The American dream has always been to have a good education, a great job, and a lovely house in the suburbs with a wife and 2.5 kids…and a dog (got. to. have. the. dog.). But, most gays buck this trend, preferring large cities, the single life, and working the perfect 60-hour work week and making tons of money. Gays have much more disposable income than our straight brothers, vacation at least two (2) times a year, and have apartments the size of most people’s dreams. In the words of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in his dissent to Romer v. Evans—a landmark 1996 case that overturned a Colorado state constitutional amendment prohibiting legal protections for gays and lesbians—”Those who engage in homosexual conduct tend to reside in disproportionate numbers in certain communities, have “high disposable income,” which gives them “disproportionate political power… to [achieve] not merely a grudging social toleration, but full social acceptance, of homosexuality.”
Gays are truly living the American Dream, and that’s the problem. All of this is a dream. These are the stereotypes about gay male life. True, some of these “A” gays do exist, and many of them are in careers that help to shape this collective community narrative, like television/movies/media, and then there are the rest of us, who pretend or “fake it till we make it.” No one wants to play rich gay vs. poor gay. For most Americans, the way to a more prosperous life begins with our jobs and being able to obtain and sustain gainful employment.
When talking about being “out at work,” the first assumption is that many of us, and our brothers, have a choice. From the tropes about the gay lisp, voice, face, and walk, to the expectations of gay male effeminacy, mannerisms, and every other conceivable homosexual stereotype, the decision to be open about our sexual orientation is not always under our control. And now, with modern technology, all of these tells and signals have been compiled, researched, and put in a new computer program for the future discrimination and bullying of our community. So let’s not pretend that we all have the same amount of choice in this decision and how it will affect our employment options and salaries. Some butch boys can pass, and that can make all the difference.
The Williams Institute finds that gay and bisexual men earn 10 percent to 32 percent less than similarly qualified heterosexual men in a meta-analysis of 12 studies examining earnings and sexual orientation in the United States. This is true even when controlling for education, race, occupation, and years of work experience.
- Lee Badgett (1995) found that gay and bisexual men earned between 11 percent and 27 percent less than their heterosexual counterparts while finding no statistical difference between lesbian and bisexual women.
- Dan Black, Gary Gates, Seth Sanders, and Lowell Taylor’s (2000) research indicates that gay men earned 14 to 16 percent less than their heterosexual counterparts, while lesbian women earned 20 to 34 percent more.
- Sylvia Allegretto and Michelle Arthur (2001) suggest that gay men in partnered same-sex couples earn 15.6 percent less than heterosexual married men.
Further, Williams’ meta-analysis comports with studies of wage earnings among public-sector gay workers. Together, these studies suggest that gay government employees earn 8 to 29 percent less than their heterosexual counterparts, indicating that discrimination in earnings in the public sector is no different than in the private sector.
When gay and transgender workers suffer from pay disparities, they have less money in their pockets to pay the mortgage, buy groceries, and pay their utility bills. It is no wonder (contrary to common stereotypes) that families headed by same-sex couples earn significantly less than their heterosexual counterparts. The average household income for same-sex couples raising children is $15,500, or 20 percent less than for heterosexual couples. This means the wage gap for many families headed by same-sex couples contributes to significant disparities in income earnings.
These wage and income gaps partly explain why gay and transgender families are more likely to live in poverty. Children raised by same-sex couples are twice as likely to live in poverty compared to children living in households with heterosexual married parents. Whereas 9 percent of children living with heterosexual married parents live in poverty, 21 percent of children being raised by male same-sex couples and 20 percent being raised by female same-sex couples live in poverty.
Rich gay Myth:
We see it all over television; rich gay white men living the time of their lives. And, yes, sometimes we individually enjoy the concept of this lifestyle, from the Board Room to the Ball Room; lux is cute on us. But the reality can be far different.
In one 2010 anonymous survey of Americans ages 18-44, gay men were found to have a poverty rate of 20.5 percent; the rate for straight men was 15.3 percent. Additionally, same-sex couples are 1.7 times more likely than different-sex couples to receive food stamps. The more accurate data doesn’t clarify the cause of the gay/straight economic gap. As The Atlantic reported:
Further corrupting this data is that not all partnered gay people feel comfortable declaring their sexuality in surveys. A high-earning gay couple is more likely to report their sexual orientation to a census-taker than a low-earning couple, making wealthier gay people overrepresented in national surveys. Only when asked anonymously are more gays and lesbians more willing to disclose their sexuality. In such surveys, the poverty and food insecurity rates for LGBT people rise.
Social scientists have established that gay men are more likely to work as teachers, nurses, secretaries, and other traditionally female-dominated jobs that don’t pay very well. Additionally, nearly 40 percent of all homeless youth are LGBT (often having been kicked out of their homes by homophobic parents), putting them at a tremendous economic disadvantage as they grow older.
And none of these studies take the major social injustice of race and intersectionality into account. Racism, like homophobia, has a bias in hiring, promotion, and firing processes. When these are packaged together, employment life for gay males of color is very challenging. And soon, Religious Freedom Laws will only compound our troubles and deepen the wealth and income gap between gays and straights. We at GMJ wanted to be a voice among the chorus when speaking about gay male economics because the myth of our collective success is harming the entire community. People are less likely to notice and support gay male causes, fund and donate to all gay male non-profits like ours, and are similarly not interested in our general health and welfare compared with other demographics.
There is no shame in discussing these economic and social matters. We need this information to circulate among our brothers so we can begin to help those in need, as we understand that not all gays are doing well. Yes, we have come a long way since the 1990s. The wage gap between certain portions of the gay male population and their heterosexual counterparts is on the decline, according to a study published in the Kyklos International Review for Social Sciences; Unmarried gay men over the age of 25 who work “blue-collar, male-documented occupations” and cohabitate with their same-sex partners are, on average, earning more than unmarried straight men living with their girlfriends. But, the battle for our civil rights does not end at the marriage altar. We still have so much work to do to be seen and paid equally as citizens and humans.
Tags: gay wage gap