Conference on Homo/Economics

Last May, CLAGS sponsored the f irst conference ever held on the economy of the lesbian and gay community. Each panel reflected a different perspective on the community’s economic l ife. New York Assemblywoman, Deborah Gl ick, welcomed the audience with appreciative remarks on the importance of CLAGS’s work. The fi rst panel, “Sexuality, Identity, and Economics,” consisted of economists discussing the role of economic factors, such as the sexual division of labor and capitalist markets in the development of sexual identities. Lee Badgett, School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, opened the conference with an overview of the issues and challenges of the new f ield of homo-economic ana lysis. She is a leader in developing the economic analysis of lesbian and gay issues, such as the impact of domestic partnersh ip policies. The other speakers, feminist economist Ju lie Matthai, mathematica l economist Richard Cornwall, and labor economist Michael Piore, are members of a smal l group of economists who are trying to develop theory that does not exclusively reflect heterosexual conceptions of families, community, or economic decision-making. The second panel, “The Market and the Future of Community,” focused primari ly on the development of the gay and lesbian market and its impl ications for the community. Entrepreneur Sean Strub spoke about the growth of a gay and lesbian market and its positive consequences for pol it ical organizing and for providing a financ ial foundat ion for the community. Amy Gluckman and Betsy Reed, writers for Dollars and Sense magazine, addressed the problems raised by the rel igious right’s extensive use of the gay marketing research data. In Colorado and other states, the rel igious right has used that marketing information to argue that gay men and lesbians are affluent and well-ed ucated and therefore do not •need any legal protections. Fundraising consultant Bruce Kiernan raised another topic that was heated ly discussed: the implications of the market’s growth for fundraising for not-for-profit community organizat ions. The third panel, “Homo/Economics Welfare,” brought together community activists to discuss how the economic welfare of lesbians and gay men are affected by the development of a gay market. Martin Manalansan of Gay Men’s Health Crisis discussed the economic effects on people with AIDS. Marj Plumb of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force compared various health care reform packages. James Woods, author of The Corporate Closet, examined the very different problems experienced by lesbians and gay men in the corporate world. Diane Bratcher of The Wall Street Project spoke about organizing investors to increase corporate protections and benefits for gay men and lesbians. Homo/Economics was a landmark event, and several publ ishers have already expressed interest in publ ishing a book based on the conference proceed ings. CLAGS is grateful to Loring McAlpin for helping to fund this event.