Monday, May 18, 2009

The Queerness of Class

Myths and Realities of the Gay Income Gap

Audio documentary, 28 minutes

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In 1990, the Wall Street Journal proclaimed the gay community a “dream market,” based on a study commissioned by a group of gay media owners. The data the media group released showed that gay men and lesbians made nearly 40% more than heterosexual Americans. Gay marketing firms pounced on the data with glee, using it to win corporate sponsorship of pride parades and lucrative ad campaigns. The anti-gay right wing also welcomed this news, publicizing it in films and speeches as evidence that gay people did not suffer from discrimination or need civil rights protections. It even found its way into Supreme Court opinions.

Daniel Ward could have told you the studies were wrong. In 1990, he had just been laid off from the low-wage bookstore job he’d found after he was kicked out of the Navy. “I couldn’t afford to buy the newspapers where those studies were published,” he says wryly. At the same time, Polly Taylor was getting ready to retire and watching inflation wipe out her savings.

Nearly 20 years later, those studies are still given a lot of credence in the media. Meanwhile, economist Lee Badgett has done a number of studies herself, combing through census data and government health studies. She reveals a much different picture, one which finds gay men and lesbians in all demographic groups living on incomes the same or lower – often significantly lower – than their heterosexual counterparts.

The Queerness of Class explores the ways that perceptions and realities of socioeconomic status affect the lives of queer people. Producer Kate Raphael visits a high-end LGBT friendly senior residence and an 8 by 10-foot single hotel room, bringing us the voices of researchers, marketers, service providers, sex workers, artists and community activists.

Producer: Kate Raphael,

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