Who Lives With You?

A few weeks ago, PortlyDyke wrote a brilliant piece entitled "Take My Arm, My Love." If you haven't read it, I highly recommend giving it a look.

I was very struck by this piece; as I said in comments at the time, my partner and I censor ourselves all the time in public, particularly with affection and terms of endearment. It's become so ingrained in us that I don't think we even notice most of the time. Well, we're not huge on PDA in the first place, so it's not like this is a constant reminder of a heterosexist society, and it's not like it's a huge bother. It sucks, like PD stated, but it's not like it weighs on me.

But occasionally, something else does.

I got called for jury duty. This was the district court, not county, so it worked a little differently. For a two week period, I had to call in every evening to see if I would be called in the next day. I actually found this rather convenient; I'm more than happy to call in rather than go and sit in some stuffy jury room from nine to five every day. I managed to dodge a bullet for a full week and a half, then I was called. Report on Wednesday morning at 8:30AM. (For the record, I'm a believer in jury duty; I don't try to get out of it when I'm called unless it's absolutely necessary.) So, yesterday I dragged my butt downtown, ready to serve. I've been called several times, here in Chicago and in New York City, but I've never served on a jury. By either the luck of the draw, or on one occasion, being "too one-sided," I've always been sent home.

I was waiting in a room with about 20 to 25 other potential jurors, when we were all called up into the courtroom. The jury box was filled, and the rest of us sat in the audience while we were briefed on the duties of a juror by the judge. Then, the questioning began.

One by one, the judge went down the line and asked each potential juror a handful of questions. They were fairly typical; where do you work, what's your highest level of education, where do you live, and the like.

The one that shocked me was "Who lives with you?"

I began to get really nervous. One by one they went down the line, and it was rather obvious that I was the only apparent queer person in the room. "I live with my husband." "I live with my wife." Sure, there was one woman that stated she had a roommate, but later did make a "boyfriend" comment.

My head was spinning. What do I say? I'm not comfortable lying to the judge; and even if I did, what if I'm chosen and the truth comes out later? Do I say I live with a roommate? No, I can't accept saying that; I came out of the closet so I wouldn't have to say that shit. What do I call him? My partner? My spouse? Christ, I hate "spouse;" how about domestic partner? What if I say "partner" and the judge says "What does she do for a living?" Do I correct him? What if he thinks I mean business partner; do I correct him then? Is it hot in here? You know something, this room is huge. It's a perfect square, how weird is that? You know something, now that I think about it, that latticework on the ceiling covering the fluorescents makes this look a lot like the deathtrap in that movie Cube. Great, just what I need to be thinking about; Paul, you watch too many crap movies. One of the lawyers looks kind of butch; is it possible she's queer? Nice, you idiot, way to stereotype while panicking and looking for allies. Just calm the fuck down and go with your first thought.

That was an eye-opener. I live in a very liberal area in a very liberal city, and I'm extremely fortunate to have a very supportive family, along with a group of very supportive friends. It's so rare that I come into these situations that I'm really thrown for a loop when I'm suddenly confronted with the fact that I'm being othered. I benefit on a daily basis from white male privilege, but I'm not always in the majority.

And being more or less forced to out yourself in a room full of forty people is, well, pretty fucking scary.

I didn't get chosen. Oh well, that's over... until the next spotlight.

(For the record, I stated I live with my partner. To his credit, the Judge, a very pleasant and friendly man, never blinked an eye. He asked what my partner did, I stated "He is a blah de blah," and we went on. I thought I sensed a change in attitude towards me from the other jurors after that, but it was probably just my paranoia talking.

Melissa thinks I should have shrieked "I live with my husband! Or I will, as soon as the law allows us to marry!" then acted out a long, drawn-out histrionic fainting scene, requiring me to be carried from the room. Damn, that's a good idea. I'll have to do that next time.)

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