Buy Nothing Day: Spend a Day without Spending

It’s that special day of the year – the day after Thanksgiving! Some call it Black Friday. Others call it Buy Nothing Day:
Though rushing to the mall or local CrapMart the day after Thanksgiving has become trad for millions of Americans, many Americans spend Black Friday boycotting shopping altogether in protest. Buy Nothing Day — promoted since the early 1990s by the zany culture jammers at Adbusters — has become a holiday for anti-consumerist folk who enjoy taking a stand against all the shopping and spending that inevitably produces lots of debt, trash and disappointment (that American Apparel hoodie didn’t really fix the interminable gnawing feeling in your soul, now did it?)
More info can be found at the Adbusters web site:
Now in its 17th year, Buy Nothing Day is celebrated every November by environmentalists, social activists and concerned citizens in over 65 countries around the world. Over the years, Buy Nothing Day (followed by Buy Nothing Christmas) has exploded into a global movement, inspiring the world’s citizens to live more simply and buy a whole lot less.

Designed to coincide with Black Friday… the festival takes many shapes, from relaxed family outings, to free, non-commercial street parties, to politically charged public protests, credit-card cut-ups and pranks and shenanigans of all kinds. Anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending.
I can’t think of a better way to confront the economic meltdown head-on – buy nothing! Today. And tomorrow we’ll try to buy less than we did yesterday.

I will be buying nothing today. Will you? Feel free to comment over at Queercents.

Image credit:

Happy Recession: Layoffs in the blogosphere

Because your Tumblr and Tweets, while clever, will not pay your bills.” – the folks at, creators of TypePad.

Big blogs, little blogs, straight blogs, gay blogs… apparently, the economy has taken its toll on the viability of online journalism. Thankfully, we write about money here at Queercents. Traffic is up. I wonder why.

But traffic alone isn’t an indication of a healthy business. Believe you me. As example, take The New York Times… Just this week, I read the news that one of my favorite bloggers, Marci Alboher, keeper of its Shifting Careers column at was laid off from her non-job:

Earlier this month I learned that The Times had decided to discontinue this blog. Suddenly, so many of the things I report and write about have been thrown right onto my own doorstep.

…the decision was made in response to the economic realities of the media industry, which is a polite way of saying that newspapers are in difficult financial shape.
I count Marci as a professional friend; inviting me to guest post, not once, but twice, and the only time my mother gave me an attagirl for my writing efforts. I’m sure it had more to do with seeing The New York Times logo two inches above my head than the quality of my guest posts… mom remains a hard sell with my queer content at Queercents. So thanks, Marci!

But admiration doesn’t pay the bills as Marci recently learned. And damn, that seems unfair.

Another site hit hard last week was From the editor, Grace Moon:

According to the LGBT News site the, “word came down Friday afternoon that will be shutting off all content effective immediately. Editor Grace Moon notified the staff of contributors and bloggers via e-mail on Friday afternoon. Moon said in the e-mail that the entire staff had been let go and that Friday would be her last day.”

You gotta love it when personal messages become public. Yesterday, I did indeed send out a personal email to all of the contributors of OurChart to let them know of the abrupt termination of my employment and their contributions to OC.

Almost a year ago I was hired by OurChart to be its managing editor. At the time the site, which had begun as a social networking space, was moving towards creating a more robust editorial component. I had previously worked for six years in the trenches of print, creating and managing Velvetpark Magazine. Moving from print to digital was totally illuminating. I realized that online content is actually a cacophony of live conversations that echo across the interwebs like yodelers on the Alps.
Her farewell continues on: catch it at VelvetPark or Bilerico where it seems to be the big news in queer media.

Aside from some of our favorite online personalities being forced to shift to other gigs, the real story continues to be the economy. And writers are feeling the pinch. Perhaps, it’s a good time to pick up a copy of My So-Called Freelance Life by Michelle Goodman or take SixApart up on its TypePad Journalist Bailout Program:

Hello, recently-laid-off or fearful-of-layoffs journalist! We’re Six Apart (you know us as the nice folks who make Movable Type or TypePad, which maybe you used for blogging at your old newspaper or magazine) and we want to help you.
Click over quickly, since their offer will end long before the recession. Now back to the business of Queercents. In an email exchange with the Marci mentioned above, I was bemoaning these challenging times and she replied:
“I see the quandary with Queercents. Figuring out a sustainable revenue model for these content vehicles is quite the conundrum.”
I love any writer that can pack sentences with words like quandary and conundrum. It’s just a bummer that Queercents is smack dab in the middle of it. So while I’m not announcing any layoffs there – after all, we’re all thankless volunteers – please take this time to stop by Queercents and give your favorite contributor an attaboy or attagirl or attaqueer as we prepare for our short Thanksgiving break. They all love comments. Yours truly, included.

