An Entirely Adult Christmas

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Adult Gifts for Christmas

I love Christmas, and loathe it in equal measure simultaneously. I’m one of those guys from a large family, and every year we have those get-togethers where all the expected happens; someone has a blazing row with their partner about their teenager being given a thimble of wine, uncle George has a lengthy discussion with aunt Doris about the destruction of their local pub during the Blitz and whether it happened on a Tuesday or Saturday, and everyone has a very uncomfortable moment when a secret is revealed and you find out that back in 1942 a long passed-on relative was caught in a compromising position with a sailor… all the while I’m thinking up an excuse to get out to have a drink with a friend.

But, there are things I really love about Christmas too, like seeing some of the friends I’ve missed all year through my lack of FaceBook dedication, the look of joy on a persons face when they open that present and find that first edition book you found for them and they’ve wanted since they were a spotty teenager with greasy hair nodding along to Nirvana in your bedroom, and the rowdy parties where there is bound to be a really hot guy just desperate for someone to date for just a couple of weeks so he won’t have to rely on a previous shag buddy on New Year.

I know you might think I must be really good a buying presents for others now I’ve mentioned that first edition book, right? Well, that’s a rare occurrence, and I maybe get that reaction once over the holiday. Normally I end up buying my friends something pretty predictable and boring.

It’s not my fault I cant stand the shopping trips and increasingly buy everything on the internet. I have a phobia of adults dressed as Santa’s helpers, and all that cheesy Christmas music playing in all the shops really could lead to a strangling spree with tinsel being the weapon of choice!

So, this year, I think I have decided that all of my friends are getting adult gifts, toys, from one place. That way I can guarantee to shock everyone, and please them all at the same time. I know that although they might go red and make assertions that they would “never use such a thing”, they’ll be at home that night getting it on with their inanimate object (or, in the case of battery powered devices, very animated!)

I can’t really loose with some adult toys, can I?

For Sally, the almost virginal religious and conservative ex-colleague – a Rampant Rabbit.

For Geoff, the straight gym jock who we all have doubts about – an Aneros with some lube.

For Carl, the party animal who gets far too much sex already (and we’re all secretly jealous of) – some “Delay” cream.

And for Steven, the handsome college boy just exploring his gay side – a years supply of assorted flavored condoms.

Bring on Christmas, and may it be extremely merry for all! ;)

A Rebirth Of The Rights Movement In America?

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Susan Sarandon At Occupy Wall Street

Susan Sarandon At Occupy Wall Street

If you blinked, you might have missed it on your nightly news, but that’s probably because all major news broadcasters are suspiciously quiet about it.

There’s something going on in Wall Street, and this time it isn’t another too-big-to-fail being given your tax money, or the markets on a slump because of the likelihood of Greece collapsing.

Firstly, I’ll give you a little background info…

On the 17th September, Anonymous (the infamous Internet group responsible for publicly trolling Scientology, taking down several sites in defense of Wikileaks and defacing all of the Syrian government websites – among other things) planned to invade wall street and start their own popular uprising against corporate greed and influence on government. They were ambitions, stating 20k people might be there. Of course, these things don’t quite start like that. So instead there was a gathering of maybe 50 people. This soon turned into a couple of thousand when they marched on Wall Street itself from their base at Liberty Plaza.

I picked up the story on sept 24th when a friend – knowing how I love a good cause to get behind – sent me a link to a video of a group of female protesters being sprayed with MACE at point-blank range by LAPD Officer Tony Bologne (yes, that is his real name!)

Suddenly, word was spreading. Their peaceful protest and uneventful marches were suddenly out there saturating the Internet. The Information Superhighway was seething with anger at the blatant abuse of freedom and rights, resulting in many thousands more joining the cause.

The numbers of those camped out in Liberty Plaza has grown, with supplies and donations from people all around the world who want to see the corporate interests pushed out of government. Similar protests are now being organized for cities all across America, and the world.

Why is this important to us, the gay community?

Apart from us being a part of the wider community that all of this affects, the Occupy Wall Street protesters have gone to great lengths to be inclusive of the LGBT community, often bringing it up in discussion in their videos and live broadcasts, inviting people to come and take part, no matter what your race, religion, sexual orientation or political leaning. On Tuesday the 27th, Michael Moore appeared to show his support and speak to the protesters. I know, sometimes he can be a right pain in the butt, right? But he again brought up the fact that America was changing, and that now over 50% of Americans believe that gay marriage should be legal and recognized. This brought cheers from the crowd around him.

