The power of diverse perspectives and how bisexuality informs my approach to financial education.
There are a lot of ways identifying as queer or trans has a direct impact on your finances: workplace discrimination, the LGBTQ+ pay gap, the cost of safe and affirming community, legal credit discrimination, the challenges of family planning and more.
But queerness is also a superpower that can change our world (and has done so, repeatedly). This aspect of queer identity doesn’t get as much air time.
As a bisexual (cis, white) woman not in a same-sex relationship, I have the privilege of controlling when and to whom I come out, so I evade much of the day-to-day oppression so often associated with queer identities. But my queerness still has a major impact on my relationship with money — it’s a driving force behind the way I teach and talk about personal finance.
What is ‘queering’?
“Queering” as a concept and a verb is rooted in academic queer theory, but the term is seeping into popular culture in a way I just love.
What’s important about queer theory as an area of study is that it does more than just document the experience of LGBTQ+ people. Queer theory explicitly challenges the notion of heterosexuality as “normal,” and exposes it as a culturally constructed norm rather than an inevitability or natural occurrence. Queering as a verb brings this perspective to social constructs beyond heterosexuality.
I imagine queering still has a specific and limited meaning among academics. But it’s made its way into the world now, and we get to use it for ourselves. When I hear queering, it usually means something along the lines of “making weird,” in keeping with the roots of its root word. In some academic contexts, the synonym I see is troubling — to make strange or complicate. It seems akin to the way my mother in law, who’s a composition instructor, uses “complicate” when a student’s writing feels flat. “Can you complicate this further?” she’ll suggest. Dig in. Show us more of what this can be.
Queerness is a superpower that repeatedly changes our world because a queer identity forces a queered perspective.
We lead the conversation on things like non-monogamy and sex positivity, because we’ve had to negotiate love and sex into our lives in ways straight folks don’t because the cultural template works for them.
Queer and trans parents blow open the boundaries on how families can look (and set an example for cis/het folks who’ve felt isolated in navigating IVF, fostering, adoption and co-parenting while striving for normalcy).
Gender expansive superstars like RuPaul and Alok twist our notions of beauty and fashion and model ways to live in the freest expression of ourselves regardless of gender identity.
How I’m queering money
My queerness is the superpower that let me enter the world of personal finance a (broke) novice and have the gall to question the ways we teach and talk about money. It’s the lens that exposes the social construction of budget culture. It’s the liminal space from where I can hold both what is and what could be.
The fluidity I feel in the core of my being persuades me to see mutability in all things — to see the absurdity in profit and wealth, the meaninglessness of debt and cost, the artificiality of ownership.
I’ve never fit into the templates my world has offered me (because of queerness, because of neurodiversity, because of pop culture’s complete indifference to flyover country). I’ve spent my whole life observing a world that seemed separate from me, pondering constant whys in order to interpret how it expected me to be.
I never intended to be contrarian. I thought I was investigating how to fit in. But the brain can only ask why out of curiosity so many times before it wears a path toward why in critique.
The more I asked why about my work in personal finance, the further I felt from any kind of service. The more I discovered the disappointing sameness in financial advice. The less I was inclined to tout this budget plan or that debt-payoff strategy. The clearer I saw the direct line between the abuses of capitalism and the misdirection of paternalistic financial education.
“Queering money” will mean something different to anyone who uses it.
If queering is the act of questioning the normalization of a thing, “queering money,” to me, means recognizing capitalism as an imposed system, not a natural order; distorting the prevailing narrative that hoarding resources and paying for basic human needs makes sense. It also means understanding that capitalism works against our needs for connection, security and autonomy while it purports to improve our capacity for them. As a financial educator, then, it means drawing the line between capitalism as our economic system and budget culture as our default approach to money on an individual level. It means deconstructing the dominance of budget culture ideas, understanding typical financial advice as tools to prop up capitalism itself rather than help anyone thrive under the regime.
The power of perspectives
Queerness isn’t the only thing that allows for queering money. Any perspective that deviates from the limited dominant narrative adds value to our cultural relationship with money. We need more LGBTQ+ voices, yes; but also more women, Black, Asian, Latine, Indigenous, immigrant, blind, Deaf, disabled, rural, working class, mothers, single parents and neurodivergent voices. We need the perspectives of people who’ve experienced abuse, homelessness, poverty, divorce, foster care, addiction, incarceration, mental health issues, chronic illness.
We need to hear these voices, not so we can have pity and quiet them with reparations (though, yes, also that), but so we can have a better world that benefits from the wisdom of their perspectives.
Queering money means discovering a new way to interpret our relationship with money and how that impacts our views on resources, family, value, labor, community, ownership and more.
Queerness is a superpower that offers us that lens — and I’m so grateful to wield it!
A few things you can do next…
If Books Could Kill: Rich Dad Poor Dad
This podcast hosted by journalist Michael Hobbes and lawyer Peter Shamshiri deconstructs popular self-help books and exposes the damage they do to our culture. I was delighted to hear the breakdown of Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad, one of the best-selling personal finance books of all time and basically the bible of budget culture.
In their signature piercing-yet-ethereal style, speaker, poet and trans activist Alok shares their feeling of growing up queer, the feeling of being demonized and finding self. “I live in the invisible world where people exist, not this one where they pretend.”
Bliss is a banking app by transgender tech company Euphoria, which is majority trans-owned with 100% LGBTQ+ leadership. The app promises a trans-inclusive onboarding (ID verification) process, a debit card with your chosen name, cash back on debit purchases, automated savings; and guidance for financial goals including medical, legal and social transition, among goals that apply to both trans and cisgender folks.
Consider a “truth” about money you’ve always taken for granted. Try queering the concept. What if it weren’t true at all? Imagine or research where it came from and who stands to benefit from perpetuating this belief. What would it mean for your relationship with money if the opposite were true?
What makes you feel like an outsider in your world? What does that part of you help you see in the world that no one else sees? What if you let that part of you lead the way — how might you think, act, feel and respond to the world differently? What power or beauty might you add to the world that you’ve been disguising?
Image by Katie Rainbow 🏳️🌈 via Pexels
Love this perspective, Dana. I've always felt my own sense of "queerness" that might come from a bicultural and neurodivergent perspective, not necessarily my orientation. However, that's probably a factor as I've never truly defined myself in heteronormative ways. The fluidity and flexibility of our perspectives may allow a wider viewpoint and that's such a gift. In terms of my money beliefs, I've been able to question the idea that "we should never take money out of retirement" until our 60's and beyond. Also, as a married, cis-white-presenting woman who's childfree by choice, I didn't have the same constraints as more traditional families.
I had some incredible privilege during my years as an operational manager for a large medical device manufacturer, and put away a good chunk of money during the time. Perhaps some intuitive sense told me I'd better sock away some funds. In any case, I don't think our retirements will look like our parents' did. So I'm able to think very differently about how to direct my resources. It's also hard for me to stomach the thought of going back to a full-time traditional job. So I'm riding this self-employment train as long as I possibly can!