Passport Control“The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.” – George Santayana

Today is the third annual Blogging for LGBT Families Day, where the LGBT community and allies come together in support of our families. Queercents offers a couple of posts on the topic of money & family. Here is mine:

Jeanine and I always consider ourselves to be a family. The dictionary defines family as a group of individuals living under one roof. Another word for this is household: a social unit composed of those living together in the same dwelling. We are a family.

Well, we are a family, unless we’re traveling and then this definition always trips us up. For example, on Saturday night we returned from a week trekking around Peru and as we were filling out our customs declaration form on the plane we looked at each other and asked, what are you going to put in the box marked “Number of family members traveling with you.”

As usual, we agreed on “zero” and then I start on my rampage that married people don’t even blink when this question comes up. They consider their husband or wife to be their family… no questions asked. But in the past, when we’ve tried to approach the passport control officer together – the question always comes up:

“Are you sisters?”

“No sir.”

“Are you related?”

“Well, we’re domestic partners.”

“You need to come through the line individually.”

Of course, this is after I’ve watched twenty married couples… each approaching the counter together… no questions asked. Why does this continue to infuriate me?

And what will we do when we eventually have a child? Can we all file through together? Or will Jeanine get in one line with the baby and I’ll go to another lugging the diaper bag and stroller.

It’s not just “official” government lines where we get snagged. On this particular trip, as we were trying to board our plane in Miami for Lima, Jeanine got brushed aside by the gate agent.

We were flying American Airlines, an airline I’ve flown millions of miles on and of course, I love that I have status as one of their AAdvantage Executive Platinum members. But status only carries you so far. And obviously for me, it means that Jeanine can’t tag along like other family members.

Case in point: One of the perks of membership is priority boarding. This means I can board before the masses in order to settle in and be assured room for my carryon baggage. Also, this means that Jeanine can board with me as my traveling companion / family member even though her boarding card indicates she’s been banished to Group 7.

On this particular trip, the gate agent turned Jeanine away. I was furious. It was a full flight and if she waited until her group was called there wouldn’t be any room left overhead for her rollerboard.

My pleading didn’t help. I told him that she was my domestic partner and she always had been permitted to board with me. He said no and he wasn’t in any mood to entertain my debate.

So I left her behind and as soon as I got on the plane, I asked to see the first flight attendant. In my rage, I explained that if I had been a man and Jeanine was my wife; the scene would have played out differently with the ticket agent. Jeanine would have been on the plane by now with her carryon stowed. I guess my rant about their discriminatory practice carried some weight, because the attendant went out to the boarding area, called for Jeanine and escorted her onto the plane.

And then we settled in to our overnight flight feeling like a family. Yes, we are family even if sometimes we have to make a scene to prove it. In this case, I think my dollars expended as a long-term customer did most of the convincing. Hey, whatever does the trick!

Still it makes me angry that I have to fight for the right of family. What about you?