Ultimately, this is everyones fight. This isn’t about whether you support Obama or not. This isn’t about whether you believe in capitalism or not. It’s about whether you are happy to sit back and watch as the corporations control your government. It’s about stopping the 1% who control 90% of the wealth. It’s about making it clear to your government that your rights matter, and that corporations do not have the right to be your rulers by paying off your elected.

Some of us remember the struggle of the LGBT community, and without those brave people we would not have the freedom we now have. Plenty of us are educated enough to know of the struggles other communities have faced to rectify society.

All of those events involved just a section of society, this fight involves all of us.

Legal Protections Partners Need

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While we are all hurraying recent improvements in terms of gay marriage and domestic partnerships, for the majority of us, unfortunately, it still takes documentation to legally protect ourselves and our partners and make certain that inheritance, health care and other necessities are handled. What do you need to do to make sure that all of your financial and personal affairs are in order, and that should something happen your partner can act in your best interests?  Fortunately, especially if you do not have children or especially complex financial affairs you can handle the majority of this paperwork at a limited cost.

First, you will need a durable power of attorney. This form allows your significant other to pay bills, deposit checks, conduct banking, pay taxes, sell stocks and handle other financial matters as needed. A durable power of attorney is relevant and legally binding even if you are no longer competent to handle your own affairs. The basic form may be downloaded online and notarized, prepared by an attorney, or found in the forms available in most legal software programs.

Next, you should set up a health care proxy. A health care proxy will allow your partner to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. Again, this form may be downloaded and notarized, prepared by an attorney or handled via simple easy to use software. You can also include special instructions, such as those that would typically be included in a living will, in the health care proxy form. Ehow offers instructions for drafting a health care proxy. A separate living will may also be a good idea, particularly if you have strong feelings about end of life care.

Finally, you need to be certain that your will is in order to provide your significant other with rights to a shared home, your financial assets and provide for guardianship of children if need be. Avoid leaving these decisions to the courts.

You might also consider a product designed for cohabiting couples, like Nolo’s legal guide to living together.  Rainbowpridelegal.com offers a legal paperwork package specifically designed for LGBTQ couples.

If you are single, you may want to consider who will provide for your affairs if you are unable to and make choices appropriate to your life. A good friend, a parent, or a sibling might all be appropriate in terms of choosing a health care proxy and power of attorney.

LGBT Scholarships

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Summer is on its way out the door once again and its time to look into Fall and Spring semester scholarships for gay and lesbian college students.

Financing college is a challenge for most students. LGBTQ students may have special financing needs, particularly if coming out has caused a break with family. All college students should start their financial aid application process with the Federal Application for Student Aid or FAFSA. This application determines your eligibility for federal loans, grants and other aid. Lesbian and gay students are eligible for some specific scholarships. If your college or university has a gay and lesbian student center, they may be aware of other local scholarships appropriate for gay students. These organizations and your school’s financial aid office may also be able to help you advocate if parents are not cooperating with FAFSA applications or other issues.

The Point Foundation is one excellent possibility for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students. The Point Foundation is the National LGBT Scholarship Fund and manages a number of different scholarships. Options are available for both graduate and undergraduate students and application details may be found at http://www.pointfoundation.org/index.html. Preference is granted to students without family support due to their sexuality or gender. The League Foundation at AT&T offers several $1500 and $2500 scholarships to LGBT high school seniors who have excelled academically. College acceptance is required, as is community service in order to qualify for these scholarship options. Specialty scholarships for specific majors and fields are also available from some organizations. Some colleges, universities and graduate programs offer their own scholarships directed at gay, lesbian and transgender students. With a lower overall pool of applicants, you may find that these are quite accessible.

If you expect to be applying for scholarships, you should make sure that you have completed the basic requirements of many programs. Scholarships for gay and lesbian students do expect that you will be open about your sexuality, having come out to family and friends. The majority of scholarships expect good grades and a good community service background, whether in your school or your community. Scholarships specifically intended for gay students may expect that service to have been done within the LGBT community, like the Live Out Loud program. Do keep in mind that there are many scholarship options that have nothing at all to do with your sexuality and gender, and look for these at your university, local area and online.


For a thorough listing of possible scholarships, see http://www.washburn.edu/sobu/broach/glbt-scholar.html. This listing includes both scholarships for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, as well as scholarships for those studying issues relevant to the gay community. Some scholarships may also be open to gay and lesbian allies who have done valuable and relevant community service.

