Daylight News

Looking Back at The First Annual Long Beach Trans Pride

Many organizations host their pride celebrations in June — LGBTQ Pride Month. But the folks at Long Beach Trans Pride and we here at Daylight believe pride is something that never ends, so why should we only celebrate it once a year? 

Let’s take a look at the first-ever Long Beach Trans Pride and how the event was received in the community. 

What is Long Beach Trans Pride?

Held on Sept. 18, 2021, the first ever Long Beach Trans Pride aimed to create “unity in the community.”

After holding the “Angels on Earth” awards dinner for members of the trans and nonbinary community, Alexa Castanon and Angel Macias were inspired to create Long Beach Trans Pride to empower and highlight the local transgender and nonbinary community. 

Angel fully funded and supported the original awards dinner with her own money. She was so inspired by the recipients’ stories that she wanted to do more to advocate for the community. After that, Angel, Alexa and some of the other trans members of California Families in Focus launched the Long Beach Trans Pride festival.

Why trans pride?

So many LGBTQ spaces focus on those of diverse sexual orientations at the expense of those with varied gender orientations. This is done despite transgender folks paving the way for the rest of the community and getting no recognition for their efforts. 

Events that do focus on the transgender community often hone in on transgender violence and remembering those who have been abused or killed. Long Beach Trans Pride aimed to celebrate and advocate for transgender folks who are still with us and create a space that goes beyond mourning those we’ve lost. 

The festival aimed to create a dedicated trans inclusive space in the fall to provide a gathering point for at-risk members of the community to gather throughout the year, instead of only having those resources provided during the summer. 

We wanted to join the efforts of those organizing Long Beach Trans Pride and supported the festival by providing a table with resources and financial education for the queer community. 

Showing up for the Long Beach trans community

Many transgender folks rely on local LGBTQ centers and pride events for their services and to find community. Instead of expecting them to come to us, our team at Daylight went out to meet them at the festival.

The focus of the event was highlighting those showing up and doing the work in the community, as well as supporting transgender artists and other creators.

The organizers of the festival wanted to get away from focusing on gay men in transgender spaces and show up for our transgender and nonbinary siblings, who often get left out of the equation. Creating this type of space helps these groups feel less alone, and shows them what resources are available.

Several Long Beach Trans organizers have been showing up for the community again and again without getting anything in return. Because many of the team at Daylight are transgender, we felt it was important to support fellow transgender advocates in the Long Beach community. 

Other organizations tabling at the festival created a physical presence to provide other types of resources for the community. Some groups in attendance included Nolan Ross and Company, Reach LA, OC LGBTQ Center, TransLatin@, Colors LGBTQ+ Youth Counseling Center, Stars Behavioral Health Group, Los Angeles LGBT Center, BAI, Gender Justice LA, Long Beach Forward and the AMAAD Institute. 

The day of the festival

The festival was held in the over 200 acres of Recreation Park. 

Headlining the entertainment was Ryan Cassata and the R Band. The festival also featured transgender spoken word artists, resource vendors and other activities.

The proceeds from the festival help support the labor of transgender folks who were showing up for their community before they were getting paid to do so. 

Our table featured a fun spin the wheel game. In order to spin, people were asked to answer financial ed questions with the chance to win prizes, including gift cards, stickers, flags and temporary tattoos.  

In case you missed the event, here’s a sample question: Which group has the hardest time accessing financial services? 

(The answer is trans men, if you’re curious.)

That way those who were spinning could learn about financial services available to the LGBTQ+ community and learn more about Daylight in a peer to peer way. 

Showing up where the community congregates allowed us to hear concerns we wouldn’t have heard before. Those at the festival shared their fears about being singled out, which are very valid fears. Those fears come from a lot of financial discrimination and lack of access to loans and other funding. 

It was a great day, and we look forward to supporting Long Beach Trans Pride for years to come!

Mel Van De Graaff (they/them) is a health and wellness writer focused on helping health practices build their online presence. They’ve been creating health and wellness content for the last four years.

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Daylight News

From Affinity to a Major Market Shift: How Banking is Changing from Inclusion to Action

In our industry, we’ve long talked about the phenomenon of “affinity banking,” a concept tied more to marketing than to actual service of a community’s interests.

In recent years, thankfully, we’re seeing a slight shift from thinking about our customers as niche markets for us to tap into and toward seeing a community we can be part of and serve through our companies. At Daylight, we’re proud to be on the frontlines of this shift, pulling the banking industry forward with us.

Technology and the changing way we live our lives have changed the meaning of the word “community.” 

A community bank used to be the one down the road from your house. Now we have an opportunity to create a banking community through a platform that serves the types of people who need it most. In our case, that means banking for the queer community — wherever you are.

Our COO, Billie Simmons, recently sat on a panel about this shift in banking at Money Experience Summit alongside fellow founders Yemi Rose of OfColor and Andrei Cherny of Aspiration.

Riding the waves of social change

The uprising following George Floyd’s murder in 2020 was a long-awaited wake-up call for many companies and corporations to finally realize the importance of social responsibility — at least, the appearance of it.

And that created an opportunity for financial startups, which rely on the larger banking industry and infrastructure.

“That has sort of worked to allow startup founders to get a leg up and to start to partner with some of these organizations,” Billie said.

We have no illusions that these corporations partner with community-focused companies like ours out of the goodness of their hearts. They understand it looks good in a press release and they understand that inclusivity is an actual business advantage.

“I think that’s fine,” Billie said. “If that’s what they get out of it, we can also get a ton out of it, too. And if we can empower our community financially, using the opportunities that are available to us, then great, that’s fine.”

Banking like a gay bar

We’re clear at Daylight that everyone is welcome — as long as you’re not a dick. You don’t have to be a member of the LGBTQ community to use our platform or to support the financial success of queer folks.

So how do we maintain a safe space for the community we serve while welcoming allies who want to join us?

“It’s like a gay bar,” Billie said. “Anyone can go into a gay bar. If you’re going to be an asshole, we will kick you out. If you’re going to be cool, and support everyone there, then that’s great. You can join.”

Doing the most good

Despite an onslaught of companies that want to clean up their image by supporting LGBTQ causes, we face an unfortunate reality: We literally aren’t able to restrict who we work with to organizations that have never worked against the LGBTQ community. 

Put simply: Not enough of them exist.

For centuries, we’ve lived in a world where it’s been socially acceptable to be outwardly homphobic and transphobic, and that’s only slowly changing in a few areas. 

So how do we operate in a way that serves our community and aligns with our values?

“It’s about taking a nuanced view,” Billie said, “how can we do the most good for our community, while understanding that there are always going to be tradeoffs? Where can we refuse to make those tradeoffs? Where can we drive change from within?”

