Someone’s Blog Made Me Come Out of the Closet – For Real

Gentle Readers,

I had the pleasure of meeting Tanja and Mark from www.ournextlife.com this weekend and it was a blast. If you ever get the chance to share space in a bar with them, I would definitely recommend it. Double-points for a bar with good cider options to go along with the dark beer I love.

There were a ton of local PF/FIRE bloggers and folks who enjoy reading said blogs. I confessed repeatedly that my blog is extremely personal. It is the height of navel-gazing. Its sole purpose is to help me navigate out of debt on the way to FIRE. I sometimes write about more broad personal finance topics, or homophobia, but most weeks, I only have the capacity to post my net worth numbers. It is basically a public diary with myself. I love that people read what I write and encourage me, but I honestly do this for myself and am not entirely sure what others get out of this. Even if you did not read this, I would probably keep writing this. It is a space for me to learn and grow.

I was reminded this weekend that blogs have had an immense impact on my life. Even navel-gazing ones that are “too personal.” I came out of the closet very late in life, and I did it because of a blog. There were good reasons for staying in the closet having to do with my own safety. But, eventually, that changed. I did not anticipate it changing. I actively worked against it changing. But change it did.

In my mid-twenties, I was in grad school in a new city for me; this was a miserable and expensive time in my life. Part of the misery was how sexist my particular school was. I sought refuge with other feminists, and found many of them online. I was looking for like-minded folks to reassure me that there was good in the world, and that this situation would pass. That I was not wrong for wanting women to be treated as equals.

I found someone. She lived in my city and went to a nearby school in a similar program. She was older than me and fierce and feminist and very queer. We began communicating through her blog about our hatred of the kyriarchy (it’s like the patriarchy, but includes all the ways that people are marginalized) and our love of full-fat food. We were soon sending each other long, personal emails about everything in our histories and lives. It was intense and beautiful.

At the time, I was a Christian. My response to some very dangerous homophobia I experienced earlier in life was to try to conform to the religion of my parents. For many years, it worked. As a good Christian woman of a particular type, I could not be expected to date wily-nily. I was able to avoid the question of why I did not desire men by being a good religious observer. There could be no sexual intimacy without marriage. I was safe.

Except that the religion I was part of was not good for me as a woman or a lesbian or someone who cared about the world. It hurt my soul. But it provided cover for my closet. I was miserable, but I felt safe-ish.

But this blogger changed that. She wrote about feminism and sexual violence and what music she loved. I fell for her before I even met her. She told me she loved me over email before we had hugged. She loved me as a friend, but my brain ignored that tiny fact.

I knew I was in dangerous territory. I knew that she could see right through me. I knew that she knew how much I wanted the freedom she had. How much I wanted to be with her. I also knew that nothing could make us be together. She had no interest in me and I couldn’t even write the words “I’m a lesbian” without panicking.

Even still. I read her blog. I saw what possibilities life could have through her posts about Mad Men.

And I jumped.

I finally said out loud that I was a lesbian.

I lied and told her that I never knew before and that my particular brand of religion hadn’t impacted my closet.

She knew I lied. I could not hide how much I wanted her life.

We were only friends for that summer. While it did not feel like it at the time, she mercifully stopped being my friend shortly thereafter. I was bereft. I had to look at myself and go for what I wanted. I had to tell people. I had to pursue people who were kinder than she could ever be. I had to figure out what life out of the closet felt like.

I cried a lot that summer. To my brother. To my erstwhile best friend. To tertiary friends from college who helped me plan to come out to our far more conservative Christian friends. To anyone who would listen.

But then, eventually, I stopped crying. I was excited to be living life truly for the first time. My classmates noticed a change in me and were actually much better to me as an out lesbian. I was happier and folks were happy for me. It was beautiful, but I had a lot to learn about HOW to date. My roommates helped me set up dating profiles and even went to crappy lesbian bars with me when I was too afraid to go alone. They listened to me kvetch. They helped me pick out outfits. They were wonderful.

All of this happened because of someone’s niche blog about feminism and music. I fully intended to remain closeted my entire life. But a glimpse into someone’s personal truth changed everything about how I live.

So I’m glad you read this navel-gazing blog about my money situation. I hope that something here is what you need to read. I hope that you can live life on your terms.

Has a blog ever impacted you like this?

 

If It’s Good Enough for Obama, It’s Good Enough For Me: How I Chose To Resist

Gentle Readers,

You know I feel strongly about making the world a better place. You know that I am not in favor of our current POTUS. There are so many things he stands for that I find abhorrent. However, one person can only do so much, and I prefer to focus my efforts into things I can actually impact. I cannot do a damn thing about Russian interference. I cannot stop climate change. I cannot protect NAFTA. I cannot make them hold a hearing for Merrick Garland.

My advocacy must lay elsewhere if it is to have an impact

For advocacy to be most effective, it should focus on asking the right person to do or not do something specific that is within their power to do or not do. Unless your advocacy is more broadly about making a conversation happen. Changing narratives is important, but it cannot be the only thing done. I am glad that there are people staging protests and using their voices in that way, but it is not the route for me.

My tactics are different. I do not have much available time, and I must use it effectively.