Life Insurance Options for LGBT

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Life insurance is especially important for gay and lesbian families, couples and individuals. Without federal marriage rights, social security cannot be paid to your partner or any children you are not legally connected to either by blood or adoption. Making sure you have adequate life insurance protection can make loss easier and provide valuable financial support for those you have left behind. How much life insurance you require may vary depending upon your lifestyle. If you are single, enough to cover your debts and pay for your funeral may be adequate. Couples may want to allow enough to provide the partner with financial stability for a period of time to allow for grieving and cover debts including a mortgage. Families with children should consider much larger policies, possibly enough to allow a parent to stay at home and cover educational and day care expenses.


Life insurance is typically quite non-discriminatory, with a few exceptions. No life insurance company asks about sexual orientation as a part of the application process, but they may ask about potential HIV risk, STDs and other health issues that can relate to everyone. That said, marital status can impact your overall risk factors and some insurers will treat partnered gay individuals as single. Ask your insurance agent about the specifics of their policies and the impact on the benefits and cost in your personal situation, as each company has its own policies. In states with gay marriage or civil unions, this may be less of an issue. You can assign anyone you like as your insurance beneficiary. Keep in mind that employer provided coverage may default to next of kin, and you might need to specify your partner as the recipient. Life insurance, outside of small, employer benefit programs, does typically require a physical examination, including blood testing. Certain medical conditions can make it more costly or difficult to qualify, and HIV positive status will typically lead to an immediate denial of coverage.

There are two specific types of life insurance. The first is universal life. This combines both a death benefit and a savings and investment account. The cash value may be withdrawn if desired. Monthly premiums will be the same throughout life; however, a higher percentage of the premium will go into savings while young than when older.  Term life is more common today, and is what we typically refer to when we talk about life insurance.  Premiums are lower when young and higher as age and risk of death increases. Cash value plans do offer some tax advantages over term life; but term life plans are ideal for most people.

Blending Finances with a Partner

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The process of blending finances with your significant other is a challenging one, and different couples make different choices in this situation. Whether you have married or are moving in together, some amount of joint financial affairs may make life easier and help to cement your relationship. The choices you make may depend on whether you come into the relationship with established incomes and investments, whether one or both of you have children, and your own financial styles. In any case, beginning your shared financial future with a willingness to communicate openly about money is critical.

One option that some couples choose is to simply retain their own finances. They split expenses in a way that is even and fair, share the costs of entertainment, food, and dining out, and retain two checking accounts, separate savings and investments. They may or may not have a joint account to cover household expenses and split those accordingly. This option can make managing vacations, home purchases, and major costs of that sort more challenging, but also protects each partner’s financial independence. This option is less effective if there is a significant financial disparity between partners, if one becomes unemployed, or if a partner stays home to raise children. This choice may be wise if the two of you find communicating about money matters especially challenging.

A middle of the road option allows both couples to contribute to joint savings, investments and checking accounts. Financial decisions are made jointly; however, both partners retain their own individual checking and credit accounts and free access to their own funds. This option does require more willingness to discuss money regularly and analyze how money is being used, amounts being contributed, etc. Should one partner be unemployed or there be a substantial financial disparity, this may require additional discussion to keep financial equality within the relationship.

Finally, the couple may choose to simply combine their financial affairs, agree upon a budget and maintain entirely joint accounts. This option can be more challenging if the relationship fails, since both partners’ money is entangled in joint financial affairs. It is, however, a more equitable choice if one partner is staying at home with children. Do be sure that you have good communication over money if sharing finances this fully. You may need to discuss spending on a regular basis and be certain to have a budget and stick to that budget.

Whichever financial choice you make as you blend households, keep in mind that money is a problem for many couples. If you find yourselves struggling with communication issues related to money early on, consider meeting with a relationship counselor or financial advisor to help you plan your financial future.

Money Management for GLBT

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While money management is not a specifically queer issue, there are some special concerns that can impact GLBTQ individuals. These can range from poor spending and saving habits to issues connected with taxation, retirement savings, and social security. Moreover, much of the financial advice available online and in print is geared toward couples with the protections of marriage as opposed to a community without those financial benefits. You may also find that you need specialty investment advice when planning for retirement.

Many of the financial problems in the queer community are much like those elsewhere. Overspending and lack of savings are both relevant issues within the community as a whole. Preventing overspending is easier than you might think. In the simplest, terms spend less than you make. Making a budget with categories for your housing costs, transportation, food and entertainment will help you avoid falling into an overspending trap. Entertainment can be a big expense, particularly if you are still single. Make sure that you budget for meals out, drinks at the bar and other costs in order to keep your budget in check. Be especially careful with credit cards. You should also set reasonable savings goals and take advantage of any retirement savings plans your employer may offer. An emergency savings account is also a smart financial move for anyone, and should, ideally, be enough for you to live on for several months.