Building community through storytelling

All of us who provide banking platforms for communities who’ve been historically underserved by banks and financial institutions know we face a challenge when it comes to building trust, even within our own communities.

Here? We do it by sharing our own stories.

Billie shared hers: “I started Daylight because I am a trans woman who transitioned in America, and it was a fucking nightmare to change my name on all of my debit cards, on my bank accounts, and I still have one credit card that I have never updated my legal name on because it was so hard to do.”

We share the stories of our founders, our majority-LGBTQ team, our customers and our partners. Because we know those stories matter.

We know they matter, because they drive the kinds of services we offer, and we hear from our customers how that affects their lives.

When customers tell us how important it’s been to be able to use their chosen name on their debit card, so when they get coffee with coworkers the barista calls out the correct name from their receipt, those stories are powerful. That’s more than putting a rainbow on a card. That’s having an impact on someone’s daily life.

“Particularly for the trans community, money is the gateway through which we self actualize,” Billie noted. “It costs a lot of money to transition [medically]. And that is really emotional. I think the only way we can [build that trust] is just by telling our stories.”

It’s more than a marketing campaign

Andrei called out a recent study that showed 25% of Americans think first about issues like sustainability when they choose a financial product, before details like interest rates.

The three biggest banks in the country each have about 10% market share — which means the “niche” for affinity banking is bigger than any of them. 

And when you factor in the size of the LGBTQ community, the BIPOC community and millions of other folks underserved by traditional banking, that adds up to a big need for platforms focused on serving communities.

That means community is no longer just a way to market our services. Serving our community is fundamental to the way we operate — and we’re hellbent on moving the industry forward with us.

“There’s still some idealism in me,” Billie said. “I think I can actually make some change with some of these large organizations. … There’s 30 million LGBTQ Americans, and all of those people have friends, have supporters, have families, have children, and there are the parents of queer children.  There’s actually a huge, huge community of people who are committed to LGBTQ liberation.”

Dana Sitar is a personal finance writer, editor, writing teacher and owner of Dana Media. She’s written about work and money for Forbes, the New York Times, CNBC and Inc. Magazine. She founded Healthy Rich to publish stories that illuminate the diversity of our relationships with work and money.

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How to Make a Budget That Fits Your Lifestyle

Queer folks are more likely than cishet peers to have a lower salary (even after college), more likely to face discrimination when applying for loans and can have higher medical costs that aren’t covered by health insurance.

That makes making and sticking to a budget especially important — and challenging — for LGBTQ folks.

The obstacles facing queer people

You might think these claims are an exaggeration, but statistics back them up. For example, a study by Student Loan Hero found that 40% of LGBTQ borrowers were denied financial assistance for college because of their sexual identity. The 2019 Workplace Equality Factsheet by Out & Equal showed almost 10% of queer people had left jobs after experiencing discrimination, and a whopping 50% experience discrimination in the workplace on a regular basis.

On top of that, trans folks face extra medical costs if they choose to medically transition, and can have trouble finding supportive medical professionals. In some states, including Ohio, bills have been passed that could allow medical professionals to deny care and services to people “on the basis of moral, ethical, or religious exemption,” according to the Human Rights Campaign

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a religious health care provider could legally deny care to a queer person because they object to their “lifestyle,” causing LGBTQ people to have to search harder for medical care or even go out of state.

When you put all this together, it’s no surprise that queer people can have a hard time making ends meet. A budget can’t fix the underlying systemic issues that keep queer people down, but it can help you ensure you have enough money to pay for the necessities each month, while still having some left over to spend on entertainment, clothes or whatever brings you joy.

How to create a budget as a beginner

A budget takes your total after-tax income and determines where you should spend it. It’s a good tool for anyone, whether you are scraping by on minimum wage or making six figures. 

Calculate your after-tax income

Before you can start a budget, you need to know your after-tax income. If you work for a company and get a regular paycheck, that’ll be the amount you bring home each month.

If you’re a contractor or a freelancer, you’ll need to deduct your expected taxes and business expenses from your income. The IRS provides some resources on what taxes look like if you’re self-employed.

If you earn a regular paycheck, add back in any pre-tax paycheck deductions like health insurance or 401(k). This will give you a more realistic picture of how much you’re spending on necessities and savings.

Use the 50/30/20 method

One of the easiest ways to determine a budget is to use the 50/30/20 method. The concept is simple:

  • 50% of your income goes toward necessities.
  • 30% of your income goes toward wants.
  • 20% of your income goes toward savings.

Of course, some expenses can be difficult to categorize — for example, a gym membership might be viewed as a necessity by some and as a want by others. Think critically about all your regular expenses to determine which category they fall into for you.

Necessities can include things like mortgage or rent, groceries, insurance, basic utilities like electric and water, child care, and minimum loan and credit card payments.

Wants can include things like entertainment, travel, expensive clothing and streaming services. There are some things that could fall in both the necessities and wants categories — for example, you need a winter coat if you live in a cold climate, but if you own several winter coats, a new one might be a want.

Savings include your emergency fund and retirement savings, but you should also include debt repayment in this category. It’s important to pay down debt (especially high-interest debt) if you want a successful financial future.

Choose a budgeting system

Now that you understand how to separate your expenses using the 50/30/20 method, it’s time to put your budget together. The first step is choosing a budgeting method that works for you.

Pick a method that’s easy for you to manage. If you choose a method that’s too complicated or takes a lot of time to maintain, you’re less likely to stick with it.

There are a few budgeting methods out there, including the envelope system and zero-based budgeting. Here’s a little on each of these methods to help determine which is right for you.

The envelope system 

The envelope system is exactly what it sounds like. Using this method traditionally, you’ll create envelopes for each category and put the cash budgeted for that category in the envelope. Over the month, you’ll take money from the envelope to pay for items within this category, and once the money runs out, you’ll have to stop spending in that category until the next month.

For example, you might have an envelope for your entertainment budget. Every time you go out for dinner, go to a movie or go to a club, you’ll use money from that envelope. Once the money has gone, you’ll have to skip meals out or parties for the rest of the month.

It’s not common anymore to pay for things with cash, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the envelope system. 

Rather than putting physical cash in an envelope, you can use a spreadsheet to track your expenses. Create a tab or a column for each category and assign an amount you should spend in that category. When you spend money, add the expense to the appropriate category. This helps you track your spending and tells you when you’ve reached your limit for each category.

Or you can use a budgeting app that links to your bank account and automatically tracks and categorizes your spending. Automating your expenses this way is easy, but there’s always the chance that the app will miscategorize some expenses. Check in every week to correct anything that’s labeled incorrectly.

Zero-based budgeting 

Zero-based budgeting allocates every single penny of your income to a category so your ending balance each month is $0. You’ll input your monthly income into a spreadsheet or app and then list out every single expense each month. That includes all of your necessities, wants and savings. 

