I both started writing personal finance content years ago, the same issue kept coming up: what we were talking about didn’t exactly apply to us. Sure, we took great pride in helping our friends understand their finances, but we felt a bit cheated every time we turned in an article.
Within the last two years, we’ve really started to understand why we always felt that way. We’ve had to face financial difficulties our straight friends never even thought about. We have a line in our budget for starting a family (a $30,000+ undertaking), we’ve had negative experiences with doctors simply for being who we are, and buying a house was difficult because we needed to limit our search area to more inclusive (and more expensive) locations.
So, today, I want to address these financial issues that the LGBTQ+ community has to face, plus offer some resources to overcome these barriers.
There’s a cost to coming out
Believe it or not, the act of coming out can come with some unexpected costs. Samantha Hernandez, a lesbian money coach, told me that after she came out, she felt pressured to look the part, which ended up taking over a significant portion of her budget.
“… I was adjusting to life as an adult, working a new corporate job, living on my own, and trying to come to terms with my sexuality. I did not have any time to even think about my finances. When I felt stressed about one of several transitional phases I was in, I would treat myself. You’re feeling sad that you don’t look like a lesbian, go get lunch out. You’re feeling scared to go on your first date ever with a woman, go on a shopping spree. The only way I knew how to cope was to spend money. I was forced to face my harsh reality when I had accumulated $20k in credit card debt and did not want to continue living like this. This journey is what led me to educating others on how to manage their money.”
For many people in the LGBTQ+ community, coming out is a very emotional, often difficult journey. Like most other major changes in life, spending money seems like the only element of control one has. As in Hernandez’s case, this can lead to a seriously unhealthy outcome that can be difficult to get out of (don’t worry, she figured everything out!).
Housing can be more difficult (and more expensive) to secure
Many LGBTQ+ people live in urban areas. These areas provide greater access to the community and tend to be safer for LGBTQ+ people. And it’s no secret that cities are substantially more expensive to live in than rural areas.
In addition, while it is illegal to discriminate based on gender identity in many U.S. states, housing discrimination is all too common in the LGBTQ+ community. Trans people — trans women, in particular — are often met with discrimination when looking at rental properties, an Urban Institute report found.
Family planning comes with a high cost
On average, it costs $10,000 to $30,000 to have a baby in the U.S. Traditionally, this number is associated with cisgender and/or heterosexual couples. LGBTQ+ families, on the other hand, have to think about a few additional costs.
Here are just a few options (with their costs) that members of the LGBTQ+ community need to consider in order to have a child:
- Adoption – While the exact cost will depend on the type of adoption you opt for (foster care, international, domestic), the average cost for adopting a baby ranges between $15,000 and $80,000.
- Surrogacy – Again, this will vary depending on where you live, but $100,000 to $150,000 is what LGBTQ+ families should expect to pay.
- IVF – One cycle of IVF with necessary medications can cost $25,000+.
- Sperm donation – Just the sperm donor can cost up to $1,000, with the hospital costs for actually having a baby adding thousands more to that price.
These options can take years to save for and years to actually accomplish. Plus, this is simply the cost to have a child, not to raise a child or plan for its future. For example, estate planning can look completely different for LGBTQ+ couples. Gregory Page-Romer, investment advisor representative at Lighthouse Financial Network, told me:
“Even though legalizing same-sex marriage made everything much better, LGBTQ+ couples may still have additional issues. Some LGBTQ+ people still don’t get married due to issues of coming out to family or at work, so they really need to do estate planning to make sure their partner (and potentially children) are taken care of as desired.”
While everyone should consider estate planning, LGBTQ+ couples may have to plan their estates differently because they’re not married. Plus, if the legal right to marry were to ever be overturned, this could pose a significant barrier for LGBTQ+ couples and their children.
Healthcare costs, in general, can add up
Healthcare costs are a concern for many Americans. Insurance is expensive and prescription drugs cost a ridiculous amount. But the issues often compound even more for LGBTQ+ individuals.
First off, just finding healthcare can be difficult, since many doctors are still not versed in the medical concerns of LGBTQ+ individuals, forcing many people to travel long distances to get the healthcare they need. Page-Romer explained just a couple of the additional costs trans individuals specifically face:
“The Affordable Care Act has really helped more LGBTQ+ people obtain health insurance, however, there are still some issues for LGBTQ+ folks: gender-affirming surgeries can cost $100,000 or more. Continuing care, such as hormone therapy, can cost $25,000 or more.”
