Lived Experience, Bravery and Fear

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Today, Taylor Milam  joins us for our weekly Friday series on women’s money issues in honor of Women’s Money Week, which will take place January 1-7, 2017. Taylor’s story reminds us that financial decisions aren’t always about math—there’s a lot more to life than numeric calculations.

Please use the hashtag #WMWeek17 when sharing this story.

Wow, I love how she shares her experience as an LGBTQ+ woman through the lens of lived experience.

When I think about my relationship with money, there are a lot of things that come to mind—my relationship with my parents, feelings about myself and what I “deserve,” my career path and the people I love. What I don’t often think about, though, is the fact that I’m in a same-sex relationship.

But the truth is that it’s all connected. Who we are—our family, our history, our relationships and our health all interconnect with our money. In some ways, they are irrevocably combined. But despite the interconnectivity, there are some things that are impossible to quantify or explain with numbers.

Personal Finances as a Woman in a Same-Sex Relationship

According to the statistics I can tell you that my partner and I will each earn $1 million less than our male counterparts. I can also tell you that because we are in a relationship with each other (two women,) the gender wage gap will doubly affect us and we will not be able to “earn” back part of the difference in pay from a male partner.

I can also tell you that even though it’s cheaper, it often feels (and actually is) more difficult and unsafe to live in a small, rural town when you’re gay. My $1500 one-bedroom apartment in Southern California would cost me $470 in Wichita, Kansas and $750 in Louisville, Kentucky.

But what I can’t adequately tell you is what it’s like to be stared at and jeered at when you walk down the street with the person you love. I can’t explain what it’s like to be fearful that your relationship status could cost you your job. I can’t assign a value to those experiences and worries.

Making Choices Contextualized by Lived Experience

In many ways, it is impossible to quantify the experience of being gay.

It’s an experience that I’ve struggled to write about because I’m not sure what to say. It’s not an experience that I chose, but it’s one that I live. In the same way that I can’t control where I was born or how I look, I can’t control who I fall in love with, but it’s a part of my life nonetheless.

My relationship is a beautiful part of my life that brings me more joy than is possible to explain, but it comes with a financial price. It comes with strategic choices about what to mention to colleagues, which neighborhoods are accepting and what cities would be welcoming to our future children.

But these financial choices aren’t based in numbers or facts. They are based on lived experience, bravery and fears.

And sometimes, those are the most important financial concepts to talk about…even if you’re not exactly sure what to say.

7 thoughts on “Lived Experience, Bravery and Fear

  1. Steve Goodwin

    I think everyone comes up against some sort of adversity in their lives at one point or another. All you can do is do the best you can with what you have. Maybe your wages might be capped in the workplace, but you could always go the entrepreneurial route and change that status quo for yourselves.

    I know the gap is there, but I think it’s changing and getting closer over time. I know the stay at home dad community has been growing like crazy as of late, so apparently some women (including my wife) are making a killing and making it happen.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      You’re right. We do all have our own problems. And the entrepreneurial route is one that a lot of women are taking, including ZJ Thorne, who contributed this piece a few months back : Though her decision to leave the workplace was less about a gender pay gap and more about discrimination at work.

      And that’s where I think we have to be careful. Yes, we all have our own adversities we have to battle. But just because everyone suffers doesn’t mean we should further marginalize already marginalized populations and their lived experiences.

      The fact of the matter is that men don’t face the battle against income inequality, and women do—even if many of us are starting our own businesses in an attempt to hedge it. The fact is that as a woman in a heterosexual relationship, I don’t have to face the same social judgement which can leak not only into my personal life and where I choose to live that personal life, but also my professional life because of who I’ve fallen in love with. My job’s not at stake. My rights aren’t at stake. My business prospects aren’t at stake.

      And my value as a human being is never questioned when I walk down the street with my partner. Like Taylor said—that’s something that’s not quantifiable. I truly believe the only way we’re going to find resolutions to problems like these is by recognizing and validating each others’ unique struggles so we can create the empathy needed to change cultural norms.

    2. Taylor

      Hi Steve, I think Femme’s response really explains what I was trying to get at in the article. When you’re gay or a woman or disabled or a person of color or a member of any other marginalized community, it’s not “adversity,” it’s LIFE. Being gay isn’t a setback that I can overcome or a momentary hardship, it is a part of who I am as a person.

      And talking about these societal issues are not about garnering pity or saying that woe is me. Instead, it’s about acknowledging that these are real issues and raising awareness about the issues that still exist. I agree that the pay gap is closing but it’s projected to close in 144 YEARS and frankly, that’s not okay. And that doesn’t even take into consideration that LGBT people are not protected under the law. In most states, it is LEGAL to fire someone for being gay. Regardless of my personal choices (entrepreneurship, traditional employment, etc) these facts remain utterly unacceptable to me and I would certainly hope that you and others feel the same.

  2. Gary @ Super Saving Tips

    Thank you for bringing to our attention financial issues that so often go unseen by our heteronormative population. One of the biggest expenses in anyone’s budget is their housing cost, which is very dependent on where they live. Safety has to come first, and unfortunately there is a price for that. As for career, while entrepreneurship is a wonderful thing, it’s not for everyone, nor should it have to be. While I believe we are moving toward a more fair society, it is a painfully slow process.

  3. Pingback: Stranger in My Native Land: Asian American Money | Femme Frugality

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