Queers all over the place are dynamic communities that reinvent ways of living. Varying gender and sexual identities tends to be the number one thought that comes to mind when people outside the community think of us. Our diversity of identity is fantastic but so is our diversity of economy. This post is about the queer sharing economy.
For the purpose of this post I should first make four points.
- "Queer" is not a slur within our community. It was taken back years ago and although not every LGBT* person identifies with "queer," many of us do.
- "Queer" is a political term representing communities that not only like to change systems of gender and sexuality, but other social systems in need of reform.
- For a list of QTBLG terminology that may be new to you, check out this list here.
- I am discussing a very specific kind of sharing economy and this is not the same as rental economy, a distinction well defined in this article.
While macro economic advocacy is crucial we aren't going to wait for everything to change on the systemic level. Instead we are finding ways to change on the local level now. The biggest way I see this is on social media platforms, especially Facebook. Two major groups exclusively for queer-identified folks are Queer Exchange and Queer Housing. Queer Exchange allows people to sell, trade, or give away all sorts of stuff from boots, to beds, to moving help. This provides easy access to safe housing and affordable goods within our own community.
In the US we tend to get locked into a system of getting an equal return on an exchange but our community recognizes that this isn't always necessary or even fair. We all deserve an income that supports a decent standard of living but the reality is we don't have that. We have disproportionate rates of unemployment, poverty, and health problems as our community is highly overlooked and discriminated against. Sharing our income, accounting for gaps in needs, and looking out for one another is not only necessary but it creates a much stronger communal bond.
My work at Healthify fits right in line with this form of economy. We work to connect people to the social resource they cannot find on their own, the same thing my community's exchange groups do. Healthify is also working to get free licenses to small CBO's so that they can also benefit from Healthify, a way to level out the playing field for small not-for-profit organizations.
Sharing economy has its problems of course. I recently attended and volunteered at one of my favorite annual queer events, MIX NYC. It is the longest running queer film festival in New York complete with interactive art installations (including a giant cat you can lounge inside) and live performances. On the final night of the festival, Amelia Bande had an excellent performance about Queer Exchange and Queer Housing NYC called "Make the Bed." It's a really excellent performance that any queers using the site would appreciate.
The performance is hilarious but it also gets at the heart of a number of problems in the queer sharing economy. Amelia discusses how we abuse this economy, how we fail to uphold our high standard of interpersonal politics, and how we end up hurting one another. What I loved the most is that Amelia's performance is absolutely characteristic of my community, that we care so much about creating new revolutionized systems of living that we would crowd around at a festival to listen to a critique of our own systems. Other sharing economies exist outside our community and until system change happens, many communities can benefit greatly from such an economy. Not just financially but socially, intellectually, and emotionally as well.