Why LGBTQ People Need to Care about the Gender Pay Gap

Today is Equal Pay Day, a day I much admire because it is 1/365th of the reminder we need as a society in the US that women are paid $.78 on the $1. My research and a great deal of other research on lesbian, bisexual, and queer urban spaces indicates that the limited number and limited tenure of these spaces with ever increasing property values–such as the likes of NYC–is greatly affected if not driven by women’s lesser income.

The constant conversation about the ever closing lesbian bar is a case in point, which younger LGBTQ people do now see as linked to patterns of gentrification as well as, I suggest, financialization. Yet this isn’t anything new. Research also shows that women drink less, go out less, and socialize less outdoors. WI suggest this is not only because of predatory behaviors against women in public spaces, but also because they simply cannot afford it.

But my point is much bigger. Lesbians, bisexuals, dykes, and queer women make $1.56 in a couple on average. This is compared to a straight couple who make an average $1.77, and a gay male couple who makes $2. Women therefore rent longer and buy later. The present pace and trend in the financialization of US property indicates no end in sight, which means that this group of women will put more and more money into the pockets of their landlords before they can purchase a place of their own, which is a huge social and economic asset. Lesbians and queer women, drinks and bars aside then, are suffering on so many fronts. As this group of women is more likely to have children than gay and queer men–although there are giant shifts in these demographics in recent decades–this also means a greater financial burden on women. These are only some of the factors at play. For trans people and gender variant people, barriers to employment alone play a profound role in the drastic income disparities this group faces. I do not imagine that gay and queer men–who face drastic amounts of discrimination still–can buy their way into justice; I do think that gay and queer men could stand in solidarity with lesbians and queer women to fight this injustice. Most importantly, we cannot ignore the compounding effects of decreased income over time and therefore decreased access and security to equal resources are staggering.

We must also not forget and in fact must put front and center that the gender pay gap is also a racial pay gap. The $.78 on the $1 figure is merely an average for all women, largely inflated by white women’s pay as women of color are paid much less. Men of color are not paid that full dollar either. As the DSA writes, “Not surprisingly, for Latinas, it’s 59.8% of the average white male’s pay, and for African American women, 69.6%.” The actual numbers make me nauseated to think of how much oppression people of color face alongside the  limited political power and the wealth to fight such injustice. The consider the increased oppression LGBTQ people of color face.

I hope the numbers and experiences are undoing to the heart and galvanizing to our movement for you as they are for me. There is so much left to fight for to reach any semblance of justice.

Happy Gender Pay Day.

For more on the Gender Pay Gap, see the large AAUW study here, or the AAUW state-by-state study here. While these AAUW reports have come under fire as misrepresentative, they are also hugely informative and show that while the gap has closed for some women, it has not closed for all. A report by Glassdoor revealed that many men and women at tech companies the likes of Google and Apple make nearly the same; however, the majority of these corporations’ workforces are men. Lastly, I recommend the reports of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research which I always find helpful and depressing, as well as important and inspiring.

All of the research mentioned above is forthcoming in the book I am writing now, Queer New York: Geographies of Lesbians, Dykes, and Queer Women, 1983-2008. For the research undergirding this study, I recommend turning to my dissertation which can be found here.