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Pride & Prejudice - Financial inclusion in the LGBT+ community

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Pride & Prejudice - Financial inclusion in the LGBT+ community

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Remember Raj and Simran in DDLJ?

Pretty girl, handsome guy, both fall in love, face a minor inconvenience (*cue all Shah Rukh fans gasp) and jump on a train to live happily ever after. 

And happily ever after it may as well have been. 

Sure, they might have realised 2 months later that they barely had 3 conversations and 4 dances together, but let’s not get cynical. Let’s delve into this hypothetical future for a moment. 

Raj and Simran could have easily landed at the marriage bureau the next day to marry legally without 10 eyeballs on them. They could have opened a joint bank account just as easily, no questions asked. They could have gotten full health insurance, bought a house together, and even retired comfortably, narrating the story of how they met to their several grandchildren. 

But you know what makes all these seemingly routine things simple for them? It’s the privilege of being two heterosexual people. 

Let’s flip the table now. What if the protagonists that jumped on the train were members of the LGBT+ community? 

Well, life after getting off the train wouldn’t be this easy for them. 

The queer case of piling debt 

The pride movement officially started as early as 1969, and there have been many laws passed since then to support the community. However, the financial struggle of being an openly queer individual or couple still persists - and it starts right from college.

According to several studies, people from the LGBT+ community hold more student debt than their cisgender/heterosexual peers. While this might be due to various factors like parents being unwilling to support their education, it is the beginning of a domino effect that affects their entire life. 

By the time they are out of college, they are so crippled by debt that affording simple things like buying a house or a car or even a traditional marriage becomes difficult. This cycle is further perpetuated by the unwillingness of various institutions across industries to be inclusive. 

All this even before we add stigma, prejudice, and archaic laws into the mix.

Financial exclusion across industries

Healthcare and insurance - There is a long history of LGBT+ abuse when it comes to healthcare. The fact that American Psychiatric Association stopped classifying it as an illness as recently as 1987 is evidence enough. 

Even today, many countries do not provide health insurance covering the cost of gender reassignment procedures. These often cost tens of thousands of dollars and can often exceed $100,000. 

What’s more appalling is, according to a study,  27% of the people from the community who sought medical help with their own money were also denied medical attention. 

Home loans - A 2019 study by Hua Sun and Lei Gao of Iowa State University found that from 1990 to 2015, same-sex couples were 73% more likely to be turned down for a mortgage than similarly qualified different-sex couples.

Now, this discrimination is not because the loan repaying ability of couples from the community is inferior in any way - or any other logical reason. This is the result of an inherent mortgage lending bias that institutions are conditioned to harbour. 

Joint bank accounts - Although there is no law that disallows allows same-sex couples from opening a joint bank account, there is only one bank in India that actually permits it. Not getting the convenient option to open a joint account reduces the ease of access. What should have been an easy process is riddled with anxiety-inducing back-and-forth to the bank. 

There have been several instances of banks demanding couples from the community to go above and beyond to get a joint account. This includes providing an affidavit of their relationship, an official undertaking, a letter signed by their company, a unicorn hair, etc, etc,  just to be rejected after. 

Retirement - When you spend the better part of your youth paying off your student debt, another part trying to fight against the system, and what’s left trying to lead a normal life, it’s not surprising that you’re not able to save up for your retirement. 

Additionally, the retirement needs of the people from the community may require them to shift to inclusive countries where the cost of living is on the higher end. 

Doing our bit

In the half-century that the pride movement has been going on, and the centuries of prejudice it aims to tackle, changes in the law protecting their rights have come a long way.  But what has been equally important in helping the community has been taking initiatives to tackle societal prejudices that exist despite the laws.

Since financial institutions are extensions of society, discrimination exists there as well. As written above, prejudices in the banking industry persist despite laws protecting LGBT+ banking rights. 

We at Fi decided to take an initiative here - with the ally annexure. It is our way of helping banks understand how they can be better allies, in a language they understand - as an annexure.

It’s a guide written in partnership with Pride Circle, a diversity and inclusion organisation, that will help banks support their queer customers better. 

The hope is that it will aid in tackling issues of misgendering and sensitivity to ensure that the overall banking experience is transformed into a safe and inclusive one. 

It’s our attempt at getting one step closer to ensuring a happily ever after to everyone who jumps on the hypothetical train. Hopefully after having more than 3 conversations and 4 dances together.

Time to switch to Fi. Smart banking and only that.
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