One of the biggest issues for many GLBT individuals is handling financial issues within a relationship. Unfortunately, same-sex couples often bear higher financial burdens than heterosexual couples. You may not be able to take advantage of a partner’s employer provided health insurance, will pay higher taxes, and have to be certain that wills and powers of attorney are in order.

Some couples choose to maintain individual finances; however, a long term relationship typically comes with some joint responsibilities. Joint checking accounts and shared investment accounts are both options when managing your money. Shared property ownership is legally viable and easier than you might think. Consider making sure that all real property, including your home and vehicles is in both your names.

You will need to have your will and other legal paperwork in order. Also, do keep in mind that your partner and even your children depending upon legalities may not have survivors’ rights to your social security. Additional life insurance may be a smart financial move to protect your family. Check with local queer support resources for a recommendation for a financial advisor or attorney experienced in helping couples with retirement and estate planning if needed.

Choosing the Best Gay Advocacy Credit Card

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Are you active in the gay community? Are you passionate about gay rights? If so, you might want to choose your credit card according to your belief in advocacy. Both the Rainbow card and the Human Rights Campaign card benefit the gay community through the respective associations. This is a great way to show your support each time you make a purchase, while earning a few rewards along with your good deeds.

The Rainbow Card

The Rainbow card is a Visa credit card issued from Bank of America. It carries no annual fee and a six-month introductory APR of 0%. After that, the interest rates go up to a variable 11.99% – 23.99%, depending on your credit rating and your history with Bank of America. The account also comes with security fraud protection and access to BoA’s MyConcierge service.

One of the great things about the Rainbow Card is that cardholders get one point for every dollar spent. You can later redeem points for cash back, gift certificates and airline tickets, starting at a total of 5,000 points ($25 cash). Points expire in five years, however, and you have to use your card quite often in order to reap any rewards.

The Rainbow Card offers a 20-day grace period on new purchases, but interest rates are calculated based on the average daily balance including new transactions. If you make purchases on the card and carry a balance over into the next month, you no longer have access to that same grace period.

Usage of the Rainbow Card benefit the Rainbow Endowment, which is a funding institution that works with gay advocacy groups. Affiliated organizations include The AIDS Information Network, Gay and Lesbian Advocates, the National Youth Advocacy Coalition and Women’s Educational Media.

The HRC Card

The HRC Card is affiliated with the Human Rights Campaign, which is an advocacy group fighting for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgenders equality (hrc.org). They work to end prejudice, hate crimes, workplace discrimination and a host of other issues that plague the gay community at large.

Washington Mutual issues the HRC Card, which carries the Visa logo, and it carries many of the same benefits as the Rainbow Card. It has a 0% introductory APR, with a variable interest rate thereafter. There is no annual fee, and you also earn points with this card. It carries a high 23.99% cash advance APR, but the grace period is longer at twenty-five days.

Which One Gives More?

Obviously, you’ll want to support the gay community in the best way you know how, which means determining which card, between the Rainbow Card and the HRC card, gives more to the groups they represent.

According to RainbowCard.com, Bank of America gives ten cents of every transaction to the Rainbow Endowment, which is considerable. Of course, you don’t want to confuse this generous gift; it isn’t ten cents for every dollar, but ten cents for every transaction. A purchase of $500 will give the same to the Rainbow Endowment as a purchase of $50.

Unfortunately, the HRC Card Web site (providiancard.com) does not disclose the amount of money donated per transaction. They iterate that  a “portion” of the funds used on each card benefits the Human Rights Campaign, but no specific numbers are given. When I called Washington Mutual, I was told that the amount donated depended on the transaction and was left to WaMu’s (now Chase Bank) sole discretion.

Furthermore, the Rainbow Card gives updates on the amount donated from your card on each credit card statement, which is not the case for the HRC Card. This might have a bearing on your decision if you want to keep track of your good deeds.

Civil Unions and Couples Credit

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Civil unions, which have been adopted mainly for same-sex couples, are still in their infancy in the United States. There is plenty of controversy surrounding this concept, particularly from the conservative point of view, and only four U.S. states currently recognize them (VT, NH, NJ, CN). Political issues aside, however, there are a few implications of a civil union that many people simply don’t consider.When two people get married, the federal (and consequently the state) government recognizes their credit profiles as joined. The two individuals might have radically different credit scores, but they share the same debt, and one partner’s mistakes might negatively affect the couple for loans and lines of credit. With civil unions, however, credit issues become muddled because the federal government does not recognize the union as legal.

