Seeking Financial Stability as a Gay, Non-White, Man of Muslim Faith

lisbon city

So I got a pretty intense email the other day, and my gut said to share it here with y’all in hopes it broadens our perspectives more.

We talk a lot about our dreams and perfect lifestyles that money brings, but something that’s easily forgotten is how important the *safety* and *security* money can bring is too. Especially for those with drastically different backgrounds than ours.

I know it’s a risk sharing this correspondence here, but I also know how loving and respectful our community is so I’m hoping our new friend leaves here today feeling better (and more motivated!) about his situation than before he got here 🙂 I can’t even try to relate to his situation, but I also know how talking it out and getting fresh perspectives can help immensely!

So if you have something positive to add after reading this, especially those in similar situations?, please do share. It’s nice to have a safe area to discuss this type of stuff, especially with all the turmoil going on these days…

Here are briefly edited snippets from our email conversations. His name has been anonymized.

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Hello,

I don’t know if you expect to know who your readers are, but the reason I feel I need to learn more about money is because of security.

I’m an urban planning student of 25 in Lisbon, Portugal and I believe I need to feel I’m economically stable to have security over my unchosen heritage: being gay, of non-white ancestry and part of a religious Muslim community.

These three parts of my life makes me feel unsure about my future, and a better foundation of finances would help immensely:

– With the rise of Muslim hatred worldwide (specially in the “western world” where I live in), if I ever need to migrate to a more secure place, having money helps to start a new business, buy a house, etc.

– My closest family members are spread across the globe, and if any disaster happens (say, someone close to me dies suddenly), having money helps to buy an expensive last minute ticket to be there and give support on those difficult times. These trips cost around €1500). Or to simply have the comfort of visiting them every year.

– With society still intolerant towards LGBT+ people (within my own Muslim community, or even, within many white gays being racist towards non-white gays) having money helps because I want to have kids with my boyfriend and we’d need a lot of money to send them to private schools that would help assure their security, respect and integration more.

– Not to mention that being a gay couple adopting, we’ll have much more bureaucratic barriers, so a good net worth is a plus. As well as for providing educating, health, food, activities, etc for our kid.

– Money can’t assure I won’t ever face discrimination, so IF anything happens along the way, paying lawyers to fight for my justice is costly and I would like to fight for it.

– I’m a genetic bomb of diseases: family history of cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, blood pressure, scoliosis, etc. I might end up with a major chronicle disease that will disable me. Having money will help to pay for chemotherapy or big surgeries (like I had when I was 18. I had an urgent spine surgery that cost €24,000. Fortunately my parents were able to pay, otherwise I’d have to wait years for government aid and risk having problems later because the surgery had to be done right then and there).

– Lisbon is a wonderful city, but very very vulnerable to a mega earthquake anytime soon because we’ve had the deadliest earthquakes in history around the 1530’s, then the 1750’s and it’s probably going to happen again soon. Our city is not prepared for an earthquake, so having money (preferably not just in Lisbon) will help rebuild my life if a disaster like that happens again.

I did my school in the regular time (12 grades) with the highest marks in my classes. I entered university when I was 17-18 and expected to have a degree by 22-23 and start my career from there. With money (economic stability) I wouldn’t have to fear admitting I was either gay or Muslim or whatever (being me). I wouldn’t have anything to lose, right?

But things didn’t go as I planned. The school experience has been so horrible that I’ve been failing for the last three years and I’m currently in my last year of university. The prospects of growing economically in the urban planning field now seem scarce (especially someone who has been failing for the last three years… Who would want to hire such a failure?)

It makes me feel that I’m being left behind: many of my friends have graduated, are getting economical stability, and don’t have the fear of being rejected because they are gay, nor fear being profiled because they are Muslims.

And I feel that my economic independence is getting further away rather than closer. I feel stuck: until I have money, I can’t really be who I am. I’m always at more risk.

I am trying to convince myself that I have to be happy now. That I cannot project happiness to the future: “when I reach X is when I’ll be happy”. To be happy now with what I got.

I don’t know if it’s the media or what, but I still feel very insecure about everything. Even online I choose a nickname for me to freely say that I’m gay, Muslim and non-white (Iqbal is not my real name) so I don’t fear any repercussion.

I did two years of psychotherapy and a year of anti-depressive medication, but I still felt stuck. Talking about how miserable I feel only makes me continue feeling miserable. There’s a Portuguese expression that says “a dog who barks doesn’t bite”. I feel I need to stop barking and start biting.

