A Designated Person

“Per the San Francisco Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, employees that work in SF may use paid sick leave when they or a member of their family are ill or injured for the purpose of receiving medical care, treatment, or diagnosis. Family member is defined as child, parent, legal guardian or ward, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, and spouse or registered domestic partner under any state or local law. In addition, if any employee has no spouse, or registered domestic partner, he or she may designate one person for whom the employee may use paid sick leave to provide aid or care. If you would like to designate an additional person, you may sign this form and provide the designated person’s name.”

I was filling out some forms for work recently when I was reminded of the above section of the SF Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, which is a feature that I actually really like – the fact that this expands benefits not just to the typical family and married/romantic partner, but to literally anyone you choose to designate, regardless of relationship. (It would be even better if it could make this an option even for those who do have spouses or allow multiple designated persons, although I can see why they haven’t done so).

While there has been a general trend in some benefits programs to extend benefits to not just married but also unmarried partners, these tend to remain couched in terms associated with romantic relationships. What I like about this particular language in SF  -that I don’t see often elsewhere – is that it is very deliberately neutral about what relationship a person could have with said “designated person”.

It also reflects the “designated person” relationship narrative that I’ve encountered in aro communities (though unfortunately I can’t remember who I first heard it from), in which two (o more!) people might make a commitment to care for each other and prioritize the other person in their life – to be, for example, the “designated emergency contact” on those emergency forms, or the person you designate to take you home from the hospital when you’re drugged up after surgery, or the person you designate to make medical decisions for you if you’re incapacitated.

For many people, being a  “designated person” is just one of many elements of a standard relationship, alongside other things like co-parenting and romantic intimacy and sharing finances and living together. But there’s no reason it can’t be a form of relationship in it’s own right – it’s quite possible to have a “designated person” type relationship with someone without necessarily having any of those other common relationship elements that were just mentioned. A designated person could be a QPP, a romantic partner, a relative, a roommate, a trusted friend – whoever you feel comfortable making that commitment with. It also doesn’t necessarily need to be a symmetrical approach: the person you designate may have a different person who they choose to trust with that responsibility, and that’s perfectly fine. And the person you designate for one type of responsibility may not be the same as who you designate for something else.

Also, while this type of relationship approach may be particularly appealing to many aro people who may never have a spouse or romantic partner to list as their designated person, they are hardly the only ones for whom it is useful. For instance, in the example I mentioned above, I believe that that the addition of that language was likely heavily influenced by the experiences of San Francisco’s LGBT community during the AIDS crisis, as well as the experiences of LGBT elders now as they deal with aging and end-of-life care decisions. For many LGBT people during the AIDS crisis, they had lost touch with or could not trust their birth family and may not have any children; those who had romantic partners had no way of getting legal recognition for them, and many others did not necessarily have a designated romantic partner. As a result, many of the kinship and caregiving relationship that people formed were not based on blood relation or marriage – but they struggled to have these relationships recognized by hospitals who would deny access, employers who would deny leave, etc, just as many ace and aro people struggle to have their alternative relationships acknowledged now.

Because of this, this is an issue where I see a lot of opportunities for ace and aro communities to join with general LGBT organizationsto pursue shared goals.

3 thoughts on “A Designated Person

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