Letters to the Editor

Published in: March-April 2005 issue.

Company’s Research Elaborated

To the Editor:

Kudos for the valuable feature on GLBT research in your January-February issue. The insights will be important to many of us, and I am grateful our work has been cited as well as the critical work performed by Dr. Lee Badgett at the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies (www.iglss.org) and of Dr. Gary Gates at the Urban Institute. You properly illuminated many key details about the U.S. Census 2000 that both researchers have eagerly uncovered about same-sex households in America today.

I have detected, however, a handful of factual errors that I hope you will help us correct. For example, Witeck-Combs Communications is a national public relations and marketing communications firm and not specifically a consumer research firm as stated in the article. For the past eleven years in our client work, we have taken great care to aggregate the most credible data on the gay community from a broad, respected universe of experts and researchers. Moreover, every two years we co-author, with Packaged Facts, a full report on these findings, which is published by Market-Research.com. We independently conduct proprietary and customized market research with our partner, Harris Interactive (www.harrisinteractive.com), which is best known to the American public for its Harris Poll.

I also wanted to underscore our projection of buying power and how we estimate this annually. The projections for the African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American populations are made, not by us, but by the respected econometrics researchers at the Selig Center at the University of Georgia. We understandably rely on the Selig Center’s approach, definitions and some methodology to estimate the annual buying power of the gay population. We therefore must make educated guesses and assumptions based on other data sets including the U.S. Census and the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Economic Affairs to quantify or project a buying power figure for the gay population.

Keep in mind that there are obvious risks in comparing the gay community’s buying power with other population segments. First, it stands to reason that gays and lesbians also are members of other racial and ethnic categories, so they are also counted under African-American, Asian-American, and Hispanic households.

It’s important to understand that the gay and lesbian population is not counted in precisely the same way as other ethnic and racial populations. It must be categorized and understood only by its adult component. For obvious reasons, we can never assume to identify and analyze the behaviors of four- and five-year-old gays and lesbians—some of course will self-identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual at a later age, but they’re not counted in the overall gay population nor in our overall buying power projections. (As a conservative estimate, we assume they are self-identified gay, lesbian, and bisexual adults eighteen years of age and older—even though there is growing sociological evidence to recognize that the age of coming out seems to be dropping over time.)

Put another way, for example, if we assume that buying power projections of the entire African-American population are based on all African-Americans of all ages, obviously younger children and teens and infants have less buying power per capita than their adult counterparts. The same is true of the Hispanic and Asian-American populations.

So, when we evaluate and estimate a group’s buying power, we also provide this substantive context and never wish to imply for any reason that gays and lesbians are more affluent or have higher earnings, without any empirical evidence. I personally subscribe to the excellent analysis of Lee Badgett and others whose studies suggest that gays earn no more than our straight counterparts, and in fact we may earn less.

The only differences we observe are in discretionary buying power, given that higher proportions of adult gay men and lesbians are not raising children or evidently saving for their offspring’s future education to the same degree that heterosexual couples do. Even this is changing, given the growing parenting trend and the indications that more gay households are raising kids.

The only statistical differences in household structure that suggest slightly higher earning power is the greater urbanization of gay men (shown also by the U.S. Census data on male same-sex households). This shows that men, gay and straight, who reside in America’s urban areas earn more per capita than their small town and rural counterparts. The data suggest higher proportions of gay men migrate towards large cities than do straight men. This should not be a surprising observation to many of us.

In addition, the U.S. Census data give us credible evidence that more same-sex couples have both partners employed than do their heterosexual coupled counterparts. Again, this may be because fewer gay and lesbian couples are choosing to raise children and both therefore choose to work, or must work. So there is evidence again that there’s some adjustment or possible difference in earning power. I hope more investigations like those of Lee Badgett and IGLSS, as well as Gary Gates’s excellent revelations about Census 2000, will help illuminate this knowledge for us.

— Bob Witeck, Washington, D.C.
 CEO, Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc.


Explaining the Gay Income Gap

To the Editor:

The G&LR editors’ excellent “Survey Says…” [Jan.-Feb. 2005] points out a number of anomalies and seeming contradictions in research on the GLB population that I believe may be resolved by a single factor: namely, that “out” gay men are much less likely to have dependent children than other men.
Income per capita for other minorities, such as African-Americans, is calculated using a population that includes significant numbers of children along with income-earning adults. Income per capita for the GLB population is calculated using a population with a higher proportion of adults. Thus, GLB income may reasonably be higher than that of even the highest-achieving minority, Asian-Americans.

The controversy over GLB income may also be resolved in this way. Even though gay men may earn less than their straight counterparts, having fewer dependents, they have more disposable income. A gay man may paradoxically earn less but be more “affluent.”

