by Sean Kosofsky
According to (Suzie) Orman, she and her partner have millions of dollars that would be lost to estate taxes simply because they do not have the basic human right to get married. It was perfectly woven together. America's favorite financial planner makes headlines as an openly gay woman because of her own financial concerns. It was personal and political.
I usually hate them all — every single one of those "tough love" self-help gurus that make millions from television shows or selling their books and DVDs to poor schleps that can't think for themselves. Dr. Phil drives me nuts, Judge Judy should be found in contempt and Nancy Grace should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of medieval torture. But something about Suze Orman turned me on. Although I had not read any of her five best selling books, I did catch her on T.V. a few times and she made a lot of sense. So imagine my surprise when I was perusing (not cruising) at a Borders book store and found a deal on her book "The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom". My curiosity got the best of me. I didn't need her book, but something about that spunky and bossy finance poobah told me I should read some of her stuff. Five days later she was in the news talking about why marriage equality was personal for her – because she is gay.
Orman has her own show on CNBC and a column in Oprah's magazine O. She is arguably one of the most visible financial advisor in the world. Millions of people each year watch and read her opinions to learn how to – no pun intended – straighten up their financial situation. For some reason I wasn't surprised that Orman was gay, but when I saw a news story about her I was so geeked I called my boyfriend to say, "Suze Orman is a lesbian. Isn't that cool?"
It is a really important moment, whether the average fan of Orman admits it or not, when someone like her comes out because it helps shatter stereotypes. For queers that are out in the entertainment industry, it's now old news. Even at this year's Academy Awards, Ellen Degeneres hosted the show and Melissa Etheridge performed and won an Oscar. Hell no one cares if Rosie O'Donnell wins her pissing match with Donald Trump. But if Suze Orman is gay, that matters in a big way. That means something. When prominent business professionals who happen to be big media personalities are out of the closet it slowly chips away at the heterosexism in our society. Imagine if Donald Trump came out as gay (don't worry it isn't true). But if he did, and used the opportunity to talk about discrimination against him and his partner, it would cause shock waves.
In her books, Orman frequently talks about "partners" interchangeably with "spouses" and even prints stories of gay and lesbian clients of hers. The average straight reader probably gets the remarkable impression that, "Gee, gays and lesbians have the same day to day problems we do. Wow, how normal is that?"
Which brings me to why Orman was in the news. She was hopping mad that she could not marry her partner of seven years because, should one of them die, the other would be at a huge financial disadvantage. According to Orman, she and her partner have millions of dollars that would be lost to estate taxes simply because they do not have the basic human right to get married. It was perfectly woven together. America's favorite financial planner makes headlines as an openly gay woman because of her own financial concerns. It was personal and political.
If Orman has been out all along, she would probably be surprised that it matters to this young queer from the Midwest, but it just shows the power of coming out, each and every day. Even if you think it doesn't matter or that you already think everyone knows, coming out can be powerful.
The whole premise of Orman's books is that people should take personal responsibility for their own future. It means protecting yourself and your loved ones from landmines you may find in the law, in your career or in the courts. LGBT families need to do the same, but much more aggressively. The landmines for our loved ones are sometimes placed there by our own extended families. Maybe we should draft Suze Orman to testify for us in Congress. They could use some tough love. God knows they have made love tough for us.