This budgeting method requires some prep work. Before you can start, you’ll need to track your spending for a few months to see where your money is going. Once you know that, you can determine whether you’re spending too much on wants that could go to savings or whether your needs are costing more than 50% of your income, so you can make cuts where you can.

Once you get going with zero-based budgeting, it can be a great way to know where every penny you earn is going. But it does require a lot of time and effort to keep up. You’ll need to be diligent about tracking expenses through the month and watch what you spend like a hawk. 

A zero-based budget can also be hard to maintain if you encounter unexpected expenses, such as a car repair, but having an emergency fund can help with that.

If you don’t have a predictable income (for example, if you’re a freelancer or service worker), the zero-based budget isn’t a good option. This budget method works best when you know exactly what your after-tax income will be each month.

Budgeting FAQs

Still have questions? Here are the answers to some of the most-asked questions about budgeting.

How do you make a budget and stick to it?

The key to making a budget and sticking to it is consistency. Choose your method and make sure you check it frequently and track all your expenses. Be honest with yourself and always ask whether you need or want to make a purchase and how that fits into your budget. If it’s the latter, that’s OK; but if you’ve exceeded your allowance for “wants” that month, it’s best to hold off on making the purchase until the following month.

Make sure the method you choose isn’t too complicated, which will make it easier for you to stick to. For that reason, a budgeting app or a bank account with spend tracking is a good choice for many people, because it can automate your tracking and alert you if you go over in a certain category.

What is the 30-day rule?

Impulse spending can be a real barrier to successful budgeting. You can curb your impulse buys and stick to your budget more easily by implementing the 30-day.

The 30-day rule says you should wait 30 days before buying something you want. If, after 30 days, you still want the item, you can purchase it. But often, 30 days will go by and you’ll realize you’re not thinking about the item anymore and can do without it. That’s money saved!

Why do budgets fail?

Your budget may fail for many reasons. For example, you might choose a budgeting method that’s too complicated and takes too much time to keep up, and you’ll abandon it. That’s why it’s a good idea to consider which method will be easiest for you to stick with.

Your budget might also fail if you’re not honest or clear about where you’re spending money. Failing to track certain purchases can make it seem like you’re sticking to your budget while you’re racking up credit card debt or dipping into your emergency savings for non-emergency items.

Creating and sticking to a budget can help make sure you’re on track to reach your financial goals. If you have specific questions about your personal financial situation, reach out to a financial advisor to make a plan that makes sense for you.

Catherine Hiles (she/her) is a writer, editor, mother, friend and ally. She lives in Ohio with her husband, two kids, and sweet but wild pit bull mix.

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What Makes a Queer-Friendly Workplace? 6 Things to Look for in Your Job Search

Thanks to a 2020 Supreme Court ruling, organizations cannot discriminate against employees based on gender identity and sexual orientation. 

But there’s a world of difference between tolerance –– they can’t kick us out –– and acceptance, where we’re welcomed for our uniqueness. 

Pandemic pressures have only exacerbated workplace stressors for all of us. LGBTQ employees increasingly say they feel isolated on the job, are stressed about performance reviews, and have concerns about losing ground to their peers, corporate consulting firm McKinsey reports. 

Regardless of how we identify, we do our best work when we can bring our full selves to work. We shouldn’t need to compartmentalize or dim our light. But finding the right work environment –– where we feel accepted and our contributions are welcomed –– is tricky. 

This checklist will help you gauge whether a workplace is really LGBTQ friendly.  

1. Inclusive job application 

Inclusivity starts in the hiring process! Companies that require job applicants to tick F or M on the application form signal to trans, nonbinary and gender nonconforming applicants that they literally have to fit a box to get hired. 

Trans employees may face additional hurdles in the application stage, especially if you go by a name that doesn’t match your legal I.D. You may be unsure how to handle the application or worried about listing references who know you by a different name. 

In the application process, it’s generally acceptable to use your chosen name in the cover letter, resume and paperwork. If neopronouns are part of your identity, you can put them in your email signature or on your resume. 

For official paperwork and tax forms, however, you’ll need to use your legal name. The National Center for Transgender Equality offers state-by-state resources on navigating name changes on official IDs, if you’re working through that process. 

2. Gender-neutral bathrooms 

Everyone’s gotta go… and everyone should be comfortable using the bathroom that correlates to their identity. As SHRM explains, gender-neutral bathrooms send a clear signal that a workplace is committed to making all employees feel welcome.  

3. Expansive dress codes 

Employees who don’t feel comfortable prescribing to gender norms often feel like they have to put on drag to look the part. If supervisors feel their choice of clothing, accessories, makeup or hairstyle isn’t “appropriate,” these employees may be penalized. 

Traditional ideas of business professional attire reinforce gender normativity, racial bias and sexism. They can feel stifling or dysphoric for queer folks. 

Inclusive workplaces should understand the ways an employee’s gender identity, race, culture, and other aspects of identity impact their aesthetic choices and make allowances that not only accept but celebrate sartorial diversity.

While you may not get the official dress code policy until you’ve been hired and given an employee handbook, you’ll be able to evaluate the corporate style if you go in for an interview. 

4. Perfect CEI score

Every year, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) puts out an annual Corporate Equality Index (CEI), which ranks companies on their LGBTQ-friendliness. 

The 767 companies that scored 100 on this year’s index met all of HRC’s criteria for equality and inclusion. They are seen as the best places to work from an LGBTQ equality perspective. 

Organizations are scored on criteria like workplace protections, inclusivity of health insurance plans, commitment to workplace diversity, and outreach to LGBTQ communities through philanthropy, recruitment, hiring or advocacy work. This index is updated annually, so you can rely on it to track the metrics that matter to queer people right now. 

The CEI index is limited to private, for-profit companies with more than 500 employees, so a progressive nonprofit or small business won’t be listed. That said, it’s a great way to evaluate large companies on the depth of their LGBTQ inclusion.

5. Queer-inclusive benefits 

Employer-sponsored health insurance plans may not cover LGBTQ health needs. 

Health insurers discriminate against LGBTQ people in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. 

Trans-inclusive health coverage varies by state and insurer. Presently, 22 states have anti-trans bans on medical care, according to Freedom For All Americans. These bans limit the type of medically necessary care trans individuals can access without paying out-of-pocket. 

Fertility coverage often excludes LGBTQ folks. Medically, “infertility” is defined by insurers as for opposite-sex couples only. To get coverage, you must demonstrate that you were actively trying to get pregnant for a set period of time. 

While some states have passed laws designed to reduce the financial burden of LGBTQ family planning, these laws are imperfect, as NBC News reports. IVF treatments are covered for lesbian couples, but not for gay men, for example. 