These treatments are not covered under many insurance policies and are a necessity for trans people who want to be their authentic selves.
There’s a wage gap for the LGBTQ+ community
Unfortunately, the LGBTQ+ community faces a wage gap, with LGBTQ+ people of color still facing the largest gap. The Human Rights Campaign completed an analysis that breaks down the various members of the community:
- LGBTQ+ white workers – $0.97 for every dollar typical workers earn.
- LGBTQ+ Latinx workers – $0.90 for every dollar typical workers earn.
- LGBTQ+ Black workers – $0.80 for every dollar typical workers earn.
- LGBTQ+ Native American workers – $0.70 for every dollar typical workers earn.
The numbers don’t just vary by race, but also by gender identity:
- Gay/bisexual men – $0.96 for every dollar typical workers earn.
- Lesbian/bisexual women – $0.87 for every dollar typical workers earn.
- Non-binary, genderqueer/genderfluid, two-spirit workers – $0.70 for every dollar typical workers earn.
- Trans men – $0.70 for every dollar typical workers. earn
- Trans women – $0.60 for every dollar typical workers earn.
It’s an uncomfortable reality to deal with, but LGBTQ+ youths can and do find themselves homeless more often than their peers who don’t identify as LGBTQ+. Of the 1.6 million youths who are homeless, up to 40% of them identify as LGBTQ+. Due to this lack of parental support, LGBTQ+ students find applying to college a huge challenge.
For starters, filling out the FAFSA can be difficult for an independent student with no permanent address. Plus, coming up with the money to pay application fees and entrance fees, not to mention tuition and room and board, is nearly impossible.
For the LGBTQ+ students who do make it to college, they’re now tasked with finding a college that’s an inclusive space. Finally, if they manage that, student loans can quickly become an issue.
Financial literacy, in general, is more difficult to obtain
One of the reasons many of the above issues continue to persist is due to a lack of financial education that’s inclusive of all communities. Hernandez discussed how this lack of education can end up causing serious financial harm to queer individuals:
“Almost all of my queer 1:1 money coaching clients have credit card debt. The most common theme I see is that they are emotionally spending to cope with rejection after coming out. Other reasons that queer folks have to go into debt include: relying on credit cards for daily necessities due to low income, [they] don’t have financial support from family, employment barriers that make it harder to get a high-paying job, and insurance companies denying health care claims for gender-affirming surgeries.”
Not only do queer people need to learn how to navigate the financial world like everyone else, but they also need to learn ways to cope with issues like the ones Hernandez commented on above.
Financial resources for the LGBTQ+ community
While you should definitely keep coming back to MU30 for more LGBTQ+ financial resources, there are a number of nonprofits and organizations fully dedicated to helping the LGBTQ+ community live their best lives. Here are just a few that can help:
- Human Rights Campaign Student Scholarship Database – For LGBTQ+ students and their parents, the HRC offers a database full of scholarship options that can help make college more affordable.
- LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance – The LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance can help you find LGBTQ+-friendly real estate agents, tax agents, financial advisors, and more.
- National Center for Transgender Equality – With full-length guides on navigating school, immigration, health care, and more, the National Center for Trans Equality wants to help trans people understand their rights.
- Stonewall Community Foundation – LGBTQ+ individuals can apply for grants and scholarships to help further their organization or project. You can also apply for individual microloans.
- Horizons Foundation Grants Directory – The Horizons Foundation offers a list of hundreds of grants to help LGBTQ+ people in a variety of different situations.
- Family Equality LGBTQ+ Family Building Grants – If you and your partner(s) are planning to start a family, Family Equality has a list of grants available that can help reduce the financial burden.
- PFLAG – PFLAG is all about helping LGBTQ+ people and their families. With local chapters all over the country, PFLAG offers support groups, scholarship programs, online courses, and more.
There’s been a long, slow fight for equality both in the U.S. and globally. Unfortunately, there’s still quite a ways to go. Until that time, LGBTQ+ individuals will continue to face financial situations that those outside of the community don’t often need to think about.
Thankfully, there are a number of resources available to those who identify as LGBTQ+. Many nonprofits are dedicated to helping LGBTQ+ folks start families, go to college, start businesses, and buy homes.
Featured image: astarot/Shutterstock.com