THE BLOG
01/14/2014 01:49 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

She's My Partner, Not My Sidekick

One disadvantage to blogging is that I get "the glory" while my partner, Laura (a.k.a Ledcat) often gets overlooked. And when I get the beat down side of a stick, she gets that, too. Unfair.

Let me be clear -- we are a family, a team, a partnership, even if we are not married. She goes to work every day, and provides for our health insurance and so many things. I write blog posts. But we are a team, and it is important to me to say that I would not blog, could not blog without her support, encouragement and help. It isn't really your business how we divide things up, or contribute financially -- it is, however, important to remember that unmarried couples can have the same level of commitment to each other as married couples. And to respect that.

While it is inevitable that people might not remember her name, it is not okay with me that people try to sweep me into photos and ignore her. While it is fine that you want to have a chat with me about something I wrote, it is not okay to ignore her. Politeness matters.

As a same-sex couple, we receive a lot of creatively addressed mail -- especially holiday cards -- fusing our first and last names into some bizarre combinations. We try diligently to contact organizations and businesses, asking them to combine our listings and reduce their mailing costs. We've found that more than a few non-profit and political software packages aren't able to do that. At some points in the recent primary election, we received five or more copies of the same information. Now I don't even read mailers -- I just put them in the recycling, and Laura uses them to clean up pet vomit. But it does make me sigh when allies don't tend to this issue -- how can you support marriage equality AND environmental issues, but not tidy up your mailing list? The proof is in the pudding, friends.

But I also want to remind you that if you want me to donate money, you need to be mindful. Don't send this to my house:

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I understand that businesses buy lists and make mistakes. But this is from a nonprofit organization that has ties to LGBTQ equality efforts. It is not okay. It is disappointing and undermines their credibility in my eyes. I'm not sending you money if you can't even include HER LAST NAME. I'll make an exception for my 70-year-old Uncle Howard, but that's it.

I realize it is a mistake, but I also know that mistakes can only be remedied if they are brought to light. While I'm not disclosing the name of the organization, I can tell you Laura has played a more significant role than me both as a volunteer and a donor, so it is even more egregious to give me the headline role.

It is exhausting to be a same-sex couple in Pennsylvania these days, especially Pittsburgh. Every single day we open the paper (yep, still get a paper) to read about our value as a family -- Are we accepted? Can we apply for a certain benefit? etc. We've been learning that Pittsburgh is not quite as progressive as we all have thought -- after nearly 20 years, there are multiple unions with city employees who do not offer them domestic partner benefits; that's obscene. You remember the Domestic Partner Registry saga in the late summer. That's the tip of the iceberg. It is good news, but exhausting, complicated and seemingly endless.

Our family matters, and we deserve the same amount of effort that your family receives, the same degree of respect. So let me be clear -- Ledcat comes with me to many, many events because of my disability. She's not along for the ride, she's not my sidekick or my support pet (yeah, that was a classy comment). She's my partner, and she supports me, so she comes with me. Sometimes I can't drive. Sometimes I'm anxious. Sometimes I want her to share the moment with me. It doesn't matter, and I'm not going to write an explanation on her official name tag. But I am disabled, and we are a family, and that's what families do. So please stop making jokes or asking intrusive questions, or being concerned about it. Just be courteous and worry about the real issues at hand. You would be lucky to have a partner or friend like Laura to journey through life with you (sometimes it is her event).

It is fine if you don't remember her name in person, that happens to me. But there's no excuse to ask me for money and not make the time to use her surname.

This is what "Dear Sue and Laura" looks like:

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And this is what the person who writes the checks looks like:

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We notice when you call and ask for "Mr." Insert-either-last-name, and when you mention our husbands. We notice when your forms don't have an option for domestic partners. We can distinguish between an honest mistake and a lackadaisical attitude to same sex families. And we make our investment, business and donation decisions using that information.

Because we know that's the only way you are going to notice, too.