Kind regards from Portugal

-Iqbal Hassan

P.S.: Even the psychotherapy and meds for years were costly. Luckily I was provided with that by my parents, but what if I didn’t have the money to have that privilege? I don’t want to feel insecure to the point that I won’t do psychotherapy just because of money. I don’t want money to be a preoccupation in my life, yet paradoxically it is.

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I replied back thanking him for sharing his story with me as it’s one I can’t even conjure up if I tried?!, and that I wholeheartedly agree with the power of being financially stable (or “economically stable”, as he likes to put it). I then asked if we could publish his thoughts here.

I told him it’s a story we don’t hear much of in our blogging world, and although I can’t relate to his situation personally, I felt it would be helpful for others to hear too. If only to realize just how fortunate we are! I also reminded him how powerful it is that he knows himself so well at his age, and encouraged him to keep searching hard for those opportunities and do his best to not lose hope 🙁

I wasn’t sure how the convo would go from there, but to my surprise he responded back with some pretty fascinating insight! So of course I had to share that with you guys too 🙂 And THIS is the part that really got my attention… and the one I think most of us can relate to more too.

Here’s Iqbal again:

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Thank you so much for your reply, J.

Writing down my concerns, specially for someone else “playing the game well” to read it, allowed me to have a clearer view over what really bothers me.

And to have that someone validate is an even bigger plus, so thank you once again.

For a long time I’ve been a bit like “money is evil because it gives the wrong impression that whoever accumulates more has more worth, or is more intelligent.”

But money is intrinsically worth nothing. A person with a lot of money in a deserted island and no survival skills is in a worse scenario than a person below the poverty line and with great survival skills in the same deserted island.

And it’s true, it’s horrible to know that 1% of the world has more access to goods and services than the rest, just because of this thing (capital or net worth) that is very virtual.

But the problem is not money, the problem is human. Money is a tool. If money didn’t exist, something else would, and that would create this inequality. Just like I feel that most political ideologies and most religions have, in it’s core, peace and harmony. Problem is that humans, imperfect as we are, create chaos.

Fortunately, many of us also organize ourselves and create mechanisms of justice. Which is why I’m able to write to you today because I went to a school that someone created, I’m using a computer that took decades of improvements, I’m using a normalized refined electricity produced somewhere around Portugal, etc.

Chances are that I won’t be ending up in a deserted island. So in the meantime I keep living in a city, I have a family, I have friends and I’m in a society that uses money. I could choose to relinquish everything and move away to build my own house alone, grow my own food alone, etc., but that’s probably not worth it just to prove a point.

I’d much rather take advantage of this complex society that took hundreds of years of development.

Although still imperfect, it seems to be turning better, slowly: more information is out there, the internet access, the podcasts, more human rights revolutions, a shift to the official end of racism, sexism, medical achievements, technology, electricity, trains, etc.

So why ignore? Why not contribute to the system? It’s not perfect, but it won’t cease existing if I run away. If I can’t beat it, I’ll join it and try to make it as better as I can, for everyone, including me.

Is it easier than running away to a deserted island and living solely on my skills? It’s arguable.

It also depends on the person. For some it could be an easy option. For others, not. After considering that option for a while, I realize that I’m better off remaining in the system. And that’s why I want financial independence.

In the system that I chose to REMAIN in, money buys freedom, like you said. It’s not everything, but it’s very important to not forget about it.

I wasn’t expecting a proposal to post my story. It would be an honor if you did that. Just the fact that you read it and it resonated somehow makes me feel hopeful.

I will keep in touch, have a great week!

Kind regards from Portugal,

-Iqbal

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It’s hard to put into words how that last email moved me, particularly after the first one which was filled with so much distraught! How powerful the human mind is though, right?? Full of so many emotions and ideas and flipping through it all trying to make sense of the world?

I feel like that first email was for him, but this second one is for us 🙂 I’m not sure at what point anyone ever “figures it out”, but it seems to me that it may just be an ever evolving process that we get better at as the years progress. And we keep striving for it the entire time!

Would love to hear your thoughts on any of this, and particularly any advice you have for our friend Iqbal here? Please do share them below and encourage him to keep fighting the good fight.

Financial freedom is more than just about not having to work anymore or having fun all day long – it can help immensely with feeling more safe and secure too!

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[Photo of Lisbon by Miguel Vieira // It’s the view from the Miradouro de Santa Luzia at sunset.]

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