I don’t discount the possibility that external discrimination or dealing with internal issues may to some extent explain the lower earnings of gay men. Still, the data on the higher educational levels and lower earnings of gay men may again be largely explained by lack of dependents. Men with children to support—and perhaps a wife who doesn’t work outside the home—may be under greater pressure to produce higher earnings. They may not be able to forego present earnings to pursue more education, and they may feel pressured to stay in high-paying jobs, to strive harder for advancement, and to work extra hours or even take on a second job. Gay men without children, on the other hand, may not feel such pressures. They may even prefer to forego extra earnings so as to enjoy more leisure hours and their relative “affluence.”

Perhaps some enterprising sociological researcher(s) will take another look at the available data to determine the precise extent to which my suggestion accounts for the discrepancies pointed out in the editors’ survey.

— Henry X. Dudek, Madison, Wisconsin


No More Moaning about Our Setbacks!

To the Editor:

The articles in the last issue [Jan.-Feb. 05] on the election and the state of the gay rights movement, like most everything else from the gay media and its “experts,” is all so much doom and gloom. It dawned on me to imagine what [pioneer activist]Don Slater would be saying and writing about the situation of this movement.

If you had been around since 1950, as I was, you would know just how much progress has been made and how, as usual, the media have got it all wrong. We lost nothing in 2004. All we heard after the election was how badly we “lost,” what with the success of the anti-gay forces in the marriage amendments, and how that helped get Bush elected to another four years. Nonsense! Come down here [to Louisiana], to as “red” an area as there is, and you will find that, while the media were moaning and giving their version of history, two new groups were forming in the Ark-La-Tex area in the same month as the election—one to work on the national level (connected with the Human Rights Campaign), and one to work with other Louisiana groups on state issues (Forum for Equality).

How do you explain this contradiction? The queer academics seem as bewildered as the media, who only pay attention to the current gay celebrities. What sociologists as well as your readers should find interesting, even exciting, is that these groups are formed by young men and women who have had no previous contact with the gay movement or community. A good question to ask them is how they came to get involved, and how they have apparently ignored the results of the election and votes on the same-sex marriage amendments. Don’t they read the papers and watch Fox News?

They are merely the newest activists, much like those in 1950—the current Harry Hayses, Dale Jenningses, Don Slaters, et al., who seek justice and simple fairness. They may not have even heard of our work at Mattachine, ONE, Inc, ONE magazine, and the Homosexual Information Center, but they have the same commitment as their forebears to help us speak out to everyone with the truth about our struggle.

— Billy Glover, Bossier City, Louisiana


No More Hiding!

To the Editor:

Gay marriage has revealed truths that gay America has ignored for too long. We underestimated the ignorance of straight Americans and conservatives are capitalizing on this, using fear as a political organizing and fundraising tool. The courts and Constitution will not protect us from the “tyranny of the majority.” No legal entity will fight for us. We will have to challenge the ignorance ourselves.

The truth is, we often took the easy way out. If rejected by family members, we left home instead of challenging them to unconditional love. Those of us hiding at work often do so out of discomfort rather than any real threat to our jobs. We live “quietly” in our neighborhoods so as not to provoke our neighbors. Those of us who are religious have left our churches, allowing anti-gay rhetoric there to go unchallenged.

Every gay and lesbian person must come out again to family members, co-workers, neighbors and to the churches in our communities. We must put an accurate face on the diversity of gay America. We are working people and taxpayers of all races and ethnicities, living single or as couples. Some of us have mortgages, some have children, some are religious, some are not. We are all Americans who deserve equal rights, but to insure them, each of us will have to start a dialogue with the people who fear and misunderstand us the most. We must make ourselves “real” to conservative America, one person at a time. So let’s get going.

— LeAnn Erickson, Glenside, Pennsylvania


Correcting a Common Misconception

To the Editor:

I first learned of Alice Walker: A Life by Evelyn C. White in the pages of this journal. As one who read and admired Walker’s The Color Purple, I immediately obtained a copy of the biography and found it hard to put down.

In her letter [Jan.-Feb. 2005] correcting some errors in a review of the book [Nov.-Dec. 2004], she stated, “I am mindful of the plethora of facts and figures in Alice Walker: A Life.” There is, however, one fact that escaped her. On page 436, she writes: “She [Alice Walker] thought of [James] Baldwin’s courage, during the McCarthy era, in publishing Giovanni’s Room (1956) with its daring theme of interracial gay love.” In point of fact, both of the central characters, David (a young American) and Giovanni (an Italian), were white, so theirs could not have been an interracial relationship. In the first paragraph of Giovanni’s Room, David describes himself as having blond hair and “ancestors [who]conquered a continent.” What could be plainer than that?

— Charles Michael Smith, New York City