To most people, married still means “man and woman”

Hola a todos. I was talking with one of my neighbours down the street this past week (mid January 2020) about an experience he had at work. He works for a major law firm. His health care plan changed so he had to go consult with the Human Resources Department in his firm to get that taken care of. He sat down with one of the women there. Among the questions she asked him was, “Are you married?” He said: Yes. She asked, “What’s your wife’s name?” (roll eyes). He said: I don’t have a wife. I’m married to a guy. She didn’t say, “Oh excuse me, I shouldn’t have assumed.” Instead, she asked, “What’s your husband’s name?” He told me that he doesn’t think of his partner as his “husband” but he didn’t feel like getting into that with her. He told me he sat there irritated at her question and in a daze and was really stunned by her heteronormative, “What’s your wife’s name?” question considering the firm he works for is considered to be rather progressive. He asked me, “Can you believe that in this day and age that people are assuming that if you say you’re married that it’s to a woman?” I told him: You’re asking the wrong person that question because that doesn’t surprise me in the least based on my experiences. I asked him politely: Are you seriously shocked that she asked you that or are you just saying that? Because if you’ve read what I’ve seen online and elsewhere — as I have written about countless times to the point where I feel like a “broken record” — it is a given that in most people’s mind married still means “man and woman.” I’ve read online comments from guys where they say, “I’m married” and it’s automatically assumed per tradition that he means to a woman. It is very rare for any guy to say “I’m married, to a man.” I can’t remember the last time I read or heard that. I hear, “I’m married to a man” about once a year, if that. Rarely does anyone clarify the gender they’re married to because, again, it’s assumed. I looked down at his hands as I usually do with guys these days. I asked my neighbour: Do you think that part of the reason she asked about your “wife” is because you wear your wedding ring on your “straight/breeder” left hand fourth finger — rather than on your right hand fourth finger — so it looks like you’re married to a woman? He looked absolutely stunned, confused and was speechless. After a few moments, he said, “Well you know I’d never thought about it. Maybe that’s what happened.” Then I told him — what I presume he already knew — and as I have written countless times: The left hand wedding ring image is for straight couples traditionally. There is no way of erasing that image from the public’s mind. So any time anyone sees a guy (even a gay guy or a lesbian) with a left hand wedding ring, he or she will be assumed to be straight. Even if they are two married gay guys sitting together. Most people will see their left hand wedding rings and think: They must be taking a break from their wives. Their wives must be shopping or something. When in reality, they are a married gay couple with their wedding rings on the wrong hand.

“Gay and Lesbian Marriage. Instead of wearing wedding bands on their left hands, gay and lesbian couples often choose to wear rings on their right hands instead. Within gay and lesbian communities, the right-handed ring is an instantly recognizable marker of a monogamous relationship, and even marriage within the states that have legalized it.” (This was written before gay marriage became legal in the US).

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But back to my neighbour. I saw him again recently and he proudly showed me his right hand. His wedding ring had migrated to his right hand and he told me the same was true for his partner. Excelente. Some progress was made. He thanked me for bringing that up with him and I said: Oh think nothing of it. Just glad to help with thinking minds. He was very thoughtful about it. Never rude. Because other gay married couples would likely have told me to “Fuck off.” I’m glad my neighbour didn’t. He did say he was thinking about complaining to the partners in his law firm about this woman in HR who assumed he was straight. He said, “That’s not what I would expect in this day and age.” I asked him: You wouldn’t? I certainly would at the rate things are going. Backwards. Chau.—el barrio rosa