Parsing insurance coverage and exclusion can be headache-inducing. Policies are written in dense language. 

HRC’s guide to transgender-related healthcare and Forward Together’s guide for LGBTQ people on choosing health plans can help you understand coverage options. 

6. Year-round advocacy and outreach 

Come June, companies fall all over themselves to perform allyship in hopes of getting a share of our hard-earned queer dollars. Truly inclusive companies don’t exclusively profit off us, however. They have our backs year-round. 

Inclusive companies won’t be afraid to speak out on issues of equality. They’ll sign statements in support of queer causes and donate time or money. When it comes to outreach and allyship, they’ll bring receipts.

How to actually check queer inclusiveness 

DEI might be the buzzword of the year, but inclusion varies widely from one company to another. So you’ll want to do some due diligence to protect yourself. 

Start researching online, then use interviews (remote or in-person) as a chance to confirm initial research and evaluate fit. 

Before the interview: online research 

There are a few easy ways to check inclusivity during the company research and job application phase. 

If the company is large enough to rank, you can always check their CEI score.

Employee review sites like Glassdoor offer a behind-the-scenes glance at company culture. But be warned: Those who dish on a former workplace online tend to really love or really hate the place, not represent the average experience. 

Search the website or company blog for queer-friendly terms –– words like LGBTQ, queer, trans and Pride. The easiest way to do this is to type in your search term, then “site:” followed by the company’s website. 

For example: To search for “trans” on Ben & Jerry’s website, you’d type “trans” 

Social media is often a goldmine. You’ll be able to tell if a company cares about the community in June versus all year round by searching for the same terms. 

Facebook and Twitter have advanced search features that can help you gauge the company’s level of allyship. Instagram is harder to search, but you can check the company’s stories for LGBTQ themes or scroll through content for queer-friendly images or quote cards. 

If a company is outspoken about equality, you’ll find lots of website and social media references to LGBTQ terms. 

During the interview: visual markers, body language and targeted questions

In-person job interviews let you peer behind the curtain to see what it’s really like to work at a company. Do cars in the parking lot have Pride-themed bumper stickers? Are the bathrooms binary gender only? Is someone making assumptions on your pronouns? 

Visual cues like these are harder to glean from a remote interview –– and given the current climate, that might be all you’re offered. 

Over Zoom, you can get an idea for what the company culture is really like through things like clothing, personal style and remote work environments. Even a Zoom backdrop has vibes! 

As the interview concludes, you have a chance to ask questions about what it’s really like to work there. Rather than ask about the company culture, which can get a canned response, dig deeper. Ask questions like:

  • How does the company act in alignment with its values? 
  • What three adjectives would you use to describe company culture? 
  • What are some things employees do to fit in? 
  • What is your favorite part about working here?

Bring your full self to work

The right job for you is one where you can bring your full self. That may be in an organization that’s already done its diversity, equity and inclusion work and earned that perfect 100 CEI score. 

Or it might be at a place that knows it needs to be more welcoming and isn’t sure how to get there… but displays a willingness to do the work and is eager to learn from you.

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What’s the T with Taxes? LGBTQ Tax Tips from Our Virtual Education Event

Sure, it’s easier post-marriage equality to file taxes if you’re LGBTQ, but it’s a lot of work. Many LGBTQ folks have questions about taxes, tax credits, tax deductions… and finding a trustworthy, queer-friendly tax expert you can be honest with is not easy. 

Our “What’s the T with Taxes?” educational video, benefiting the HRT Access Fund, touched on some of the top issues impacting LGBTQ taxpayers. This post will help you understand and plan for your tax season.

Filing taxes: Where? When? And How? 

Know your tax deadlines and file on time. The deadline is April 15, but sometimes — like in 2020, for obvious reasons — it gets extended, or a weekend or holiday pushes it back a few days. 

If you don’t think you’ll file by April 15, you can request an extension. However, if you think you’ll owe money, it’s definitely worth it to file on time if you can. Here’s why: The longer you wait to file, the more you’ll owe. 

The IRS charges interest on unpaid taxes from the April 15 tax deadline, whether you filed on time or asked for the extension. You’re not just deferring judgment day by getting an extension. You’re actually giving the government more money in interest. 

As for how to file taxes, you do you. 

Some folks like to work with a tax preparer who’ll dot every I, cross every T, and check for every possible credit. Others can’t afford the upfront costs of that service, which averages $273 for the federal 1040, a schedule A, and a state return, according to the National Society of Accountants. Budget-friendly tax software like TurboTax is fine for most people. 

Dallas Estes, a tax preparer who helps artists understand tax write-offs, says it’s worth seeking out a tax preparer in years when your tax situation has changed due to life circumstances: an inheritance, marriage, divorce or children. 

Equality may be the law of the land, but the tax code discriminates against queer couples, particularly where children are concerned. An LGBTQ or allied tax preparer will walk you through the tax implications of adoption, surrogacy and LGBTQ family planning expenses, so you understand which deductions are allowed for your circumstances. 

New business owners and freelancers also benefit from professional advice. Navigating a 1099 landscape while determining home office expenses, crunching a qualified business income deduction and estimating your annual mileage while actually running that business is no small task, so many business owners pay a tax preparer.

Reporting non-traditional income sources

Queer millennials are more likely to side hustle than their cis, straight peers, as USA Today reports. This income might come in through cash, Venmo or even a crowdfunding platform. 

Regardless of the source, any income you earn that has a paper trail should be reported to the IRS. 

That includes money earned from not-strictly-legal means, like sex work. However, if you counseled a pal who needed professional advice and they treated you to lunch or gave you $20 in cash, you probably don’t need to report it. 

You report crowdfunding income in one of two ways.

If it’s business income (say you raised money for an album your band was putting out and you are a self-employed musician), you’ll report it as business income. 

Given that business crowdfunding campaigns tend to be for specific products or services, Estes recommends you raise the money and spend it in the same calendar year. The business expenses (putting out the album) will offset the earned income, so you’ll pay less.  

If a crowdfunding campaign is for a personal expense, like surgery, you’ll have to report it as gift income. 

If that surgery is for gender-affirming care, good news: The cost of hormones and affirming surgery have been deductible since 2011, making the IRS… pretty progressive, actually! 

You owe money. Now what? 

It’s cool — there’s a payment plan for that. No, seriously. The IRS and most states offer short-term and long-term tax payment plans that let you pay in installments. 

Estes recommends paying as much of what’s owed as you can when you file. The IRS and your state will each mail you a bill for the remainder, and you can set up payment plans from there. 

For federal taxes, you’ll be assessed interest of 0.5% per month on the balance, which is less than that pesky 5% “failure to file” penalty. So again: Filing on time and paying as much as you can up front actually helps you keep more of your money. 

