The Economics of Coming Out: Financial Independence
Currently, as an undergraduate college student of middle-class upbringing, I have a sort of hybrid financial situation: my parents pay the difference between my tuition and my scholarships, and I’m on theirs and the college’s health and dental insurance. On the other hand, all other financial goals and needs are in my own hands. I have not lived with them the past two summers, so I’ve gotten a taste of living on my own. This has been really amazing—I have a lot of class and race privilege, and this allows me to essentially attend school where I please—a small private college in the South.
On the other hand though, I am considering coming out to them. This is going to be a scary process. The most frightening aspect is that they will probably cut me off. As I’ve been looking for resources to know what to do if this happened, I have found that there is a surprising lack of advice for queer youth who may find themselves cut off from their parents. So for my first post, I thought I would share with you my last chance financial plan. Clearly, these are colored by my class identity and how I live in the world—but I think that they’ll be a good starting place for us to discuss what it is you really need when you are young and considering coming out.
1. Money to get me where I need to be
My partner lives in Austin, and I would need to be able to afford to get to Austin in some way. Luckily, I already have plane tickets for Christmas, but if this were earlier in the year I would need to make sure I have enough to get there somehow.
This can manifest itself in several ways, and it doesn’t mean you have to fly halfway across the country. You will probably need to get out of the house—by bus, by car, by plane, by train—and waiting until you at least have enough money to count on being able to afford transportation is important.
2. Enough money to finish the semester’s tuition payments
I have debated whether transferring or finishing out the year would be a better thing to do for me if my parents cut me off. Ultimately, though tuition is more expensive and climbs about 5% every year at my school, I would have to take an extra year at whichever school I would go to in Austin. So finishing out at least this year seemed to be the best idea for me.
3. A phone plan
My partner and I do not have a home phone because we both have cell phones. However, if my parents ended my plan, I would need to get a land line or a new cell provider. When I looked at the best way to do this, I considered getting a pay-as-you-go phone and using free internet phone service (like Skype) as much as possible.
4. Thinking beyond finishing this year of school
School for me has more benefits than just continuing my education and getting started on my career while I’m younger—it also provides me with a health clinic and health insurance, shelter, food, and a job if I stayed at my old school. But it is also more expensive than I could afford, and I do not have enough savings to pay for a year on my own.
Perhaps the most frightening thing about being cut off is that I would be underemployed. I currently work at my college’s writing center, only able to bill ten hours a week. Employment would be a tricky thing wherever I went, and something that would shape where my safe space would be.
By sharing my plan with you, I want to show that coming out is more than just a scary process—it can be one that really forces you to become independent with your finances. Coming out never happens on a schedule, so if you are younger and are thinking about coming out, I would advise you to sit down and think about everything that you will need, how you can get it, and where you are with your finances now.
Now, I want to ask you all—have you ever had to deal with financial separation from your parent or guardian? What did you do that worked? What made it hard? What is something that no one realizes you need?
Photo credit: stock.xchng.