I recognise I create value for the community by offering my skills and knowledge in an accessible way i.e. being queer-trans in the queer-conscious-sex-positive community, and offering my service as cheaply and as flexibly as I can sustain.
I know that value is recognised, because I often get feedback about it. Which is extremely lovely.
But at least two things that can get in the way of that value flowing into the community: money, and privilege.
With money, I need some money to be able to pay the bills and maintain my health so that I can keep on offering the service. But there’s many people for whom my relatively low hourly rate (by industry standards) is just too high. They may recognise the value, but the practics of money just prevents them taking up the service. It’s a pisser, but its’s also reality.
With privilege, I get to see other people’s privilege in specific areas where I’m marginalised: sexuality, gender, relationship style. At the same time, I’m immensely privileged myself: white, male-assigned, middle class, my dad was an economist, etc. Setting up in business as an accountant was incredibly easy for me.
But aside from the privilege I brought with me into accounting, being an accountant has privilege in itself. Having those special skills and knowledge gives privileged access to a bunch of stuff. Many accountants use that privilege to benefit themselves by “enclosing” their professional knowledge behind all sorts of walls – exactly the same process as Enclosure in English history, where already-privileged people basically prevented less powerful people from getting access to valuable resources.
I’m super-keen to make the benefits of my privilege as available as I can in my community. That’s the only thing that makes sense to me around it.
But I’ve learned that when I don’t recognise my privilege I can unconsciously push people around: make assumptions about them, be patronising, not notice that some things take more energy for them than for me. All this results in me being unapproachable or difficult to approach – which reduces the availabllity of my service in my community.
To try to modulate the impacts of money and privilege, I do two things. With money, I have a Pro Bono budget: basically I spend 10% of my time working for free, or very low cost. I offer a 30 minutes chat no charge – and I’m totally happy for people to use that just to get info or check something, and I never see them again. I also have Pro Bono clients: community groups or projects that contribute to the community.
With privilege, it’s basically about awareness – and here in effect I rely on supervision as a practitioner in the community. I pay for professional support on an as-needed basis, and I have deep discussions with good friends who are willing to help me around this area.
I love being a valued and recognised person in the community. And I love contributing value to the community. It’s amazing – a dream come true – to make my income in this way, in the same way my great-grandad Thomas Wood did in his community.
What makes it not just a dream but very real is the obligations back the other way. I feel I’m accountable to the community: for the availability of the service I offer and how I offer it, for the money I receive from the community, and for the integrity and reliability of my service.
None of this is perfect. It’s necessarily a work-in-progress.
So I’m totally up for hearing anything you want to say about this, discussing, exploring, and developing further. Do get in touch.