Investing in yourself: queer business deductions 

Whether you run a small business or have a side hustle, writing off legitimate expenses saves you money. What counts as “legitimate,” though? It depends. 

Categories like business mileage are fairly straightforward. If you drive to meet a client or pick up business supplies, you can deduct those miles. Just keep a paper log or use an app like MileIQ. Pro tip: Every Jan. 1, snap a pic of your odometer to know your starting mileage for the year. 

Supplies, professional development and other categories are subjective. Both lawyers and drag queens have business supplies and professional development expenses, but chances are they’re going to look a lot different. As a general rule, the expenses should be for business only to be deductible. So yes, if those stilettos are only ever for your drag looks, you can write them off. 

If you’re not sure whether you can deduct an expense, google it. Chances are someone else has asked the same question, and you can find the answer. 

No matter what you’re writing off, keep good records and save the receipt — for at least three years, per IRS regulations

One caveat on business deductions: It can be tempting to write off all the things, but this isn’t always the best move. 

One, the IRS requires businesses to show a profit motive — basically, to prove the goal of the expense is to make money. You can have a profit motive and claim a loss for the year, particularly if you’re in early stages. If you can’t prove a profit motive, the IRS may decide your gig is actually a hobby. Hobbies don’t get tax deductions.  

Two, Social Security payments are calculated based on your gross income. You’ll have higher Social Security payments when you retire if you claim fewer deductions now. 

Tax Credits

According to a study by the Williams Institute, 22%  of LGBTQ+ people live in poverty. Until we correct the economic disparities keeping our community from thriving, tax credits can lessen the financial burden for LGBTQ+ folks. 

The earned income tax credit (EITC) provides those who earn below a threshold with a credit. For 2021, this credit ranges from $1,502 to $6,728, depending on the number of children you have (zero to three or more). For 2021, EITC income thresholds are $21,430 for single or married filing separately, or $27,380 if you are married filing jointly. 

If you don’t qualify for the EITC, don’t worry. The grab bag of tax credits has something for everyone! Tax credits range from retirement contributions to interest on student loan payments to green credits for electric vehicle purchases or solar panel installation to child- and family-oriented credits. 

Don’t be intimidated by taxes

This tax season, don’t let taxes intimidate you. Instead, stand in your power. Understand the filing process, tax credits, tax deductions, how to handle that side hustle income, and where to go for tax advice and planning that respects your LGBTQ+ identity.

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Daylight News

401K Investing : LGBTQ Retirement Savings Strategies

Would you leave free money on the table? 

Not a chance, if you’re like most people. But you might be doing exactly that with your 401(k). To follow up on our 401Kiki event, which benefited the Edie Windsor Coding Scholarship, we’ve put together this guide to all things 401(k). 

Find out how much you can save in a 401(k), what kind of investments to keep in a 401(k), 401(k) alternatives for once you’ve hit your contribution limit (#retirementgoals) and, most importantly — why you should open a 401(k) account in the first place!

Why open a 401(k)?

You’ve probably heard that Social Security trust funds are running out of money. But you might not know how soon that could affect your life.

Unless something changes, Social Security will need to reduce the amount of benefits it pays as early as 2034, CNN reports. By the time you’re ready to retire, there might not be much left –– which is why it’s important to take charge of your own retirement savings. 

If you work for an employer, that starts with the 401(k). 

At Daylight, we consider retirement savings an LGBTQ issue. Hear us out: Wealth management firm UBS reports that LGBTQ people: 

  • Are less likely to have a will or estate plan (19% versus 26% of cishet peers).
  • Put less of their paycheck toward retirement (20% versus 25% for cishet peers).
  • Are less likely to have any money saved in a 401(k) (35% versus 40% for cishet peers). 

There are lots of systemic reasons why queer folks are behind on retirement savings. But we didn’t come this far toward equality to not thrive during our golden years! 

We can’t say it enough. To live your best life in retirement, you need to make saving a priority while you’re working. That’s where a 401(k) comes in. 

So what is a 401(k), exactly? It’s an employer-sponsored retirement account that’s funded through contributions from your paycheck and, if you have this benefit, through employer contributions. 

Your workplace might contribute a flat percentage of your pay across the board. Or it might offer a match percentage, where the company matches your retirement savings up to a set percentage point. 

If you’re just getting started with a 401(k), setting aside 10% of your gross pay is a good goal. If you earn $60,000 a year, that would be $6,000. Assuming you’re paid twice a month, that breaks down as $500 a month. If your employer matches your contributions up to 5%, that’s an extra $3,000 in your account for the year.

How much can you save in a 401(k)?

The IRS sets an annual limit on 401(k) contributions because they have tax implications. For 2021, you can save up to $19,500 in a 401(k). If you’re over age 50 you can save an added $6,500.  

It’s worth noting the tax implications of a 401(k). Your contributions are pre-tax. They don’t just sweeten your future, they lower your tax obligations now. You’ll have to pay taxes in retirement when you withdraw the money, but there’s a good chance it’ll be at a lower rate.

Choosing investments for your 401(k)

As part of your employee benefits package, you’ll receive a list of investments to choose from. These tend to be mutual funds, which are basically large baskets full of stocks and bonds. 

Two types of mutual funds commonly offered in employer-sponsored retirement plans, including a 401(k), are index funds and target-date funds (a.k.a. target-date retirement funds). 

  • Index funds are mutual funds that track a stock index like the S&P 500. Investing in index funds gives you exposure to all the stocks that make up the S&P 500.
  • Target-date retirement funds are set in increments that reflect a retirement year: 2050 for someone who will be 67 in 2050, for example. They start aggressive, taking on more risk to grow the balance quickly, assuming the market goes up. They become more conservative as the retirement year approaches to protect your savings against market downturns.

The right investment for you depends on your preference and risk tolerance. A target date retirement fund is ideal if you tend to be hands-off with investments. The money will most likely grow for you until you need it.

If you’re a cautious investor, a low-risk fund will preserve your savings –– but it may not grow very much. A high risk fund could bring big rewards, but you’ll have to stomach the volatility of big market swings.

You’ll find quizzes that assess your risk tolerance and suggest an appropriate asset mix for you — like this free investor questionnaire from discount brokerage Vanguard. This can help you narrow down the list of funds.

