Gay Affluence: fact, fiction, or somewhere in between?
“Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
On Saturday night, we went with friends to HRC’s Annual Orange County Federal Club Garden Party and this year it was at a young gay man’s ocean front home in Laguna Beach. It was rumored that he purchased the home a year ago for 16 million dollars.
How does a thirtysomething queer make enough money to buy a house like this? Some said he made his money in credit card processing, others through real estate. I’m certain it was a combination of the two. Looking around on Saturday night, the bigger question was: Are all gay men wealthy?
There were 350 people in attendance – 90 percent were men. Some were there to raise money to support HRC goals. Others were there to gawk at this amazing house. We went to do both.
Much has been written about The Myth of Gay Affluence as in this Blade article by Thomas Soule. It didn’t look like a myth on Saturday night.
That said, Soule’s article references a report by Lee Badgett, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst defusing this myth. Soule writes, “Based on extensive research, Badgett found a diversity of economic situations among the lesbian, gay and bisexual population. Although further study only confirms that reality, the image of affluence lives on.”
Why? Maybe it’s because we’re throwing parties in 16 million dollar homes.
“One of the most convincing arguments for the notion of gay affluence is that because most gay people don’t have children, they have more “disposable income” to spend than the average straight person… Although it is true that gay men are less likely than other men to have children, studies show that lesbians have children at nearly the same levels as heterosexual women. That has nothing to do with how much money they’re earning—it merely dictates what they spend it on.”
Well, I’m glad then there’s a subset of the gay population spending it on political causes. I felt part of a well-organized and mobilized group with a say in determining the next administration.
Political clout and buying power… isn’t this really the same thing? Awhile back, I asked Bob Witeck and Wes Combs if they thought gay people have more disposable income to spend than the average straight person. They answered, “It is definitely a myth and perhaps the most misunderstood fact about gays and lesbians. We are not wealthier. We make about the same amount of money as our non-gay counterparts.”
“Because only about 20 percent of gay and lesbian households have children in them, we tend to have more discretionary income. What others spend on child care related costs we often spend on ourselves (or save.) In many cases we are also dual income households, which coupled with no children gives us more money to spend than the average consumer.”
Do you agree? John W. Stiles at OutSmart begs to differ and gives his take on the myth, “So we get all of the harm of appearing wealthy, without any of the fun (or security) of actually having the money in our pockets and bank accounts.”
It seemed like a lot of people (350 to be exact) were having fun on Saturday night in Laguna Beach. Yet others were working so they could have fun… the catering crew and shuttle bus driver to name a few. Is that any different from a fundraiser attended by straight people in Middle America? Probably not. Every subset of the population will have guys that can afford the million dollar homes and party goers wondering what he did to deserve it. The shuttle bus driver was probably thinking the same about us as he pulled into the parking lot full of nice cars. Money is relative and being gay or straight doesn’t have anything thing to do with it.
For more on this topic, read Paula’s post about the realities and perceptions around the issue of class in America.