Why I’m sharing this information
Ethical people in public life are transparent about these things. I never want to be mistaken for something I’m not, and I never want there to be any confusion about where my resources come from and how I use them.
My paternal grandfather founded a plastics company in New Jersey with a shipmate from the South Pacific after WWII. Grandpa Lefty (as we called him) was already an upper middle-class guy with a business degree from the Wharton School at Penn. His company made him quite wealthy.
Due to his privilege (and his generosity) I was able to attend private schools with programs specifically for gifted and talented kids from preschool through college with no debt. I was also given a trust fund with a balance in the low tens of thousands when I graduated.
My first career
I spent the years from 2005 until 2012 working in the tech sector, first as a social media consultant at a startup in Redmond and then as a product manager in the wireless telecommunications space. In 2009, when the market bottomed out, I purchased a small condominium in a desirable Seattle neighborhood using the balance of my trust fund and money from my savings as a down payment.
I was subsequently able to save enough to leave my tech job – which was contributing to my mental health problems because of sexism in the industry and the general soullessness of the profit motive – and strike out on my own as a performing artist.
My supportive husband
In 2011, I met my wonderful husband. Noah is an expert in data visualization; which is where the fields of big data and technical communications intersect. He has worked as a private consultant for a number of companies and has been employed by Amazon for nearly four years. In 2013, Noah offered to support me financially so I could continue focusing on making art and getting my mental health back in shape.
My political awareness
I was a political blogger from 2003 until 2010, with a blog called TeresaCentric which I shut down in 2010 because it no longer represented my political beliefs.
I was one of those people who called myself a social liberal and a fiscal conservative, because I was super privileged, in desperate denial about my trauma and my mental health problems, and I really didn’t understand anything about how most of the world lives. (I credit former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich for changing my mind with his book Aftershock, which I highly recommend.)
Another force for change in my political orientation was Twitter. I considered myself a feminist, but there was a part of feminist Twitter I really didn’t understand. There were a lot of black women talking with one another about their experiences with both sexism and institutionalized racism. I didn’t understand what they were talking about, but I was curious. I kept listening. I started reading the books and blogs they referenced. (Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, Marita Golden’s Don’t Play in the Sun, and Angela Y. Davis’ Blues Legacies and Black Feminism are all personal favorites.) I went down the intersectionality rabbit hole and never looked back.
Where I’m at now
In 2015, I sold the condo I bought in 2009 for a lot more than I bought it for and Noah and I bought a house. We live in that house with two housemates who pay rent that is a good deal lower than what the market would bear. They’re both young and queer and creative and we wanted to offer them some stability to get their feet under them in a city that is rapidly pricing out young queer creatives. I encourage everyone with the means and space to do so to consider this way of living. It’s lovely and financially smart at the same time.
Noah’s salary covers our mortgage and our living expenses. Our house has appreciated a great deal since we bought it, and Amazon’s stock is booming. We’re in fine shape big picture, but our cash flow is a bit tight because I don’t bring in a regular income, my health care costs a lot, and recording and activist projects also require funds.
When I collect money, where does it go?
I’ve used money from those donations for everything from plane tickets for my band to play music festivals to website hosting to sign making supplies for protests. Noah and I also maintain a separate Patreon and bank account for Resistance Air – which was responsible for the “We Outnumber Him! Resist!” airplane that flew over New York on January 20, 2017.
While there is definitely some crossover in the publicity associated of that project and my other activities, money contributed to Resistance Air is not used to cover any of my operating expenses.
None of the funds I collect for my work go to support my living expenses. If that ever changes, I will call it out expressly and explain why.
My health and race, and why I care
While I am undoubtedly a rich kid, I do have serious mental health problems and that makes a real difference in my life. I have an ACE score of six. (No amount of money can buy a happy, healthy childhood.) I take medication for bipolar and get weekly therapy and EMDR for my trauma recovery. Like many people with high ACE scores, I suffer from stress related illnesses including asthma and digestive problems. I am socially anxious and easily overwhelmed by everyday experiences like going to the grocery store; but I am what one friend described as “eerily competent” in a crisis.
Holding a regular job would be a huge blow to my recovery. I could probably do it in the right environment with an accommodating employer who understood that I bring a lot to the table but also need a flexible and compassionate workplace. I’m extremely privileged that I’ve never had to explore this.
Though I do not look it, I am not “white” by the standards of anyone who really cares about whiteness. My mother is Latina, my father Jewish. I like to say that this makes me a “challahpeño.” Racism does not factor into my life in a daily way, but every now and again I get full frontal exposure to someone’s racism – either because they assume I’m white or they realize/remember that I’m not. Every time I am confronted with that jarring experience, I remind myself of how it must feel to live with that bullshit constantly.
If I had not been born into such economic and skin privilege, I would likely be homeless, in prison, or dead. There are millions of people in this world who are just like me – gifted, sensitive, and traumatized – who could be living happy lives and making artistic, intellectual, and humanitarian contributions to our species if we just cared for people properly.
Bottom line: Everyone deserves the kind of support I’ve had.