401(k) alternatives 

The most common 401(k) alternatives include: 

  • 403(b): 403(b) plans are essentially 401(k)s for nonprofits, public schools and a handful of other employers. Just like 401(k)s, these use pre-tax contributions and can include employer matches. The contribution limits are the same as for the 401(k).
  • Traditional Individual Retirement Account (IRA): As you might be able to guess from the word “individual” in the name, this is a retirement account you fund and manage without going through an employer. In 2021, individuals can contribute $6,000 ($7,000 for 50+) to an IRA. Traditional IRA contributions are tax-deductible with a caveat: If you’re a high saver, you might not be able to deduct all your contributions to your IRA and 401(k). 
  • Roth IRA: Like the traditional IRA, this is self-funded. A Roth is taxed when you put the money in and not when you take it out. If you stash money away now, it’ll grow tax free until you need it. Roth IRAs are a way to boost your retirement savings and reduce tax liability later on, since you won’t owe tax on withdrawals. You can contribute up to $6,000 ($7,000 for 50+) to a Roth IRA as long as you earn less than the income threshold, which is $125,000 for single filers or $198,000 for married filing jointly. After that, the amount you can contribute decreases as your income increases.
  • Roth 401(k): A Roth 401(k) combines the Roth tax treatment with the 401(k) retirement account. These less common employer-sponsored retirement accounts are taxed at contribution then grow tax-free. Contribution limits are the same as for a 401(k): $19,500 plus $6,500 in catch-up contributions for those 50+.

When to open an alternative retirement account

In our 401Kiki video, we covered some of the reasons you might choose another type of retirement account. To expand upon that here, let’s reiterate two things:

  • Any amount of retirement savings is good! Seriously. 
  • If you have high-interest debt, like a credit card with 20%+ interest, pay that off before saving for retirement. There’s one exception: If you’re fortunate to have an employer match, you might want to direct enough money toward the 401(k) to get the match while paying off debt. Remember what we said about free money? 

If you max out your 401(k) in a year and want to save more, you’ll need another type of account. That’s when you’d think about opening an IRA or Roth IRA. You might also open an IRA if you’d like wider options for investing, whether that’s individual stocks or investments that align with your values.

Experts generally advise that you contribute to a Roth IRA when your earnings and tax bracket are low. If you don’t make a lot of money, you don’t really need to shield your income from taxes. 

When you’re in your prime earning years, you might move into a higher tax bracket. Directing more money toward a 401(k) or a traditional IRA actively reduces your tax obligations.

A financial planner can help you understand the nitty gritties of these accounts and advanced topics, like  investment strategies. 

Are you maximizing your savings? 

For now, if you have access to a 401(k) at work, check your contribution limits. Are you saving as much as you’d like? Can you bump up your savings rate to take full advantage of an employer match?

Every dollar you save now helps secure your future. Thanks to the magic of compound interest, even a little amount in your 20s will really add up by the time you reach retirement age.

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Daylight News

4 Big Ways to Stretch Your Dollar in an Expensive (but Inclusive) City

If you grew up in a small town, you may not have been able to live as your authentic self for fear of retribution, or even violence. Some rural communities and small towns might be much less welcoming to queer people than most larger cities. 

This could push you to settle in a big city as an adult so you can live in a more inclusive and welcoming environment where you can grow into the person you’re meant to be.

But big city living comes with a big price tag. Everything, from rent and food to entertainment, costs more in major cities, which can be a huge roadblock — especially true LGBTQ folks, who may also face discrimination in healthcare, education, housing and employment.

Living in a queer-friendly city doesn’t have to bankrupt you, though. Here are some tips to help you succeed in your new home and live within your budget.

1. Look for ways to save

There are many ways to save money and live frugally, even in a pricy city. Here are just a few examples. 

Buy used items 

New clothes can be expensive — and with mass-produced items, you always run the risk of showing up to a party wearing the same outfit as someone else. 

Rather than buying your clothes new, check out your local thrift and consignment stores. You can save a ton of money on your wardrobe and find unique items.

Also look for used furniture, books, exercise equipment and electronics. Scour your area for garage or yard sales or check out peer-selling sites like Letgo, OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace to find deals in your area. 

Pro tip: If you meet a stranger to pick up an item, take a friend with you and choose a public meeting place. You can never tell whether that stranger on the internet is legit or looking to rip you off (or worse).

Spend less on food

Buying food doesn’t have to be expensive; you just might need to plan ahead. Try these tips:

  • Meal-prep when you can so you’re not tempted to grab takeout after a long day. 
  • Consider couponing and rebate apps like Ibotta, Fetch and Dosh to find deals on grocery items you buy frequently. 
  • Buy the generic or store brand of most foods rather than the name brand. It can save you money over time — and it’s usually the same stuff!
  • If you enjoy eating out with friends, make a list of affordable restaurants and suggest those when you’re making plans. Meal swaps and potlucks are also a an alternative, affordable option and a great way to connect with your chosen family in a new city!
  • If you enjoy cooking, look for copycat recipes of your favorite restaurants and make them at home. Invite your friends over to sample your cooking and see how it compares to the real thing.

Look for free entertainment

Even in big cities, there is plenty of free entertainment to be found. Many museums and art galleries operate on donations rather than entry fees, so if you’re looking for something to do but don’t have any extra cash, you can spend an afternoon wandering around and looking at artifacts. 

Most big cities also have plenty of green spaces that are free to use. Consider packing up a picnic lunch and spending the day in the park with friends, people-watching or just chatting.

Look for free social events and meetups through your neighborhood LGBTQ center, especially when you’re new to the city. This is the perfect place to meet people and spend time in the environment you came to the city to discover.

Once you’ve connected, host game nights or movie nights at your apartment for your people. Have everyone bring a snack or drink to share, and you provide the entertainment. It’s not quite the same as going to the movie theater or the club, but you can have plenty of fun at home with the right people.

2. Find affordable housing

Housing is the biggest monthly expense for most people, and the proportion of your expenses it takes up is even greater in big cities. 

Most cities have a wide variety of neighborhoods, each with unique benefits, even if they’re not right downtown. Find neighborhoods with an average rental price that aligns with your budget, and ask the local LGBTQ center for advice on the most queer- and trans-friendly options. 

Start your research before you move to the city. Visit first if you can, and ask locals which neighborhoods they like. You can talk to baristas, cab drivers, friends you have in the city and LGBTQ groups and forums to get an idea of where to base your search. 

Explore the neighborhoods they suggest to make sure they offer the diversity and inclusivity you need. Then hunt for apartments and roommate-matching sites (or find brokers in New York) to see what’s available in your price range. 

Be prepared to compromise on some of your wants in order to find a place that fits your budget.

3. Consider smaller, yet still inclusive, cities

Big cities like New York and San Francisco are wonderful places to live if you’re queer, but the cost of living makes it impossible for many people to live comfortably there. 

Rather than living in an expensive city and worrying about money every month, consider a smaller city with a more affordable cost of living.

Cities like Minneapolis and Denver are welcoming to LGBTQ folks and have a lower cost of living than cities on the east or west coasts. In Minneapolis, check out the Lyn Lake neighborhood, which is known for its queer-owned businesses. Denver’s Capitol Hill and River North Arts District are popular places for queer people.

