My Social Insecurity
Jasmyne Cannick

"In other words, if you're a two-working family, like a lot of families are here in America, and two people working in your family, and the spouse dies early - before 62, for example - all of the money that the spouse has put into the system is held there, and then when the other spouse retires, he or she gets to choose the benefits from his or her own work or the other spouse's benefits, whichever is higher, but not both. See what I'm saying? Somebody who's worked all their life, the money they put into the system just goes away. It seems unfair to me."
President Bush, April 28, 2005
Yes, I agree with the President, it seems unfair to me also that a family who has worked hard to provide for their loved ones could lose their money upon the death of a spouse. However, what President Bush neglected to mention, was that his example was of course of a heterosexual family, and that millions of gay and lesbian couples are faced with this dilemma everyday.

As a Black lesbian, I feel even more conflicted because Social Security also affects the stability of millions of African-Americans who are more likely to depend on the system after retiring. In President Bush's press conference he proposed a system where low-income workers benefits would grow faster than for those who are more wealthy. Seems fair enough to me. After all, families who enjoy the benefit of being wealthy are less likely to ever have to depend on Social Security in the first place.

However, where does that leave me and millions like me who work hard our entire lives to provide for our families while paying money into a system that isn't guaranteed to us in our time of need, but is being used to protect other people's families, including those families that do not support equal rights for gays and lesbians?

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, while Blacks make up only 13% of the U.S. population, Black same- sex couples account for 14% of the self-identified same-sex households in the U.S. In addition, Black same-sex couples report lower annual median household incomes than Black married couples and white same-sex couples. Black gay and lesbian couples are also less likely to report home ownership than Black married couples.

Therefore, as a Black lesbian, I can expect to earn less and may never own my own home.

So you see, the President's plan to give low-income workers a larger piece of the pie sounds good to the Jasmyne that according to the U.S. government is a single Black woman, but frightens the Jasmyne that is a Black lesbian in a committed relationship.

And unlike the church that once supported the Jasmyne that was a single Black woman but demonized the Jasmyne that was a Black lesbian, I can't stop paying tithes---oops, I meant taxes into the system. Lately I've been getting the United Church of the American Government and the United Church of God In Christ confused. My bad, it's the morals thing and the blurry line between the separation of church and state. You understand.

But getting back to the point, where does that leave millions like me who work hard our entire lives to provide for our families while paying money into a system that isn't guaranteed to us in our time of need?

What options are left? Win the lottery? I know, maybe my girlfriend and I can find a nice gay couple to switch partners with, in name only and get married. That would open the door to the plethora of Federal benefits provided to married couples, and I could still be a lesbian, because of course, my husband would still be gay. Maybe that's the answer to my same-gender loving brothers and sisters problems. It is still gay marriage but with a little twist, that I am sure will go unnoticed by the U.S. government. After all, they're checking for two words on the marriage application, male and female. Right?

All jokes aside, the issue of Social Security or social insecurity as I affectionately refer to it, crosses all lines of race and sexual orientation. The Black community, whether heterosexual or gay has the most to lose or benefit from any reforms to the current situation. In order to make our voices and concerns heard we need our leadership to take into consideration the concerns of all Blacks, not a selected few. Black gay and lesbian couples have just as much at stake and a concern for what happens with Social security as anyone else. We want fairness for all Black families.

Copyright © 2005. Used by permission of author. All Rights Reserved.

About Jasmyne Cannick
Chosen by ESSENCE Magazine as one of 25 Women Shaping the World, Jasmyne Cannick is a social and political commentator and a member of the National Association of Black Journalists. Based in Los Angeles, she can be reached via her website at

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