Quote me, baby!
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Quote me, baby!

Issues/LGBTQIA+ , Stories/14 , Issues/Discrimination
Sydney NSW, Australia
21st Jun 2017
Quote me, baby!
Changing from a bank to a credit union with your long-term partner should be an easy exercise, right? Kelly reveals how often LGBTQIA+ people are still confronted with insidious forms of homophobia.

After years of wanting to change my bank from a fossil fuel supporting, money hungry corporate to a credit union, my partner and I finally took the plunge. The exchange with the customer service assistant was nice enough, longer than expected but they seemed unfazed by the nature of our joint accounts and shared address. They were never once confused by our questions and that we answered for each other, or that we provided similar, if not the same, context regarding our background. We chatted, they told us our options and begun the tedious process of opening up five different bank accounts and two health insurance memberships. But before we finished I was sideswiped by an all too common expression, one that same sex couples hear far too often. It’s been a while you see, living in trendy Melbourne with our gender-queer barista and lesbian couple with a baby living up stairs. We’ve gotten used to the fact we’re not seen as different. If anything, we’re a boring young couple who is always in active wear.

The thing is, the person at the bank would be mortified if we told them what they had done. They wouldn’t realise that they put their fingers up to make bunny ears quotation marks when they put us down as a couple on paper. Throughout our exchange, they would see themselves as non-judgemental, caring and compassionate. Open minded, progressive, accepting. But by holding up their fingers in the air and questioning the fact my same sex partner and I are a couple, by acting differently to if we were a heterosexual couple changing banks, they showed us exactly what they thought. We’re a couple, sure, but not like the straight ones. I laughed at first and couldn’t wait to tell my partner, who was on the phone while it happened. She laughed too but upon reflection, I’m annoyed that the bank person made me feel as though my six-year relationship is a joke. It wasn’t what she thought she was doing, but it is what she did.

I eventually felt the wave of hurt. I felt dismissed and mocked. Trying not to label them as ignorant, I tried to accept the idea that this women was not to blame. She is, after all, only a product of our society. But by quantifying our relationship into a simple hand gesture, she unknowingly and unintentionally diminished something the LGBTQI+ community have been fighting for: legitimacy. We are a couple, not a “couple”. Bank person, the social constructions you believe in and the socially-ingrained oppression you’ve grown up with does not change that.

We still have to deal with these silent offenders. The invisible attacks that only those who are, or have been on the receiving end can see. These seemingly insignificant everyday moments separate my same sex partner and I from cis/heterosexual couples; the moments that make certain kinds of couples apparently quote-worthy. When someone refers to your partner as your “friend”, uses the wrong pronouns or uses your sexuality as a derogatory term, we are reminded that even now we're still not fully accepted. Often, the silent reminders hurt the most.

Today, in this country, us non-conforming folk are still struggling to be recognised as legitimate people with legitimate relationships. The delivery has changed but the reminders of our difference are still there. I doubt putting the word couple in quotation marks was a critique of the history associated with labelling marginalised groups. No, it was yet another reminder.

So bank person, why did you use those quotation marks? Was it to communicate sarcasm, or irony, or to highlight the unusual situation of two women being in a couple? Because, among a few sparsely used grammatical tools, that is what quotation marks do. They quote, they highlight or they ridicule. And if you weren’t doing any of those things, what the hell were you doing when you scrunched your fingers up in the air?

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