College towns also tend to be more progressive and LGBTQ-friendly than other cities, even in small towns or rural locations. Even in more conservative states, you can find solace in these towns. 

Check the Campus Pride Index to see which universities are considered the most LGBTQ-friendly in each state, and look at apartments and amenities in that area to see if it’s a good fit for you.

It’s also a good idea to narrow your search to states that rank high in the LGBTQ policy tally — for 2020, only 14 states ranked “high” on the map, while over half rank at “fair,” “low” or “negative.” Big cities in the lower-ranked states still tend to be welcoming for queer people, but state laws are not necessarily supportive of our community.

4. Reach out for help

Sometimes you try everything but still have trouble making ends meet. Luckily, there are several resources that can help you get back on your feet.

  • Food banks: If you’re short on food and don’t have the money to buy more, look into food banks and food pantries in your area. This might not be a resource you need to use regularly, but it can help fill your stomach if you’ve had a bad financial month and need assistance. You can search for local food banks through Feeding America.
  • Rental assistance: If you’re really struggling to find a place to live within your budget, look for rental assistance programs in the area. People who earn less than 50% of the median income in your area may qualify for assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • Health care support: Organizations like Point of Pride can help if you’re having a hard time accessing gender-affirming care. Point of Pride helps fund essential care for trans folks so you can access the care and support you need.

Moving to an inclusive city can be an expensive choice, but by doing what you can to save money and live frugally, you can live your authentic life in a welcoming new city without worrying about being judged or discriminated against by the small-minded people from your hometown.

Catherine Hiles (she/her) is a writer, editor, mother, friend and ally. She lives in Ohio with her husband, two kids, and sweet but wild pit bull mix.

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Daylight News The Issues

Everything to Know About LGBTQ Domestic Violence

Along with being Halloween month, October recognizes something much more important. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). 

DVAM came to be in October 1987. Since then, it’s become an important annual reminder of just how pervasive intimate partner violence is — including in the LGBTQ community. It’s also an important time to bring awareness to the many resources available to survivors. 

Domestic violence in the queer community

Abusive partners, no matter what orientation, use common tactics to gain control over their partners. Even LGBTQ partners take advantage of societal barriers to gain control in abusive relationships.

Homophobia, transphobia and bi-phobia — external and internalized — add barriers for victims and survivors of domestic violence to seek help.

Nearly 85% of victim advocates surveyed by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) reported having worked with an LGBTQ survivor who was denied services because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to a report by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Abusers may use the threat of outing their partner, their HIV status and public scrutiny to manipulate them.

One in 10 LGBTQ folks are survivors of intimate partner violence, many of whom have experienced sexual assault. HRC also reports that around 50% of bisexual people and transgender people have been sexually abused at one point in their lives.

The CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that LGBTQ people are more at risk of violence, specifically intimate partner abuse and sexual violence, than non-LGBTQ people.

The numbers are disturbing:

  • Almost 44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner. 
  • 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men experience rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner. 

But domestic violence involves more than these physical actions we often think of. 

What is financial abuse?

Intimate partner violence, as defined by the CDC, is any “abuse or aggression that occurs in a romantic relationship.” This abuse can be sexual, physical, emotional and even financial; or any or all of these at once.

Many people don’t realize the dangers financial can pose. A study conducted by discovered finances were the second most common barrier survivors faced when trying to leave an abusive situation. (The first was having nowhere to go.)

Financial abuse could look like:

  • Sabotaging employment opportunities.
  • Forbidding a partner from working.
  • Denying a partner direct access to bank accounts.
  • Setting an “allowance.”
  • Forcing a partner to write bad checks.
  • Running up large debts on joint accounts.
  • Withholding money for basic necessities.
  • Not letting you treat yourself, but they can.
  • Forcing a partner to work while they control the money.
  • Forcing a partner to turn over paychecks.
  • Forcing a partner to work in the family business without payment.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The reality can be wildly complex, and you might not even recognize abusive behavior as out of the norm.

Lesbian women and transgender people experience the highest levels of financial abuse, according to a report by Interventions Alliance.

Preparing to leave an abusive relationship recommends these steps to leave an abusive relationship safely and set yourself up for success once you leave:

  1. Gather documents to ensure access to everything you need, such as:
    • PIN codes
    • Passwords
    • Copies of credit reports.
    • Printouts of any financial records or bank accounts.
    • Birth certificates for yourself and your children.
    • Your driver’s license.
    • Your Social Security number
    • Tax records.
    • Passports
  1. Set up your own accounts on the down-low, and have information sent to a trusted friend or loved one.
  2. Stash away some cash soon and as secret as you can.
  3. Change beneficiaries as soon as possible to a trusted friend or loved on for your individual health insurance plan, life insurance, 401(k) or other retirement accounts.
  4. Make a budget that includes savings in your new account, so when you’re ready to leave, you have money to your name to cover living expenses.

Report domestic violence in the queer community

Despite the high numbers, we know the LGBTQ community is still underrepresented by domestic violence data — which means we’re underserved by domestic violence services.

The Interventions Alliance report suggests rates of under-reporting within the LGBTQ community are between 60% and 80%. That doesn’t mean it’s not happening. 

If you or a loved one is in peril or in need of help, here are some resources:

  • The Anti-Violence Project: AVP operates a free bilingual (English/Spanish), 24-hour, 365-day-a-year crisis intervention hotline. It’s staffed by trained volunteers, professional counselors and advocates to offer support to LGBTQ and HIV-affected victims and survivors of any type of violence. Call anytime: (212) 714-1141.
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline: Their 24-hour hotline number is (800) 799-7233.
  • Compensation Compass: As a survivor of domestic violence, you could be due compensation. This form from FreeFrom, an advocate against financial abuse for queer, trans, im/migrant and BIPOC survivors, helps you understand your options.
  • The Hotline offers multiple options to receive help, including its hotline at (800) 799-7233, live chat and text support by texting “START” to 88788.
  • Love is Respect offers a hotline at (866) 331-9474, live chat and text support by texting “LOVEIS” to 22522.
  • The LGBT National Help Center offers a plethora of options, including multiple hotlines, peer support and safe chatrooms.
  • The Network/La Red offers support through their toll-free hotline at (800) 832-1901.
  • The NW Network offers free and confidential support for “bi, trans, lesbian and gay survivors of abuse.”

No one deserves to experience abuse. We all deserve to be in a safe, happy and loving relationship. And remember that you deserve freedom, including financial freedom.

These are your rights, no matter your orientation or identity.

Delilah Gray is a freelance writer and business owner based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She’s been featured in Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed, Insider and POPSUGAR, to name a few.

