Well, okay, maybe more gay men than lesbians are interested in spending money on dresses, but that's
not the point. The point is most of us are considered single without dependents. Our money is ours to do
with as we please, and we have lots of money.
Without a wife and children to house and feed, a gay man is free to pursue a career in presumably lucrative
professions like hairdressing, fashion design, fashion photography, and interior decorating. If he comes
home each night to a partner, that partner is employed in an equally lucrative (and feminine) field.
If the gay male couple has children, they are likely of the four-legged variety, probably French poodles:
small and, therefore, cost efficient.
Photography by Andrew Swaine
A lesbian would as likely bring home the bacon as a truck driver, construction worker, or maybe a gym
teacher. She may also have a companion, but again that companion is employed. If a lesbian couple has
children, they are likely mementos of a previous heterosexual relationship, in which case the male
who provided the seed may also be providing some financial support. If the child was produced through
ess conventional methods (adoption, surrogates), the lesbian couple knew in advance that they could
handle the extra financial burden that parenthood brings.
Like most stereotypes, the one about the gay community's wealth may possess a small grain of truth,
but it is true only for a very small portion of the gay population and it has its roots in homophobia.
While lesbians and gay men work in every imaginable field, the most visible members of our community are,
of course, the most successful.
No one flaunted his wealth or his homosexuality like the late Liberace, but if the celebrated pianist
had not succeeded in show business, his "gayness" would no doubt have been considerably toned down and
probably denied (Liberace did, in fact, deny he was homosexual, but no one, except perhaps his mother,
believed him). Waving a wand, wearing a long white fur coat, and suspended above the Las Vegas stage
by wires, the lisping, limp-wristed entertainer was a complete fairy on stage, yet he never alienated
his mostly middle-aged female fans.
But if "Lee," as he was called by his intimates (male, of course), had worked as a construction worker
or traffic cop, such flamboyantly queer displays would likely have gotten him fired or punched out.
The simple truth of the matter is that most gays and lesbians are not affluent, and many of those who
are either work in fields where being gay is acceptable and perhaps even considered an advantage (male
hairdressers, for one) or they are closeted for fear that their affluence will be threatened should they
reveal their true nature. But even in the entertainment world in which Liberace was once queen, openly
gay entertainers, such as Elton John, Ellen Degeneres, and Rupert Everett, are a minority within a minority.
As Tom Cruise's recent lawsuits make clear, most performers are just as worried as the rest of us that
their sexual orientation, or the mere allegation that they're gay, will hinder their career, and being
gay is still more likely to get someone fired than hired.
Most studies, and there have been few of those, indicate that the incomes of gays and lesbians are perfectly
average at best, and below average at worst. A study by Ireland's Anti Poverty Agency found that
among gay men and lesbians "57%…find it difficult to make ends meet, that a third had been homeless
at some point in their lives and that a fifth avoid work for which they are qualified through fear
of discrimination." The same study found that "7% reported being dismissed from a job because they are
lesbian or gay and a further 14% had resigned from a job because they found it too difficult to reconcile
their job with their sexuality."
Many young queer people, facing harassment at school, drop out and give up on thoughts of employment
all together, ending up on benefits no matter how skilled and talented they maybe.
Yet the myth persists that we are affluent. In some cases, members of our own community have perpetuated
the myth. Gay businesses eager to attract advertising pounds frequently encourage the notion of gay
affluence to fatten their own budgets, but the myth is based mainly in prejudice. Just as there are
many bigots who believe that Jewish people control the economy and that one successful Black or Asian businessman
is proof that racism no longer exists and equality has been achieved, there are many homophobes who use our
supposed affluence as a way to suggest that we already have more than most people, and, therefore, are
not entitled to equal rights. But it is our lack of equality that has taken a toll on our wallets. Only
when we have the rights to which all people are entitled will the lesbian and gay community truly be affluent.
Let the fight continue.