Hey Noah –
I’m a 34-year-old gay man from Washington, D.C. I work for an arts non-profit, and I will be paying off my student loan debt until I die. I make very little money, but I enjoy what I do. I’m single, I don’t have any kids or pets, and I have two roommates.
It’s now the dog days of summer, and my gay friends are taking off to Fire Island, Rehoboth Beach and Provincetown. Many of them have asked me to come along, and while I desperately want to escape D.C. in August, I can’t even afford the train tickets to New York. My Discover card is tempting in these moments, but I already have so much other debt that I begrudgingly decline all their invites.
My question – why does it seem like my gay peers are thriving financially; driving BMWs, taking multiple vacations a year and eating out every night? The top stories on my social feed always seem to be of my gay friends living their best (and luxurious) lives.
Is the stereotype true that gay men have some secret to making big bucks and out-earning the rest of the world? What am I missing?
Trey, Washington, D.C.
The secret is – there is no big secret. In fact, it’s undoubtedly a myth that gay men are wealthier than straight folks. In fact, 29 percent of people who identify as LGBT experience food insecurity in the United States. In a survey of men ages 18-44, the poverty rate was 20.5 percent for gay men, versus 15.3 percent for straight men.
While there are no doubt hoards of well-off gay men, particularly in urban centers like Washington D.C., New York, and San Francisco, what you are probably experiencing is a bit of confirmation bias mixed with the manipulative power of social media.
It’s easy to spot the ostensible — more on this in a minute — material wealth of those around us and in our feeds. What isn’t always apparent? The poverty and struggles of our fellows that often exists below the surface, and out of sight from the quick glance.
Before we get to social media, let’s talk about the vacationing friends.
Spend spend spend
Debt empowers us to live out our wildest fantasies. Yes, there is a chunk of us who can afford to pay off debts in full each month, and more. However, the dirty secret in the urban gay community is that credit card debt is rampant, and many cannot afford the Fire Island lifestyle. The pressure to radiate success and live an expensive lifestyle exists in most communities. However, this trend is compounded with gay men because we were marginalized for so long. In many parts of the country, the marginalization continues to exist.
What does marginalization have to do with living a flashy lifestyle? It’s a subtle “fuck you” to the haters.
It’s easy to miss this in the public personas of these fellows. Credit cards are the great PR equalizer. Just because your gaggle is taking off for a long weekend at the $500-per-night Airbnb on the beach doesn’t mean they can actually afford it.
The feeds deceive
It’s no secret that if someone wants to portray a successful and wealthy lifestyle, it doesn’t take much effort to create a social media presence that fits the bill.
Riding in a friend’s fancy car? Post.
Drinking a big glass of wine at a fancy restaurant? Post.
Crying over a $30 bank account balance with a stack of Navient bills next to your bed? Not so much.
The result is public profiles that exemplify an image of positive, successful moments. Don’t fall into the trap of interpreting social media as an authentic representation of the lives we live.
Now you understand how “wealth” can be easily contrived and manipulated. Here’s our advice for getting over the blues of not having enough resources to escape D.C. –
Get creative with finding inexpensive and free things to do in the city.
Go on a few dates.
Find a public park with a beautiful lawn if you want to soak up some rays.
We guarantee that avoiding the keeping up with the gaggle mentality and staying away from credit card debt, you’ll be happier in the long run.
There will always be those who have more, and those who have much less. That’s the way it goes. It’s time to stop comparing yourself to others. You are not an outlier – gay men are not overwhelmingly wealthy.