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Great News for Single Americans! (but you wouldn’t know it if you listened to the news) February 6, 2011

Posted by Onely in As If!, Food for Thought, Heteronormativity, Pop Culture: Scourge of the Onelys, Singled Out, Singles Resource, We like. . ..
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To the delight of LGBTQS (that stands for lesbian-gay-bi-trans-queer-single) advocates everywhere, federal regulations now require that hospitals must grant all patients, no matter their marital, sexual or religious status, the right to define who they count as “family.”

Thanks to President Obama, the Code of Federal Regulations 42 CFR 482.13(h) and 42 CFR 485(f) requires that all hospitals in the U.S.:

(1) inform each patient of his or her right to receive visitors whom he or she designates, including a domestic partner, (2) do not restrict or limit visitation rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among other factors and (3) ensure that all visitors have full and equal visitation rights, consistent with a patient’s wishes. (– Human Rights Campaign)

Whoo hoo! Great news for singles, right? We certainly think so — but you wouldn’t know it if you relied on the media to explain. According to most reports I read, the major stakeholders are lesbian and gay couples. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but … ummm … what about lesbian and gay singles? Or … ahem … what about all singles (asexual, heterosexual, polyamorous, widowed, divorced, whatever).

Singlist media strikes again! Because it completely ignores the remarkably equalizing ramifications – for all Americans – of this new law, it upholds the couple-centric, heteronormative bias that all LGBTQS folk are trying to overcome. So you can see what I mean, let’s examine the following report posted on ABC’s news site shortly after the regulations came into effect:

First, we get the facts:

Patients at nearly every hospital in the country will now be allowed to decide who has visitation rights and who can make medical decisions on their behalf — regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or family makeup — under new federal regulations that took effect Tuesday.

Which, if revised by a non-singlist author such as myself, would instead read: “regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, family makeup, or relationship status…”

Then, we are told about the implications:

They represent a landmark advance in the rights of same-sex couples and domestic partners who heretofore had no legal authority to be with a hospitalized partner because they were either not a blood relative or spouse.

A “landmark advance” is correct — but only if you add “in the rights of same-sex couples, domestic partners, and single people everywhere who heretofore had no legal authority to be with a hospitalized loved one because they were either not a blood relative or spouse.”

They interviewed Janice Langbehn, the lesbian who lost her partner and wasn’t allowed to be with her in the hospital — a story largely responsible for bringing this issue to Obama’s attention. According to the ABC report [**** see Jan’s elaboration of this quote in the comments section below ***], she said:

Other couples, no matter how they define themselves as families, won’t have to go through what we went through, and I am grateful.

Yes, Janice, we’re grateful too! Because it also benefits single people who have gained the right to define their loved ones as “family,” even if they aren’t in a sexual or domestic partnership.

Toward the end of the post, ABC makes a nod toward single people, but only by defining them narrowly as:

childless widows or widowers who may seek the care and companionship of an unmarried partner or friend.

Not only are the majority of  single people (unmarried, divorced, single parents, etc.) completely left out of this account, but childless widows or widowers are only allowed to have unmarried people at their bedside. Because, you know, that’s the only thing that makes sense.

I don’t mean to be pouty, but c’mon! Can’t we singles have our cake too?




1. Tweets that mention Great News for Single Americans! (but you wouldn’t know it if you listened to the news) « Onely: Single and Happy -- Topsy.com - February 6, 2011

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by elzcummings, Lisa Christina. Lisa Christina said: Great News for Single Americans! (but you wouldn't know it if you listened to the news): http://t.co/1ixMbQF […]

2. Janice Langbehn - February 7, 2011

Lisa, thanks for the article. I am the Janice of the story and the problem with mainstream media is they cut quotes of etc. I said Gay Couple and said even now as a widow I am able to name my best friend as my medical surrogate or say who can visit me whether my family of origin or friends.


Onely - February 7, 2011

Jan, thank you so much for your input! You call yourself an “accidental activist” – but what you’ve done in calling attention to this problem and helping this bill come to fruition is remarkable and courageous. Although the attention’s primarily gone to the LGBTQ-couple community, we singles are enormously grateful for the role you’ve played in making this happen!

I really appreciate your taking the time to contextualize and clarify the quote; in fact, this contextualization just further verifies my larger point, that it’s the media that remains heteronormative, not the people on the ground. And it’s too bad, because I think we really do have shared goals for human equality.

(I’m going to edit the post above to point our readers to your comment.)


3. singlutionary - February 8, 2011

The singles-rights movement hasn’t garnered much controversy as of late (except here on this blog and over at Bella’s and a few others (if you one of the others, please help me out here by replying).

For many people, this may be seen as a wearing down in “family values” — for folks who are anti-gay and so the media focuses on that.

But this is a victory in so many ways for so many people. I think that it is common for folks who are not technically family to BE closer than family.

Also, Lisa, is the: “LGBTQS (that stands for lesbian-gay-bi-trans-queer-single) ” language really including single at the end, or is that a wonderful Onely-ism?

In many ways, singles are aligned with LGBTQ issues, regardless of sexual orientation.

Onely - February 9, 2011

Singlutionary — well put! “For many people, this may be seen as a wearing down in “family values” — for folks who are anti-gay and so the media focuses on that.”

Thanks for the insight. And, um, LGBTQS might be Onely-ism, but I feel like I’ve seen it elsewhere, so I’m not going to make exclusive claims 🙂


Alan - February 9, 2011

I haven’t found that LGBTQ and singles are necessarily in alignment. When it comes to gay marriage I’ve heard the gay community and its allies resort to negative stereotyping of singles.

Onely - February 9, 2011

That’s a good point, Alan (and it’s something I’ve posted about before – see here http://wp.me/pgY9h-oq), but I’d also say that not all people in the LGBTQ community are in alignment about what gay marriage means. At heart, we’re all working toward equality, and in that sense I think we do share similar goals.

— L

4. Lauri - February 9, 2011

That’s fairly infuriating. I guess it would piss off the right even more if they found out we’re not only giving rights to the gays but the singles as well! Best if we keep it a secret.

Onely - February 9, 2011

LOL Lauri! Anything we can do to infuriate the conservative right is worthwhile by my standards!

— Lisa

5. Brasco - February 10, 2011

Would you like to hear my horrifying tale of 1996? I had a gay friend named John that was in the hospital dying of late stages of HIV. At one point he wanted to go home to die. At the time my state did not recognize gay partners. John’s partner went to the hospital and requested his release. The hospital said he didn’t have the authority to do so. The next day me and a strong friend went to the hospital, wrapped 45-pound John in a sheet, picked him up and walked toward the door. Security was called, the guard demanded we stop, then went for his gun and threatened to shoot us. John laughed and said, “Go ahead, I’m dead anyway.” Then John’s doctor showed up at the scene and agreed to release John before shots were fired. John died 2 weeks later, resting comfortably in his own bed.

singlutionary - February 10, 2011

I have to say that this story is horrifying but also inspiring — first of all that John and his partner has such wonderful friends as yourself and second of all, John’s wonderful humor/irony under the circumstances and third of all — that this will no longer happen to people. That there is a law protecting people from horrible situations like this.

Onely - February 11, 2011

Amazing story, Brasco. Thank you for sharing; so sorry about your loss. Just drives home how very important these new regulations are — for so many people!

— Lisa

Onely - February 13, 2011

Wow!!!! Good for you guys. I am sure everyone at the hospital that day went home and told someone the story, and each of the people who heard it probably had a slightly increased awareness of the rights of singles/gays/ and others outside the matrimonial complex. That really is quite an amazing story.

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