We live in the 21th century, so we’re enjoying the fruits of over a century of feminist struggle. Nowadays voting is a basic right for women and as the #metoo movement shows, supressing sexual violence is being publicly addressed. Despite all this, homophobia and sex-based oppression still pose a huge problem, and not only in Hungary. Furthermore discrimination doesn’t necessarily show itself in complex, stealthy ways, but on a simple financial level.
We took a look at all the monetary difficulties a lesbian* may face. The word lesbian* encompasses all lesbian-identified trans women. It’s important to stress that the financial problems discussed in this article are doubly relevant for trans people.
Salary, employment levels
While the difference between the salary of men and women has been reduced, a considerable gap still exists between the two groups. On one hand, women still get paid less for the same work than men: according to this study by Eurostat, the statistical bureau of the European Union, in 2016 women earned 14% less for the the same work (the EU average of the same year was 16,3%). It’s also common for women to be systematically pushed into lower level jobs and be locked out of higher paying positions. So even if a society reached the stage where the same work gets equal pay, women would still earn less than their male colleagues - furthermore, as Beáta Nagy explained at a conference held by the Friedrich Elbert Stiftung, this segregation starts with education. This latter situation stems from a number of reasons, not simply from prejudice against women: there are still a lot of old-fashioned societal conventions in education that discourages girls from seeking higher education or the disciplines that would lead to better-paid careers like mathematics or natural sciences.
These drawbacks double in a lesbian* relationship, as the discrimination may affect both partners. Of course as lesbians* we must also face a different kind of prejudice at the workplace: higher positions may remain out of reach for us both on the account of being women and as a lesbian*, that is to say a ‘masculine’ person a.k.a. a dangerous rival. Here I’m talking about stereotypes that don’t care about your actual identity.
Smaller community = travelling expenses
Is that a ridiculous thing to list? I don’t think so. As the lesbian* community is so small everywhere there’s a good chance that dating (or just seeking out the lesbian* community) would take us to another city or even a different country. It’s not uncommon for country lesbians* both in Hungary and elsewhere to commute to nearby cities to take part in LGBTQ+ events. This is yet another regular expense a lesbian* must take into account.
But even after landing a relationship we aren’t guaranteed to be free of travelling fares. As both parties in lesbian* relationships are often such commuters, a high percentage of relationships consists of partners from different cities or even countries. Working out the logistics of such a relationship is hard, not to mention the strain it puts on our budgets. Aslo if we’re ‘unfortunate’ enough to be on good terms with our partner’s family, we may very well face long-term regular travel. I obviously don’t mean to encourage my readers to fight with their families...
In a household that consists of two women even the everyday expenses stack up higher than they do in one made up of a man and a woman (I wonder how this adds up in a man-man household?). While it would be worth exploring the medical expenses of an all-female household compared to that of a straight one, I’m talking about more prosaic things here. The female version of everyday stuff such as clothing, hair care or cosmetics tend to be more expensive. Furthermore both clothing and hair care requires women to invest more time and money than men, not only because they are more expensive for them, but because society puts more pressure on women to look nice and polished. For example, who expects men to regularly get a facial? While of course women also aren’t obliged to frequent beauticians they are more noticeably pressed to do so, and in certain jobs, in higher positions these expenses can not be dispensed with.
You can get a picture of the exact legal status quo from Háttér Society's publication, and in the article on wmn.hu (illustrated by the story of Ági and Nóri who moved to Sweden to be able to start a family) you can see the legal situation’s effect on real lesbians*.
Having children is expensive, even if you can do it the biological way. A lesbian* couple’s wallet may be further weighed down either by artificial insemination or adoption. These financial difficulties explain the startling phenomenon of many same-sex couples adopting children no one else wanted: those from a disadvantaged background, those with mental traumas or members of ethnic minorities. This is the case with Roma children in Hungary or in the adoption of Black children by white adoptive parents in America, where LBGTQ+ couples are in majority (see for example the results of this study by UCLA, Los Angeles, or a relevant article by the Guardian). While this doesn’t strictly fit the scope of this article, these facts exemplify why these minorities are natural allies to each other.
What to do: I’m a lesbian* running out of money...
As we can see, the lesbian* community suffers numerous monetary drawbacks. But the solution to this is not resignation and despair. You need courage, self-acceptance, activism and some creativity.
On a political level we must speak up to have women be respected and at the workplace we must stand up and defend our humanity.
Dare to demand the salary you’re due and the jobs that fit your education level! We must fight on an istitutional level for equal rights, for the equal distribution of the rights provided by marriage and parenting.
On the level of everyday expenses - like clothing or hair care - you should support LGBTQ+ and LGBTQ+ friendly businesses that are familiar with monetary struggles themselves and price their services accordingly.
Also, it doesn’t hurt to be a bit creative: we can stick it to consumer culture if we avoid the disproportionately expensive female fashion, either by recycling or with inventive, genderfluid (gender nonconforming) clothing.
Translated by Zsófia Ziaja