Jul 21, 2021
Coming Out? Here’s How You Can Prepare Financially
By Sarah Li Cain
It helps to have savings to fall back on, as well as support resources.
Your early adult years can be full of ups and downs, whether it’s worrying about grades or trying to carve out an identity, and forge a career path. For those who identify as LGBTQ+, that stress can be even more heightened.
About one third of gay men and lesbians have reported suffering some form of violence from their family members because of their sexual orientation, according to Lambda Legal, a nonprofit helping to achieve civil rights equality for the LGBTQ community. What’s more, those who have been rejected by family or primary caregivers tend to experience more negative mental health and physical outcomes.
Even if a young LGBTQ+ person is away from family, for example at college, coming out can be a process that has lasting consequences. For example, if someone has relied on their family for financial support, and been rejected, this person may now be on their own. Without ample income, it might be difficult to afford housing and other basic necessities.
If you’re preparing to come out to your parents and peers, and are concerned about the financial repercussions, here are some steps you can consider taking to prepare.
Save as much as you can
If you receive some sort of income (say, from a part-time job), set some of it aside in a savings account. This money will come in handy when you need it to cover upfront expenses, such as a deposit on an apartment lease, or fees for books.
David Auten-Schneider, co-founder of the personal finance website Debt Free Guys, says he was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, which made it difficult for him to come out to his parents, especially since they encouraged him to pursue the ministry. He says he earned between $500 and $600 a month working part-time jobs cleaning floors for a grocery store and waiting tables, but even that small sum allowed him to save up $650 for a deposit for his first apartment.
“I did at 25 what I should have done in my teens and saved some money,” he says. “I believe it’s important for kids to have their own savings account, especially anyone who is living in a home where they know their family will not accept them for who they really are.”
While any dollar amount can go a long way, aim to set aside at least 10% of any income you earn. Consider keeping this money in a savings account in your own name only. Auten-Schneider also suggests letting a confidant know that you have this account in case something happens to you.
“Even having a few hundred dollars [can be] enough for a few necessities,” he says.
Seek out college resources
If you’re in school, your college’s student affairs office can help you look for emergency grants, such as through the the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), that offer assistance for housing and school costs. Some have their own funding programs, such as the University of Florida’s Aid-a-Gator, which provides funding for expenses in the event of an emergency. There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it. These programs are designed to help people in a time of need.
Students who can’t afford to pay for basic necessities can also look for a local college food bank through the College & University Food Bank Alliance. It can be a useful resource to ensure you don’t go hungry as you’re getting on your feet financially.
If you’ve been relying on your family to help you pay for tuition, now is the time to look into scholarships. Campus Pride, a nonprofit organization helping campus groups and student leaders to become more LGBTQ+-friendly, and offers an extensive list of scholarships specifically for those who identify as LGBTQ+l. Your office of student financial aid can also help you with finding scholarships you’re more likely to receive. These can include ones based on financial need or your area of study.
Connect with your local LGBTQ center
Auten-Schnider suggests connecting to local and online LGBTQ+ support groups, such as ones that specifically help and support LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness. Here, you may be able to find emotional support and other financial resources.
“Adults in these centers are trained to help LGBTQ+ youth with both affirming and non-affirming families which may be the mentor or guide you need when your parents aren’t there for you,” he says.
Lillian Karabaic, the host of the podcast Oh My Dollar!, works with LGBTQ+ youth who experience homelessness after coming out. She adds that you can ask these groups for support in areas such as applying for government assistance, getting clothing for job interviews, medical testing, and buying food. Some even help people apply for student loans.
“Don’t forget to reach out to other [LGBTQ+] friends…[and ask] around about informal support groups too,” she says. “There’s a reason we call it Chosen Family.”
Create several what-if scenarios
Even if you have savings and a budget, consider creating a game plan for multiple scenarios. You never know how the conversation with your parents will go, or whether someone else will out you. Having a plan in place to fall back on can give you peace of mind.
Create lists of items you may need and want to take, and consider where you’ll pack and store them in the event you need to leave, as well as where you can stay. You may also want to think about how to access your savings account in a pinch.
All of the above steps may feel intimidating, but don’t give up hope.
“There are plenty of queer youth who’ve come from seemingly desperate situations that have grown and become remarkably successful and happy members of the LGBTQ community,” Auten-Schneider says. “You have plenty of years ahead to have a good time and you will.”