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Connecting with the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t have to be costly
A social life can be a literal lifesaver for many LGBTQ+ folks — and you can afford it. Follow these tips to find community without the big price tag.
About the author: Sophie Litherland is a UK-based writer, speaker and scientist. She mainly writes on LGBTQ+ issues, gender, literature and science. Follow her on Twitter @splitherland.
When it’s coming to the end of a pay period and I start looking at where my money has gone, my first instinct is to look at my outgoings and decide what to ruthlessly cut out of my life after my next paycheck. If you’re like me and also live on a diet of half-digested social media headlines that blame a poor budget on small splurges, there’s a temptation to dump your social life completely.
Cutting out a social life in general is not healthy for anyone, but we need to sometimes compromise on spending not just money but quality time with our peers. This is especially true for people who identify as LGBTQ+, including myself, where that healthy social life can be a vital connection to our identity and a lifeline to issues the rest of society doesn’t face.
Recently at an LGBTQ+ conference I attended, a common theme among the speakers was the effect a barrage of LGBTQ+ media headlines had on their collective well-being. Sensationalist news can feel dehumanizing and deliver a sense of hopelessness when absorbed in isolation. Coming together and discussing these issues with others can be a relief and let us hear similar concerns from another.
Don’t cut your social life!
All things considered, LGBTQ+ people have a higher tendency of poor mental health due to a lot of reasons such as societal prejudice and feelings of isolation.
A reduced quality of mental health can have a detrimental effect on money management, leading to increased impulsive spending and difficulty sticking to a financial plan. So, by looking after yourself, you’ll be better equipped to look after your money, too.
Access to LGBTQ+ spaces is also incredibly important as a way of escaping cis-hetero performativity (or in layman’s terms, adhering to “non-LGBTQ+” societal norms).
From my experience, there is certainly a resting stress that builds up over time in day-to-day life from policing my mannerisms or speech for the sake of others. Just being able to exist in a space without being self-conscious about gender expression, or just talking openly about love life and identity without censoring yourself can be a great way to break that tension for a much-needed release.
Here are some ways to keep your LGBTQ+ social life without spending a ton of money.
Take advantage of the city
The trouble with having a social life is that it isn’t free and can certainly rack up a bill if taken too far. LGBTQ+ spaces might be located in urban centers with a high population density, which can come with its own problems. Cities are notoriously expensive in terms of housing and travel costs, while also being potentially restrictive to those with accessibility issues.
That being said, there are some upsides to big city life.
Often, LGBTQ+ areas of the city have organically grown, so activities such as walking around a picnic in a nearby park or socializing in public spaces can deliver that atmosphere of acceptance. Big free events such as Pride happen in most city centers and are often considered a must-attend event.
Having a choice about where to go can also make a big difference in your social life, a bit of healthy competition can create some great deals. With some forward planning, an urban LGBTQ+ social life doesn’t have to break the bank.
Keep your eyes on the pride (flag)
It can be tempting to cut costs by going to the cheaper end of town. Unfortunately this isn’t always safe for LGBTQ+ people. I’ve had some unpleasant encounters trying to do this; now, when a place is described as cheap, it could be a negative rather than a positive.
Luckily there are plenty of LGBTQ+ friendly places that are inexpensive and can fill that requirement of cheap and cheerful. As a general rule of thumb, if the pride flag is flying, it’s a pretty good sign.
Large organizations can sometimes offer a cheap and free alternative in the form of LGBTQ+ societies. These groups often hold regular events and outings with the potential of a free or at least subsidized lunch with the opportunity to meet like-minded people in a professional environment outside the confines of a hetero-normative work environment. There is the downside of essentially being at work and having to potentially maintain a professional demeanor. For some who aren’t out at work, this might not be a suitable option. However, some events run under strict confidentiality policies to avoid disclosing details about an individual’s sexuality or past gender identity.
Be an LGBTQ+ advocate
Being an active member of the community can give you a feeling of pushing back against hopelessness, safe in the knowledge of doing something for the betterment of all. You can do this in a variety of ways, such as being involved in local events or volunteering for LGBTQ+ charities. Visibly standing up for yourself can be a much-needed breath of fresh air.
The financial upside to being involved in activism is that many activities such as protests and marches are, by their very nature, free! There might be travel expenses and other costs involved in a normal day out, but with forward planning about suitable clothing, provisions and travel options, anyone can be an outspoken voice against inequality without big expenses.
Invest in people
Even if our social life has a minimal impact on our financial situation, it can be tempting to put as much aside as possible and scrimp on lifestyle. Get into the mindset, instead, of investing in friendships and networking with the right people.
Of course, this is perfectly applicable to non-LGBTQ+ people,too. The adage “Who you know, not what you know” rings true. LGBTQ+ people do, however, face some situations in life that make this an even greater need.
For transgender people like me, gender affirming care can be prohibitively expensive but is a crucial part of transitioning. Having a few friends to compare good deals with can save a huge amount of money in the long run – I found a great deal on laser hair removal that I would have never found by myself just by complaining loudly about prices to a trans friend.
Talking through shared experiences with other people like you is a great way of breaking feelings of loneliness and isolation. When I meet with other trans people, talking about aspects of transitioning has made me feel much better about myself. I certainly have not been able to have these discussions with cisgender friends, as well meaning as they might be.
Lean on the community for house and home
There can be some discrimination when looking for housing, either from landlords or potential roommates. LGBTQ+-friendly areas tend to be located in urban centers, where good affordable housing is difficult to come by. Often word of mouth is still a great way to find good deals and learn which landlords and areas are safe. LGBTQ+ friends can help you know when rooms might be available; the best offers often go to friends and acquaintances before they go out online.
Often LGBTQ+ people don’t conform to what might be considered a normal timeline for settling down with a partner and raising children, a phenomenon known as chrono-normativity.
This can include financial milestones such as purchasing a home, so finding someone at a similar stage of life to live with may be easier within the LGBTQ+ community. A second adolescence is at the forefront of many LGBTQ+ experiences, with many people feeling robbed of a proper adolescence. Finding people to share that experience with can be an important part of a fulfilling second youth.
Talk about money with people who understand
Some people see the LGBTQ+ community as a surrogate family, especially if they’ve been estranged from biological family because of their gender identity or sexuality.
Within this surrogate family, there can be a shared understanding about shame as many people are struggling to come to terms with internalized homo/trans-phobia as well as other societal pressures. In light of this, personal feelings of shame about debt or money can be a burden shared, even if it’s just someone to talk things through with.
Don’t live in isolation
Making an active decision to invest the time and expense into an LGBTQ+ social life has upsides to both a healthy mind and healthy finances. It’s all about giving yourself the best headspace and feeling of being in control, allowing you to make the best financial decisions possible without compromising who you are.
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