Emma and her girlfriend (also called Emma!) had been renting and working in London for quite a few years before they embarked on their journey towards home ownership. For affordability, access to the capital and a little more green space, as well as having friends in the area, they decided to consider properties in Watford, Hertfordshire. After considering a variety of different properties, they bought a two-bed new build house close to the station and local shops. Emma shared their experience with us:
For the LGBT+ community, finding a home has some added - as my own queer family call it – ‘minor complications’.
Whether renting or buying, you interact with a series of strangers that are surprised, confused or curious. At the best of times.
For me and my lovely girlfriend, getting on the property ladder in itself was, of course, wonderful. To be able to buy our own little place together, and live together as two women, was and is a privilege. We counted our blessings as we unpacked our rainbow mugs and our lesbian walking gear.
But there were minor complications to get through, before we could get to that point.
Every time we went to a house viewing as a couple, there were the excruciating minutes of small talk with a stranger, while they tried to figure out what was going on.
“So… which one of you is buying?”
“We're buying together... That's why we're here! With you. Looking at a property! Make sense? I MEAN LOOK AT OUR HAIRCUTS.”
And there were the phone conversations, where one of us would say we were looking for a place with our partner. I'd always thought 'partner' was shorthand for 'WE'RE HERE, WE'RE QUEER', but it seems that estate agents just haven't got the message on that one. They assumed my 'partner' would be a man, and usually assumed I'd married him.
“And will your husband be viewing the property as well?”
“Yes, she's coming along too!”
Then there was time in the bank. We'd gone to set up a joint account, in order to get a mortgage together. We'd gone into a little room and after twenty minutes of explaining our finances and our life together...
“So... are you sisters or friends?”
“How many pairs of sisters or friends have a joint account and a shared home together? Is there maybe another option you *might* have missed?”
Firstly – if you feel you’ve been treated unfairly or if the process has been unnecessarily made more difficult, complain! We put in an angry letter to the bank and they apologised and also sent us some money each.
I feel like if anything, this is now a more scary time for LGBTQ+ people than when we were buying. So stay safe and remember it’s up to you to decide whether you want to come out in a given situation, if deciding not to is a privilege that you have. If you do decide you want to be out and you don’t want any annoying questions then you can always both go in dressed head to toe in rainbows and tattoo ‘queer’ on your forehead. To be honest, I feel like some people still wouldn’t catch on…
In all seriousness, all the issues we experienced were minor complications. There are many more major and multiple complications. Like getting on buses. Or walking down the street holding hands. And it's much, much worse for trans people and queer people of colour.
And just having a home - let alone buying one - can't be taken for granted. 24% of young people facing homelessness in the UK are LGBT+.
For me and my partner, it's been a long slog for us to set up our little lovenest together. But it's nothing compared to what a lot of people go through.
Find out more and support the UK's first LGBT+ crisis shelter here: lgbtiqoutside.org
Find out about Hertfordshire Pride 2019