Happy Recession. We’re all in this together!

Photo credit: stock.xchng.

Ten Money Questions for Peterson Toscano

Ex-gay survivor and queer quirky Quaker, Peterson Toscano is a theatrical performance activist. His one-person show about how he tried to de-gay himself for a number of years is now available on DVD.

As some of you might know, therapy and residential treatment programs cost money… and Peterson spent a lot of coin before moving beyond the ex-gay movement. That being said, he’s paid a price for his activism too.

Mosey on over to Queercents to read more or catch other interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.

Review: How to Profit from the Coming Rapture

The Rapture is coming, the Rapture is coming! Oy!

This Christmas, I’ve found the perfect book for my family’s white elephant gift exchange. It’s called: How to Profit from the Coming Rapture… a snarky, how-to manual about where and when to invest when the world comes to an end. Of course, I’m the only one in my Christ-like clan that will need this advice since the gays are guaranteed (along with the Jews!) to be left behind.

Speaking of Jews, Ellis Weiner and Barbara Davilman, authors of the bestselling Yiddish with Dick and Jane, put this little investment gem together (may I call it a bible?). If you grew up in a church that thrived on “end times” storytelling, now is the time to finally profit from all those Sunday night altar calls. If you need me to explain what an “altar call” is, then you might not fully appreciate this book’s humor. And it is classified as humor… at least according to the Library of Congress Cataloging system. My family is not laughing, but they are praying for me. Why?

Because the Rapture is indeed coming! And this means only one thing to me: investment opportunities! Weiner and Davilman are here to teach us:

… how to exploit the inevitable demise of the world in order to make a tidy profit. Sure, the rivers and seas will run with blood, locusts will swarm, mountains will move all over the place, and famine will strike. But for the five billion of us left behind, the post-Rapture world will be a time of even more unique investment opportunities.
And teach they do. But first, take the test to find out if you’re ready for the Rapture? It’s a short questionnaire that quickly weeds out the Armageddon lightweights: “I’m thinking of a number between 665 and 667. What is it?”

But don’t take my word for it. I leave you with a better review of the book than I could possibly write:

A hilarious, light read marked with a snarky matter-of-fact attitude, “How to Profit from the Coming Rapture” dances carefree on the line of offensive. Throughout, our doomsday experts are either feigning seriousness and dread over what the book of Revelations foretells by remarking unabashedly how distressing, terrible, etc. it will be, or reminding us that, regardless of how ridiculous the prophecies (horses with lions’ heads and snakes’ tales, stars made of wormwood falling to the planet and one third of vaguely everything being destroyed) may sound, they must be true because they’re all actually in the Bible — and cited. So it’s not really blasphemous, just caustically mocking.
Feel free to laugh all the way to the bank. Of course, you’ll need the Mark of the Beast to open an account. But don’t fret; the book has all these important steps covered. Go forth and profit!

Giveaway Alert: I have two copies to giveaway. Head over to Queercents and tell me why you’re going to be Left Behind and I’ll select the best two comments and mail out the book. By the way, you get bonus points for naming the Anti-Christ. Hint: Madonna is not the Anti-Christ, at least not over there at that fine blog!

Image credit: How to Profit from the Coming Rapture.

When celebrities fly coach (or at least on a commercial airline).

“Come fly the Friendly Skies.” – United Airlines commercial, circa 1987

Diddy isn’t the only celebrity flying commercial these days. In the past 2 months, I’ve seen Eva Mendes, Ron Howard, Paula Abdul and Carson Kressley – either inflight or at the airport.

I think Brian Grazer was traveling with Ron Howard, but I couldn’t tell for sure. It’s a big no-no to gawk in the Admirals Club VIP lounge; but apparently he was enjoying the complimentary salad bar while bypassing me and that lovely platter of warm goat cheese crostini.

Jeanine was with me on that trip. We were returning from vacation (and my year-end mileage run) and I remember thinking, wow; times must be tough. While some might argue that Ron Howard isn’t exactly A-List, he is at least a thousand times richer than Carson Kressley (sorry, Carson!) and yet, here he was flying with the masses out of JFK. It reminds me of the time that Glenn Close had a middle seat on JetBlue!

Are all these celebs feeling the economic crunch just like the rest of us? The LA Times thinks so:

Stars really are just like us. Celebrities and other VIP types increasingly are bypassing snazzy fuel-guzzling private jets for something less glamorous, maybe even flying — can you believe it? — coach.

