My employer thinks I’m a man

My employer thinks I’m a man. No, my boss doesn’t think I’m a man nor do my coworkers. (Well, I don’t think they do.) My employer as an entity thinks I’m a man, or at least our human resources system thinks I am.

I first discovered this gender incongruity when trying to enroll for benefits. I recently got hired as a full-time employee, so although I’ve been working at the same place for year-and-a-half, access to benefits is a new, well, benefit I have.

There is no visible gender field in my profile information in our benefits system. It was nothing I had to enter. I only became aware of the error (And for those who don’t know me, this is an error. I am a woman.) when I tried to enter my husband as my male spouse. The system gave me an error saying that the sex and relationship fields were inconsistent. If I chose “same sex spouse” it was fine.

Austin Powers: "That's a man, baby!"I’m glad to have gotten that error. If there wasn’t an error I might have never realized that my gender had been set as male, which may have caused problems in the future if I need to file a claim for any female-specific medical care. But I also thought, why does it matter if my husband is my spouse or my same sex spouse?

On one level I know why the benefits system would need to differentiate between heterosexual spouse and same sex spouse. The system has to determine benefits eligibility across a variety of state and local laws on the subject. Plus, there is probably a desire to do some demographic reporting on the subject. But when it really comes down to it they shouldn’t have to differentiate between a spouse and a same sex spouse.

From a data entry standpoint specifying the gender of both spouses should be sufficient to identify a same sex spouse (unless of course someone’s gender is wrong like mine, although I don’t believe that the same sex spouse designation was put there for data validation).

The values in the relationship field (which also include live-in partner and same sex live-in partner) are a reminder that we still live in a society where spouse and same sex spouse are seen as different things. Even in states where same sex marriage is legal it still tends to get the “same sex” qualifier in a manner reminiscent of the phrase “separate but equal.”

My neighbors got married last year after being together for more than twice as long as I’ve even known my husband. I don’t see their marriage as anything different than ours.

Okay. Yes. There is a key difference between male-female spouses and same sex spouses: Same sex spouses have sex differently than male-female spouses.

If describing people’s marriages based on how they have sex is that important to you I hope you also plan to acknowledge the fact that not all heterosexual spouses have sex the same way either. I await the update to my benefits system to ask me to choose between “same sex spouse,” “missionary sex only spouse,” “mild-BDSM sex spouse,” “only on our anniversary sex spouse,” and a variety of other options.

And don’t start in on the whole “marriage exists to create children” stuff unless you are also suggesting we annul every marriage in which people cannot or choose not to have a child.

Love is love, folks. And marriage is marriage. The whole point of the word “spouse” is to not have to specify “husband” or “wife,” so don’t complicate this nice generic term with a qualifier.

I’ve been informed that the benefits system data only gets updated once a week, so for a few more days I am still a man (at least data wise), which means until then my husband is my same sex spouse. Funny, I don’t notice a difference.

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