In 1996, the federal government passed the Defense of Marriage Act, which states that even though individual states can adopt Civil Union laws, other states are not obligated to recognize them and they are not legally entitled to the same rights as married couples. For example, if you enter into a civil union in Vermont, which began allowing them in 2000, you might find that your situation changes if you move to Texas or Arkansas.

This obviously impacts couples credit because your credit profiles are not legally joined. You might have a more difficult time applying jointly for a loan or a credit card. Legally, civil unions are not a means of establishing kinship, which means that you aren’t technically “related” to the person with whom you establish the union.

It is important to remember that no two people—whether married or joined by a civil union—share credit scores or profiles together. However, it can be difficult to encourage financial institutions to recognize a partnership when applying for loans or lines of credit. They might weigh a poor credit score more heavily than they would with a married couple, and there is always the possibility of encountering personal bias among lenders.

The good news, however, is that you shouldn’t have a problem in states where civil unions and registered partnerships are covered under the law. In Connecticut, for example, couples bound by civil unions are granted every right and freedom of married couples except for the title of marriage. They have housing rights and kinship rights and should not have a problem with sharing finances.

If you are a member of a civil union, the best thing you can do is be open about your situation. When you talk to lenders and bankers, let them know that you are a registered couple up front so that there are no problems with miscommunication. If you decide to apply for a personal loan or auto loan jointly, indicate as much before you begin the paperwork. This will make the entire process much easier.

If you do encounter problems, be adamant about the observations of your rights. Lenders are not legally permitted to discriminate based on sexual orientation. However, if you feel that you are being judged based on you and your partner’s relationship, it might be better to find a different financial institution at which to conduct your business. Financial matters are much easier to deal with when added stress doesn’t accumulate.

You will also find that, with civil unions, separating from your spouse might not be as easy when it comes to financial matters. Legally speaking, there are no rules or guidelines to dividing assets when the members of a civil union separate, which means that all of those issues must be worked out between the two individuals. It is always a good idea to discuss this matter before committing, then write down your intentions if you and your partner ever decide to call it quits.

Setting A Budget for a Gay Household

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Gays and Lesbians have the assumption that they have more discretionary income than many straight families.  Marketers tend to send a lot of ads our way that involve lots of spending on things we really do not need.  This is why we need to look into setting a budget and watching things we spend money on for our family at home or just for ourselves.

Setting a household budget for a gay family is all about setting financial priorities and making sound decisions about spending.  If you are trying to save for a vacation or retirement, or just looking for a way to free up more cash, setting a budget is the way to do it.

To set a budget for your household, the first to do is to calculate total monthly income.  When you think about income, only consider regular, reliable sources of income such as your job, child support, or alimony.  Since you can’t be certain of variable sources of income from one month to the next, it is best not to include them.

Next, determine the total amount of monthly expenses.  When you set a budget for your household, you must take into account the financial needs of each household member.  Consider the expenses that are necessary to for survival like rent, utilities, transportation, and food as well as fees for the children’s school and extra-curricular activities.  Write down each of these expenses and the associated monthly cost.  Then total them up.

Subtract the total household expenses from the total income to determine how much money will be left over after all the bills have been paid.  If the result is a positive number, that’s good.  You have enough room to save money or take a vacation.  If your result was a negative number, don’t fret, there may be room for adjustment.

Take a look at your itemized list of expenses and decide if each item is a required or optional expense.  For each of the items you listed, ask yourself, “What will happen if this expense is not paid?”  Many of the items will have an obvious answer.  If you don’t pay your rent or mortgage, you will likely be evicted or foreclosed.  If you don’t pay your utility bill, the service will be disconnected.  Denote all your required expenses.

Your list of expenses might include some luxuries that are disguised as a necessary expense.  Do you have cable television?  This is an optional expense that can be eliminated free up cash in your budget.  Cutting off your cable television can save hundreds of dollars a year.  You can make tradeoffs so that you don’t completely cut out home entertainment.  For example, if you cancel your cable television, you can sign up for an online movie rental service.  You’d be surprised at all the little ways you can free up more cash in your budget through a close examination of your spending.

Do you really need that Gucci Handbag?
Do you really need to eat out every night?
Do you really need an iPhone that costs $600 when you can get a touch screen Palm Treo for $199?
Probably Not.

Another thing to look at is how much you are spending on your credit card payments.  You may look into consolidating all of your bills into one which in some cases decreases your interest.

Learn ways to organize and spend your money more wisely.  This will make your money go further and make the gay household much happier in the long run.

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