Waymon Hudson

We don't have a box for that

Filed By Waymon Hudson | April 03, 2008 10:19 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: domestic partner, gay relationships, gay rights, marriage, single

Sometimes it's the small moments of discrimination that smack you in the face and wake you up.

I recently had some minor outpatient surgery and had to take some time off work. One of the calls I had to make to arrange this was to Prudential Financial. The call was going as smoothly as could be expected when dealing with a long list of personal questions.

Then came the question: "Marital status?"

Then came the smack.

I replied without even batting an eye, "Domestic Partner."

The woman on the phone paused and said to me, "Single, married, or divorced?"

I again calmly answered, "I am registered domestic partners in both my county and my place of employment."

The woman again paused, sighed, and repeated in an annoyed tone: "Single, married, or divorced?"

Did she not hear me? I was explaining my legal status to her question and she was simply not acknowledging it.

I again explained that I was registered in my county and with my place of employment, which is what this company benefit was connected to. It was perfectly clear, wasn't it?

That's when the smack came again.

She said very curtly, "Look, we don't have a box for that. You can only be single, married, or divorced. Which is it?"

I was stunned. I was none of those things. My 6 year relationship with my husband, raising a child together, building a life and home didn't fit in to those categories by her standards.

Our relationship didn't have a box and therefore didn't exist.

Before I could say anything, she made the choice about my relationship for me, saying, "If you're not married, then you're single. Next question..."

If I wasn't married, then I was single.

I completed the questionnaire in a daze. I had just had my life reduced to a check mark in a box. I had been told that my love didn't exist. All the memories and times shared with my partner were wiped away by one question.

Sometimes it's the small moments that drive home what inequality really is. It's the moment you realize why we fight and why it matters.

I will not have my relationship wiped away by a voice on the phone and check in a box.

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Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | April 3, 2008 11:26 AM


I am sorry that this happened to you. This is another example of why we need full marriage rights for same-sex couples.

I agree. "Civil unions" are less than full marriage rights, and won't do the job.

We've had the same problem twice in the last few months.

When we were visiting family my partner needed to go to the emergency room in a hillbillyville town in central Florida. The registration clerk, a 20 something really nice young lady, asked who the next of kin is. I told her I was. She asked for our relationship and I told her we are domestic partners. Her response was "so you're married." I told her no and then proceeded to explain that Florida doesn't have marriage equality for same sex couples. She was shocked as she had no idea (how many straight people do??). And she apologized multiple times because there was no domestic partner box, we were not legally married so she had to check the "friend" box. At that point I began educating her about the upcoming "marriage" amendment in November. She was actually taking notes, said she would be talking to friends, family, coworkers to let them know that "we" have to fight this discrimination!!

Last month I went to a new doctor. For marital status there were only the usual boxes. I drew in my own box and wrote domestic partner next to it. When the doctor was looking thru my paperwork she stopped, looked at me and said no one had ever written that before. I suggested she have the form updated as her office is in Broward County and there are many of us, gay and straight, who are registered domestic partners.

You are absolutely right. We must continue the fight for equality. I will continue to educate as many people as possible so that our loves are not reduced to a check mark in a box.

I do that too, Dianne. I always make my own little box on those types of forms. Most of the time no one questions it. (What they do with it afterwards, I dunno - probably just mark "Single" or "Married" LOL)

Waymon, that sucks.

I have similar experiences every time I go to a new doctor. "Are you sexually active?"


"Are you on birth control?"


"You really ought to be on birth control."

"I'm a lesbian."


Abstinence has a check box on the section of the intake forms that ask about birth control methods, so why isn't lesbianism listed as an option? It's the only 100% method (aside from masturbation).

Good luck with the surgery, Waymon!

Yeah, that does suck Waymon. I'm spoiled since in the UK we have civil partnerships that are legally recognized across the country. We also have a lot of straight couples that are also cohabitating and not married, so people are used to the term partner and domestic partner is a box to check.

But now for my gripe. Patricia, I agree that civil partnerships are stupid and we should just be entitled to marriage, but it just does not work that way. In the UK everyone just asks if you are married anyway (we have CPs) and the rights are I think identical, or pretty damn close. In any event, I am happy enough. Eventaully we will get that final step and I am a strong supporter of getting marriage rights in the UK. But I think the position in the US that pushes first for full marriage rights for same sex couples is just hopeless. Civil rights have never been granted overnight in the US and if a country like the UK can not pass gay marriage laws, then the US is never going to do it, at least not in the next 20 years. And by pushing for it you alienate support for civil unions and sometimes get them banned too, a la Georgia. I would rather have federally recognized civil unions with legal rights (and a box to check) than the term 'marriage', which I am content to let the religious bigots hang on to if they want it. This is really a particular concern for me since my partner is British and we are essentially forced to live in the UK (not that I don't love London but..) because there is no federal recognition of same sex relationships (and most straight people do not realize that, all our friends in the States are shocked that we can't move to the US). I think the GLBT community in the US needs to focus on what is realistic. Politics is the art of the possible, not deamland. I should know, I work in politics, and I find it really frustrating how the US community insists on fighting for marriage when it is simply not going to happen and it has generally worked against us. This is one reason I won't donate to HRC, I think this campaign does more harm that good. Don't get me wrong, I think everyone should be allowed to get married. But I'd rather have federally recognized rights for GLBT people under some name, even it it is not marrige. Ok - got that out of my system.

Mike, the frustrated ex-pat.

diddlygrl | April 3, 2008 9:43 PM

Welcome to my, and the two Monica's world, not to mention all the other transgendered people who have to settle the complicated question of our gender, into a simple one, or the other.

Of course we generally go along with our target gender, but then, if you are preop, that can get you in trouble if someone looks "under the hood".

Those boxes.

Isn't that what being queer is about - tearing them down? Because it seems like there's never enough, never enough boxes.

I again explained that I was registered in my county and with my place of employment, which is what this company benefit was connected to.

Did you end up getting the benefit?

Bil.....I thought the same thing about them checking a box. But opening the dialogue for equality was important to me.

Serena.....I went to a new GYN a few years ago. My partner was with me when the intake nurse asked me the sexually active/birth control questions. Without missing a beat or changing my facial expression I replied "My partner had a hysterectomy." The nurse chuckled, said she loved that answer and asked if she could use it in the future.

I find this particularly disturbing since Prudential gets a perfect 100 on HRC's Corporate Equality Index. There seems to be a discrepancy here between policy and practice, or between what Pru is willing to do for its employees vs. its customers. Yes, there may be legal issues they need to contend with, but they could at least show greater sensitivity.

Reason #2,469 that we need federally recognized legal *Marriage*. It's disgusting the garbage we have to put up with, yet so many claim that Domestic Partnerships/Civil Unions are just as good. Wrong.

If you ever have to deal with another twit like that maybe you should tell her to make a new box, if she's capable of handling that. ;-)

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | April 5, 2008 6:11 PM

Aside from the deficiencies of the form, that person on the phone desperately needs some sensitivity training!!!