Sean “Diddy” Combs recently made a splash on the Internet when he waved his coach-class ticket for a video camera and greeted surprised fellow travelers on an American Airlines flight, complaining that lofty fuel costs had grounded his private jet. Combs’ publicists later said that the video was a spoof to dramatize high oil prices and that, since Combs was only a part owner, the jet was never actually grounded.

For the rest of us, the high cost of flying has wiped the smile off the friendly skies, propelling a wholesale lowering of expectations among travelers…

Even though oil is well off its record highs, bringing the U.S. average gas price for self-serve regular to about $3.05 a gallon, the average price of the high-octane fuels used by small aircraft is about $5.35 a gallon but can cost nearly $9 at some airports, according to, which provides data to help pilots plan flights.
It continues on, so click over to learn why Michelle Williams (the former Destiny’s Child member) isn’t ashamed to be flying with the people these days. Of course, they’re not all flying coach.

Eva Mendes was snuggled into a business class window seat; adequately buffered by her entourage on a direct flight from JFK to Rome until she signed autographs 30 minutes before landing. Until then, I didn’t even realize it was her…although I remember making a note to self when the skinny girl declined the warm mixed nuts. Size zeros always pass on the nuts.

I’ve been traveling for work for over a decade and I’ve seen more celebs in the last few months than in all my-road-warrior-years combined. What do you think? Is it really a sign of the times or just chance?
Feel free to comment over at Queercents.

Photo credit: stock.xchng.

Ten Money Questions for Nina Poon

Over the last 25 years, Kenneth Cole and his advertisements have been topical and relevant to our ever-changing world. His recent campaign continues to raise social awareness and the exquisite Nina Poon is front and center when it comes to this non-uniform thinking. As a transgender model, makeup artist and illustrator, she has a few things to say about money and a-wear-ness!

Mosey on over to Queercents to read more or catch other interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.

Frequent Fliers: The Year End Mileage Run

“The glamour of the frequent-flier award has faded.” – Anonymous

Last year, I was 2,602 miles shy of Executive Platinum status on American Airlines so I did a mileage run. What’s a mileage run? Travel novice, listen up! A mileage run, as articulated by Wikipedia, is:
A paid airline trip designed solely for gaining maximum frequent flyer miles and/or points for no other reason than to gain the miles and/or points… Another common reason to take a mileage run is to (re-)qualify for an elite level. Suppose that in a particular frequent flyer program, 70,000 yearly miles are required for Platinum status. If a person calculates that his or her business travel will net them only 65,000 miles, they might be tempted to take a mileage run in order to cover the difference and re-qualify for elite status. Indeed, such requalification may very well net the person much more frequent flyer miles the following year.
Why does elite status matter? Executive Platinum is the Holy Grail for frequent flyers and provides perks and benefits that a true road-warrior can appreciate. For me personally, it was all about the eight (yes 8!) System-Wide Upgrades (VIP Upgrades) that can be used to move me from coach to business class on international flights. I have plenty of 500-mile upgrades in my account (31 to be precise), but these are valid on domestic flights only and I rarely get to use them.

What did my mileage run cost me last year?
$850 – and if you divide $850 by 14 months (I was guaranteed Executive Platinum status through the end of Feb 2009), this comes to $60.71 per month. Was it worth it? You betcha! I was able to use 7 of the 8 VIP Upgrades and believe you me… there is nothing like flying business class to Europe or Asia.

Would I do it again?
Um, I just did! This year I figured out in October (based on the rest of my work travel) that I was going to be shy about 5,000 miles in hitting elite status. So I immediately canceled an Award ticket that I had booked for our vacation to Spain (we went a couple of weeks ago) and purchased the equivalent. This cost about $1,200 and while Jeanine thought this seemed like a total waste of money, I argued again, that $1,200 divided by 14 months (since I’m now guaranteed Executive Platinum status from Jan 1, 2009 to Feb 28, 2010) equals $85.71 per month. I like to look at things as part of my monthly budget and that’s a small amount to pay for use of those 8 VIP Upgrades.

What “personal” expenses are you willing to incur in order to make your job a bit more comfortable? Feel free to comment over at Queercents.

Further Reading:

The Art of the Mileage Run
Mileage Run Turtorial

hoto credit: stock.xchng.

Ten Money Questions for David Hauslaib

David Hauslaib is the twentysomething guy behind Jossip and Queerty. While he might not have as many URLs as Nick Denton or the name recognition of Perez Hilton; he’s got youth, good looks, a proven track record and time on his side as he makes his mark on the World Wide Web. All this makes for good money fodder in this week’s Ten Money Questions.