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Daylight News

“Inclusion Is in Our Ethos” — a Q&A with Civil Jewelry Founder Blakely Thornton

Today we’re talking with Blakely Thornton, the founder of Civil Jewelry, an inclusive and sustainable custom jeweler. Daylight is proud to partner with Civil through our Merchant Rewards Program, which gives you up to 10% cash back for spending at LGBTQ owned and allied businesses.

Daylight: Tell us a little about your business and what brought you to where you are now.

Blakely Thornton: My business was born out of the frustration of often being the only person of color or queer person in the room. For better or worse, I feel the need to speak my mind. It’s built into me on a molecular level. More and more often, I see the cultural capital we create and a community being used to create financial capital for the same demo (cishet white men). Civil is a way to take Trojan horse access to capital through everyday style. We invest 20% of our annual profits in minority/queer founders. 

DL: What does community mean to you and your business? 

BT: Community means people to lean on. Community means a place where ideas and projects are discovered and supported by like-minded individuals. Community is inclusion, and that’s the point of our brand. 

DL: How has the LGBTQ community impacted your business?

BT: We’ve just done the soft launch for our gender neutral engagement rings, and the response has been OVERWHELMING. I think the phrase “you have to see yourself to be yourself” is true, agnostic of culture or creed. 

DL: How has your business contributed to and/or engaged with the LGBTQ community? 

BT: Our business is run by queer black men, so I feel like the inclusion is in our ethos, whether collaborating with queer women for our innagural shoot, or having the impact investing in queer founders embedded into our mission statement. 

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The Issues

Finding Euphoria through Social Transitions

Transitioning is the process of changing characteristics to align with gender identity, and it’s a highly personal and varied process. Transitioning can be social, medical or legal, or any or all three. 

Social transitioning is a process of changing your gender expression to better match your gender identity.

Transitioning socially can be such a euphoric process! It can include coming out as trans; using a new name and/or pronouns; exploring and playing with gender expression like clothing, hairstyles and mannerisms; and using gender-affirming shapewear like binders.

It’s OK to feel scared or not know what you want yet. Transitioning is a big life change and any feelings around it are valid. You don’t have to stick to a timeline, and there’s no right or wrong way to transition. 

This guide will share a few tips for transitioning socially, including some ways to save on gender-affirming clothing and shapewear.

Gender-affirming fashion

Fashion is a powerful form of self-expression. It can make you feel confident, comfortable and attractive.

Choosing clothing that feels best

While you figure out what feels best, think less about gendered articles of clothing and more about style. Take note of clothing on TV or in your day-to-day that attracts you, watch fashion-haul videos from creators whose styles you like and create Pinterest mood boards to help you think about how you want your wardrobe to look.

Both “men’s” and “women’s” sections in stores may have clothing that presents as  feminine and masculine, so if you’re comfortable, look through both to see what catches your eye.

Notice which parts of your body bring you euphoria or dysphoria to choose clothing that makes you feel best. For example, if you experience hip dysphoria, look for straight shorts that don’t curve around the hips. Or, if your legs are a great source of euphoria, find articles of clothing that highlight your legs.

Try on clothes and ask yourself how it feels to wear them. Does your outfit spark joy? Do you like how it fits on your body? Is it comfortable? Do you feel good wearing it?

If you feel nervous leaving the house wearing what you want, you can always start small. Wear an outfit at home to see how it feels, and slowly work up to the outside world. 

Save money on a new wardrobe

Getting a new wardrobe can be very expensive, but there are some simple ways to save.

A clothing exchange is a great way to get new looks and build community. Check your local LGBTQ center to see if it offers a community closet for the gender expansive community.

You can also organize an exchange with friends. That lets everyone get rid of clothing they no longer wear while getting new clothes.

Thrifting is another inexpensive way to explore a variety of styles. It is one of the most eco-friendly shopping method — and you can make fun of old styles of clothing while you shop! Some of the most unique finds come from thrifting.

What is shapewear?

Shapewear is a category of undergarments that helps change the appearance of your body shape. To relieve dysphoria, people looking to feminize their expression can use shaping camisoles and gaffs, and people looking to masculinize their expression can use things like binders, binding tape, and packers.

Shapewear is lifesaving. Trans and non-binary people ages 13 to 24 who have access to gender-affirming shapewear and binders attempt suicide at lower rates than those without access (14% and 26% respectively), according to the Trevor Project.

Safe binding practices

Please be mindful of your body if you use shapewear. Binding helps many people relieve dysphoria, but it can lead to permanent rib, back, muscle and lung damage when done unsafely. 

  • Don’t bind for longer than eight hours at a time. If you’re out all day, take binding breaks when possible.
  • If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort and can’t go without binding, wear an older or looser binder.
  • Never use ace bandages to bind. 
  • Use recommended oil-based solutions to remove KT tape to avoid skin irritation or blistering.
  • Never sleep with your binder on.
  • If possible, use two sports bras instead of a binder.
  • NEVER double bind, even if your binders are loose.
  • In hot weather, wear a half tank instead of the full. 

Save money with binder and shapewear giveaways

Some LGBTQ centers also take binder donations from people who no longer use them and run giveaways. Look into these organizations if you can’t afford binders or other gender-affirming shapewear.

  • Point of Pride offers both binders and tucking gaffs giveaways. 
  • Binder Drive provides binders to Black trans and gender non-conforming folks in the United States.
  • FtM Essentials provides binders for folks 24 and younger who can’t buy binders due to financial burdens.
  • The Binder Project gives away three binders at the beginning of each month.
  • Trans* Lounge has a binder exchange program for its members. Membership is free!

Choosing name(s) and pronoun(s)

If you’re struggling with choosing a new name, you’re not alone.

Choosing a new name can feel like such a permanent task — but you don’t have to use thee name you choose forever. Plenty of people go through multiple name changes.

For me, “Emme” is part of my journey, but not my final destination. Even though I don’t feel fully connected to it, it feels much better than my deadname, and it gives me more time to find a name that clicks. 

Free places to search for names

Some people find names by looking through baby name websites, searching for names based on meanings, and asking friends and family for their input. Others will take their given name and pull pieces from it. Some will even adopt the name of someone they admire. 

While you explore what feels best, you’re allowed to use different names and pronouns with different people. Is there someone you can test out a new name with?

Trans support groups are also a perfect space to try new names and pronouns. Check your local LGBTQ center to see if they have a group, or get plugged into a virtual space.

You’re in the driver’s seat of your life

There is no roadmap to transitioning, because everyone’s relationship with gender is different. Those who respect you will continue through this process with you.

For some gender-expansive people, passing — being assumed to be cisgender — is the goal. For others, it’s not. You have the autonomy to do what you want with your body and decide what being trans means for you.

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