This feels like a cultural moment in Arizona.

U.S. Bank has opened its first branch in Arizona that caters specifically to people in the LGBTQ+ community.

The branch just north of downtown welcomes gay and trans people with rainbow signs and art that depicts same-sex couples, The Arizona Republic’s Russ Wiles reports.

Further, it tailors its services to the unique needs of gay and trans people, with staff members who “represent and understand the community’s needs,” Wiles reports.

You don’t have to be LGBTQ+ to bank at the branch. All customers are welcome.

It’s just that some customers are more welcome.

Is this a good thing?

It certainly isn’t wrong to tailor a business to unique population groups. We have children’s shoe stores and big-and-tall men shops. There are gay bars and Western bars and even sports bars that micro-market to Chicago Cubs fans.

But this kind of customization for an historically marginalized community is relatively new to banks in Arizona.

Is U.S. Bank taking identity politics to extremes? Has banking suddenly gone intersectional?

I don’t think so.

This feels more like U.S. Bank telling gay and trans people their money is just as green as anyone else’s. Sometimes business has a cold way of expressing its affection.

Then again, perhaps the bank is merely imitating the internet, seizing on the so-called “long tail” in which consumers move more and more to specialty products uniquely designed to their narrow wants and needs.

As Wiles reports, U.S. Bank has 10 other specialty branches in the nation that cater to various cohorts — Black people, military and veterans, Asian Americans, Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

But why imitate the internet in bricks and mortar when so much banking is done on the internet?

Nearly 80% of us manage our money online now, Forbes Magazine reports. In 2022, only 29% of Americans preferred to bank in person.

No, it seems something more is happening here.

Another possibility is that LGBTQ+ people have unique struggles with their finances.

When you look at the data, there are “large gaps in financial outcomes” between LGBTQ+ and straight adults and couples, reports the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in 2022.

Its research shows that LGBTQ+ people lag on both sides of the income spectrum.

Twenty-two percent of LGBTQ+ people find themselves on the low end of household incomes under $25,000, compared to 14% of non-LGBTQ+ people.

On the high end of household incomes over $100,000 or more, only 23% of LGBTQ+ reached that threshold, compared to 31% of non-LGBTQ+, the St. Louis Fed reports.

Spencer Watson, executive director of the Center for LGBTQ+ Economic Advancement and Research, has an explanation for what is going on in the larger LGBTQ+ community.

LGBTQ+ people are “feeling overwhelmed or depressed about their finances much more often than (non-LGBTQ+) folks,” he told the podcast Queer Money.

Turning that around is important, he said. “Taking one’s personal health and wellbeing into account is life-affirming and very powerful.”

That sounds like an area in which a bank might step in and provide real assistance.

U.S. Bank’s LGBTQ+ branch in Phoenix is located near the Melrose District, which has many businesses that cater to LGBTQ+ people, Wiles reports.

This is not unlike a Chase Bank branch in New York’s Greenwich Village that sits in proximity to Stonewall Inn, site of the June 1969 uprising that was key to the modern LGBTQ+ movement.

And that provokes for me the most important question.

Do LGBTQ+ people really want to go to an LGBTQ+ bank?

The point of Stonewall and the gay rights movement was to gain full acceptance of gay people and eventually all LGBTQ+ people to larger society. To cease being “the other.”

As a straight white male growing up in the Boomer ‘60s and ‘70s — in the age of Stonewall — I can tell you that my generation of young men were unkind to gay people.

We didn’t think or talk much about gay people, but when we did it was crude and mean. This wasn’t some sub-group of young men that behaved like this.

It was universal to my generation. I witnessed it in school yards and ballfields in several states on both the East and West coasts.

We were stupid and ignorant, and attitudes like ours drove gay people underground.

We thought we didn’t know any gay people. Oh, was the world about to give us an education. Eventually, we would meet them in our universities and workplaces and even our extended families.

And when we did they challenged us. Not with placards and marches, but with their presence and their goodness.

For me, it was finally waking up and realizing that a cousin who was kindest to me of all my cousins was living in a Lesbian relationship when she grew into adulthood.

It was working alongside LGBTQ+ journalists who were hard working and decent and some of the best people I’ve known in my career.

To see an early iteration of this American awakening, see the 2006 movie “Infamous,” the story of writers Truman Capote and Harper Lee, who go to rural Kansas to research a murder that becomes the central story in Capote’s masterpiece “In Cold Blood.”

Capote (played brilliantly by Toby Jones) goes to conservative, Christian, white-bread Kansas in 1959 and swans about in all the attire and flair of upscale gay Manhattan.

He is like a strange, exotic bird who has landed on a fence post, and the locals are all just a little bit afraid and quietly contemptuous of him.

Should LGBTQ+ visitors:Really avoid Arizona?

Despite the gentle nudging from his childhood friend, Lee (who had made him the third child in her novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”), Capote doesn’t really change.

He stays.

Over time, not only do the townspeople come to accept him, they inundate him with offers to come to dinner. They delight in his company and finally feed him all the details and anecdotes he will need to complete his book.

So again, I ask, is this what LGBTQ+ people really want?

Do you want to bank alongside other LGBTQ+ people and be served by LGBTQ+ bank clerks while looking at LGBTQ+ people painted on the wall?

Or do you belong at a bank that doesn’t see you as exceptional?

In celebrating the LGBTQ+ branch opening, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said, “I love it that anyone can feel welcome in this branch.”

Shouldn’t that describe every bank branch in America?

Phil Boas is an editorial columnist. Email him at phil.boas@arizonarepublic.com.

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Bank caters to LBGTQ+ customers. Is that what they want?

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17.04.2024

This feels like a cultural moment in Arizona.

U.S. Bank has opened its first branch in Arizona that caters specifically to people in the LGBTQ community.

The branch just north of downtown welcomes gay and trans people with rainbow signs and art that depicts same-sex couples, The Arizona Republic’s Russ Wiles reports.

Further, it tailors its services to the unique needs of gay and trans people, with staff members who “represent and understand the community’s needs,” Wiles reports.

You don’t have to be LGBTQ to bank at the branch. All customers are welcome.

It’s just that some customers are more welcome.

Is this a good thing?

It certainly isn’t wrong to tailor a business to unique population groups. We have children’s shoe stores and big-and-tall men shops. There are gay bars and Western bars and even sports bars that micro-market to Chicago Cubs fans.

But this kind of customization for an historically marginalized community is relatively new to banks in Arizona.

Is U.S. Bank taking identity politics to extremes? Has banking suddenly gone intersectional?

I don’t think so.

This feels more like U.S. Bank telling gay and trans people their money is just as green as anyone else’s. Sometimes business has a cold way of expressing its affection.

Then again, perhaps the bank is merely imitating the internet, seizing on the so-called “long tail” in which consumers move more and more to specialty products uniquely designed to their narrow wants and needs.

As Wiles reports, U.S. Bank has 10 other specialty branches in the nation that cater to various cohorts — Black people, military........

© Arizona Republic


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