Mosey on over to Queercents to read more or catch other interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.

Review: The Frugal Duchess by Sharon Harvey Rosenberg

“A good home must be made, not bought.” – Joyce Maynard

The theme in Sharon Harvey Rosenberg’s first book, The Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money is really about missed opportunity, in particular; the dream home that got away from her. This home (referred to as the Dream House throughout) is in Miami and sold for $425,000 in the mid-1990s. After a decade of double digit appreciation, it was listed in March of 2007 for $2.6M. I suspect today, Rosenberg could snatch it up for an easy $1.9M, but that’s another story.

With the foundation in place by Chapter Three, I was eager to learn if frugality had landed her in the Dream House, so I skipped to the end just to find out. Spoiler alert: She’s still in her three-bedroom apartment but writes:

No I don’t have a house, but I’ve given my children the deed on dreams, frugal living, and hard work. And with those gifts, I can live comfortably on my balcony because I already have a dream home in South Beach.
Okay, so apparently the Frugal Duchess is no Rich Dad. And I have to admit, it was a bit of a let down as I made my way back to Chapter Three. After all, what’s the point of all this frugal living if you’re still paying rent?

But then I cooled my real-estate-owning / rental-property-buying / positive-cash-flowing jets, and settled into the next several chapters. Why? As a fellow blogger, I like Rosenberg. Plus, she’s Jewish and as we all know here in Hollywood, Jews are famously accepting of the Gays. From the start, Rosenberg has been extra supportive of our efforts at Queercents. She’s always one of the first bloggers to reply back with warm words when I send out what seems to be a monthly press release. That courtesy goes a long way in my book. The least I could do was keep reading hers. And I’m glad I did… here’s why:

Her tales of grandmothers, parents and a penny-wise Aunt Norma read more like The Secret Life of Bees than a book about frugality. Rosenberg shines in her storytelling… making this more of a money memoir and easy read. She offers an authentic voice; dishing out advice for the struggling spendthrift by revealing her gravest mistakes:

It took me awhile to stop believing that some fairy, angel or magical g-dmother would sprinkle my bank account with pixie dust or leave a stack of gold bricks under my pillow while I spent the night dreaming. I wish that I could tell you that I gave up such fantasies during my twenties. But here’s the truth: I didn’t find my brain until I was 30. In fact, if I could write off any decade in my life, I would probably write off my 20s. At 18, I should have just taken a 12-year-age deficit, refinanced my youth and then fast-forwarded to 31.
That’s when I became smarter about money.
This is also the age when she married a man ten years her junior; a tidbit that rings of How Stella Got Her Groove Back (you know, that movie they’re always playing on Lifetime with Angela Bassett)? Yes, Rosenberg is all woman; and comes full circle with useful tactics to silence her shopping gene.

Because of this, I’m not exactly her target audience. I hate to shop. Perhaps it’s because a Size 10 doesn’t necessarily feel like “retail therapy” when you’re standing in front of the dressing room mirror. But Rosenberg (a Size 0) is a shopper at her core and much of the book deals with saving money and how to avoid shopping pitfalls. So if you’re a consumer, then this book is for you!

That said, I doubt Trent at The Simple Dollar is much of a shopper either; and yet he pulled out twelve of his favorite frugal tips from the book. There are a ton of lists and guides in Rosenberg’s money memoir and you will likely find a few favorites to enhance your savings plan.
For me personally, the part of her story that I could identify with most was her early career yearning to be a six-figure-salary, on-air broadcaster:
Driven by ego and money, I tried to transform myself into an anchorwoman. I took voice lessons. I bought new clothes. I found a hair dresser who could transform my hair (frizzy tight, tight curls) into a shiny straight helmet of hair. But that made-for-TV makeover didn’t really work for me. In the world of 1980s Barbie doll anchorwomen, I was a little Bratz doll – not yet ready for prime time.
It’s that age-old idea that you have to spend money to make money. Just make sure you have the money to spend in the first place. If not, then get on Rosenberg’s band wagon. She’s saving money and I suspect she’ll be in that Dream House long before the film version of the Frugal Duchess story makes its debut on Lifetime.

Final note: Typically, I give away the books that I review over at Queercents, but this one I’m sending on to Andrea Cecile. She’s writing our Turning Shoppers into Savers series (of course, it was linked to by the Frugal Duchess. Thanks Sharon!) and I think she will really enjoy this book. Perhaps, she just might pass it on when she’s finished. Why? Well, isn’t that the frugal thing to do? Enjoy!

Image credit: The Frugal Duchess.