I know that the election was decided by a very small margin of voters. I also know that many potential voters wanted to vote, but were disenfranchised. Either by someone’s intent, or through inability to secure the proper documentation. The very inability to secure the proper documentation is because of how we set up our system. I think it is intentional. Many countries automatically register everyone to vote, or use ink on a finger as proof that you’ve already voted, etc. Our system is not the only way, nor is it an effective way if you want more of the electorate to vote.

One of my many internships was working at a nonprofit that considered itself a homeless shelter without walls. We did not have beds for people, but we acted as a hub in that community to enable people to access the multiple services they all needed. Most of our clients had been through homelessness and many other complicating factors. To access services provided by the city and state, they needed to prove who they were. Many homeless individuals lose their birth certificates and other documentation because they are very far down in the hierarchy of needs.

Part of my job included contacting the office of vital records on a client’s behalf. I would fill out the paperwork and get our treasurer to write a check for ten dollars. None of our clients had ten dollars to spare for something that was not urgent for survival. Within seven to ten business days, that man would have a birth certificate. Then we would help him get an ID. Another process that can be hard for people to navigate. The forms can be confusing even if your language skills are more “advanced” than others. The forms also required patience and the ability to prove where you lived. Not always easy for someone. People who’ve been homeless don’t often have utilities in their name.

Without an ID, people cannot vote. As seen above, even without government agencies and officials intentionally disenfranchising people, ie felons and former felons in some jurisdictions, the processes to navigate having the paperwork can be impenetrable. If a person uses a mobility aid, and the bus system only comes by once an hour when it works properly, that person may not be able to make it to the DMV during the appointed time. Having nonprofits who can literally arrange transportation for people who do not have access to personal vehicles can literally be the difference between a citizen being allowed to vote in elections that impact their bus service and not being allowed to vote.

How I chose to resist

Knowing all this, I have followed President Obama’s lead and will focus my energies on voter enfranchisement work. He is a politician, and rightly focused on anti-gerrymandering work, but I don’t have the political knowledge or resources to impact these efforts. I know more about how government works than the average American, but not enough about the systems and processes and political machinations to be able to successfully work in that arena.

I don’t have the capacity to volunteer in a nonprofit at this time, but I do have the internet and the ability to research.

I looked at the states with the most voting restrictions. Then I narrowed that list to those states that had the closest elections in 2016. I chose to narrow in this manner because I do not have unlimited funds. If I were rich, I would have expanded my list and worked on all states with significant voting restrictions.

The states with the most voting restrictions that had the closest elections in 2016 were Florida, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.

I then searched for organizations in those states doing voter registration or anti-gerrymandering work. I found https://www.wisconsinvoices.org/, http://www.nonprofitvote.org/, and http://www.blueprintnc.org/. All of these organizations are focused on nonpartisan civic engagement.

If the organization I interned at still existed, I would love to donate to an organization like that. Especially if they allowed me to direct it to enfranchisement efforts.

This is the concrete action I have chosen to take. It is okay if you have chosen something else. I just needed a discrete problem to focus on because of how my brain works. I cannot solve all problems. I know advocacy works. I saw it when all of the phone calls, town halls, letters to Congress and berating our Legislators resulted in the Affordable Care Act living to see another day.

I cannot do everything, but I can do this one thing.

How do you engage in resistance? Do you have a nonprofit you wished I more folks donated to?

 

Trump’s First Executive Order and Your Mortgage

Gentle Readers,

You remember when I learned last summer that changes in FHA Mortgage Guidance would alter my ability to acquire a mortgage. My debt to income ratio has not improved significantly in the past 6 months, as anticipated. I did not think I would be able to pay off $45000, commonly referred to as SL2.

One of Trump’s first acts as the new President of the United States was to make mortgages harder to acquire for middle class folks.

The previous administration had a policy that Trump’s Administration blocked immediately upon assuming office. The policy was on track to reduce the cost of mortgages slightly for many home buyers. The policy was not yet in effect, but was imminently going to impact folks.

What policy are we talking about?

HUD sent a letter suspending the 0.25 % point premium rate cut for FHA-backed loans.  Nearly 20% of mortgages are FHA-backed. The beauty of the FHA is that their criteria make it accessible for more people to access capital necessary to buy a home and enjoy the tax benefits of home ownership. Their most-touted benefit is the significantly lower down-payment. As low as 3.5% of the purchase price. Homes in my high COL area regularly go for over $400,000. A standard 20% down payment is $80,000. A 3.5% down payment is $14,000. It is not hard to see why so many Americans need the help afforded by FHA.

How big is this impact?

Frankly, not big at all. The cut Obama attempted to enact would have saved homeowners with a $400,000 mortgage $58 per month.  Not insignificant, but not overwhelming for most people shopping for a mortgage.

The housing market in parts of the country, mine included, have been on fire lately. The prices are sky-rocketing. Some folks look at high prices and want in. It is unclear if this action will throw water on the housing bubble, but it might.

The most fascinating part for me is that Trump has re-made the fortune he was gifted by understanding the benefits our tax code gives to real estate. Having learned every trick in the book, is he going to encourage the IRS to re-write the book? May the US end a half-century long policy of encouraging home ownership through the tax code? If they did, would that be a bad thing necessarily?

A lot remains to be seen, but I think these tea leaves are impossible to read just yet.

Would you be happy to amend US tax code and move away from a home ownership model?