Back to Mike: Money, Career, Transitioning and Tolerance

“There is always more to be learned about tolerance.” – Mercedes Ruehl, commenting on her Lifetime movie role as the mother of a transgender child

Before Queercents, I had never interacted with anyone from the transgender community. Perhaps, it’s just a by-product of living in a conservative area like Orange County, CA. Jeanine and I used to see a transgender woman walking regularly around the Back Bay, a nature preserve near our home. Once, I saw her waiting for take out at our favorite Mexican restaurant and I considered introducing myself. But then I couldn’t think of an appropriate next line after telling her my name. As you might suspect, I never was the one picking up others in my bar-going days. I always needed a friend to provide an introduction.

Queercents has actually taken on the role of friend doing introductions for me and even though I still haven’t met anyone face-to-face in the trans community; I’ve done plenty of interviews and feel like I have a better understanding of our brothers and sisters in the trans world. E.g. Donna Rose, Jamison Green, Alexandra Billings, Jennifer Boylan and next Friday (11/15), I’ll post an interview with Nina Poon – the model in the Kenneth Cole ads.

What I’ve learned from these interviews (and now from Ashley Wilson’s posts), is that coming out as a transgender person often times has a much greater impact on one’s finances than coming out as a gay person. In a way, it seems like the workplace treats the trans community today much like the treatment of the gay community thirty years ago. In the words of Jamison Green, employment issues are still a challenge for many:

I’ve met scores of highly educated, otherwise successful people who have either lost everything when they couldn’t retain their employment or find a new job once their transness became known, or who have limited themselves and avoided opportunities because of their own fear of confronting the world as a transgender person.
Or as Donna Rose explained to me why under-employment is still a significant issue facing transgender people:
It’s actually a very simple answer. Discrimination. Transgender people often make others uncomfortable so they’re not given opportunities to do jobs they’re well qualified to do.

Our society has expectations for men and women – how they look, act, and are supposed to “be” - and it doesn’t treat ambiguity in that regard kindly. Often, transgender people necessarily challenge that binary and have difficulty fitting into these neat little molds. This often manifests itself in unfortunate decisions that are made when it comes to hiring or retaining qualified talent.

I have many friends who held significant corporate roles prior to announcing their transition who ended up unemployed for many months to several years afterwards… In order to make ends meet many of us find ourselves forced to take jobs (if we can get them) that are significantly below our skill level, at a significant reduction in pay. The impact that this has, not only on our ability to pay our bills but on our overall psyche, is often devastating.
Knowing this, I was pleasantly surprised back in April 2007 when the Los Angeles Times was incredibly supportive about the transition of one of their own: Mike Penner, a well-know sportswriter, made a very public transition to Christine Daniels. She had positive things to say about her employer and taking on the role of spokesperson for the trans movement:
Yes, I was prepared for it, and it has come to pass. I am fine with it. I believe this is my calling — to help provide some sorely needed education about a natural but vastly misunderstood condition. I believe I was born trans and reached this life intersection for a reason — I am a high-profile writer already working within the “testosterone sports culture,” I have communications skills, I have a powerful platform at the Times with which I can help disseminate an important message that is long overdue.
Fast forward to today. Christine is back as Mike. Helen Boyd of My Husband Betty fame writes:

As far as I know, this is the most famous person to de-transition I’ve ever heard of, and it’s surely going to cause additional confusion to people who are just starting to get why people transition in the first place. So - why do people de-transition? I’ve met people who did because they couldn’t find a job as a female, especially if/when there were dependents in the picture. Others realize they weren’t transsexual - and that is the point of RLT, after all, & that means it’s working.

Joe Moag at the though brings up an great point about work:

I think the story here is a happy one. Mike went through whatever Mike needed to go through to try and do what we all need to try and do: become a happier, healthier human being. That voyage took Mike to Christine, and now has taken him back to Mike. All the while, the L.A. Times accepted him, paid him, employed him, and supported him. No one came unglued (oh, I am sure that Right-Wing Fundamentalists all over the place came unglued, but those assholes come unglued if it rains, so who gives a fuck?), and Mike was allowed to take his voyage on his terms. He did his job, he did it well, and he didn’t get fired or hassled.
So kudos to the Los Angeles Times for accepting, paying, employing and supporting both Mike and Christine. And all the while, Times readers haven’t skipped a beat. More companies should take note. I’ll end today’s post with the hopeful words of Donna Rose and how we can continue to promote change in the workplace:
Education. Gradual cultural acceptance. Continued visibility. Persistence. All are important to spotlight what is happening and to lower the barriers of discomfort that prevent many of us from realizing our career potential as transgender individuals.
As usual, your thoughts on this topic are welcomed over at Queercents in the comments section.