Skip to content

Managing minions: rainbow edition

Growing up, my parents – like many people’s parents – wanted me to be a medical doctor – maybe a neurosurgeon.  Having a child become a doctor was an accomplishment, a mark of good parenting and a point of parental pride.  To them, a medical career is a well-compensated, well-respected position with high job security.  My parents were pleased that I chose to major in the sciences in college, and only as I approached graduation, became concerned that I had not yet taken the MCAT.

The thing was, I had volunteered as a candy striper at a local hospital one summer while I was in high school.   Agnostic at the start of that summer, I was quite sure that a medical career was not for me by summer’s end.

My parents tried very hard to get me to even just take the MCAT, culminating in offering me an amount of cash that equaled a month’s rent to just go and take the exam, completely unprepared.  I knew if I relented in that, the pressure would only intensify; what’s the harm in just applying, just going on the interview, just trying it out for a year…  Up until a few years ago they would mention it wasn’t too late to go to med school; you have such steady hands, you’d make a great surgeon!  To this day, there is residual disappointment that I am not a “real” doctor.

But not going to med school didn’t make me a sinner.

It feels awesome when you can meet someone you respect’s high expectations, or even better if you can surprise that person by exceeding them.  On the long drives back to college with my parents, I would daydream about just giving in and going to med school, and then becoming a brain surgeon and basking in parental approval for ever and ever.  And perhaps then, if I came out to them, the two things would sort of balance out and they would still be proud of me and of themselves.

Even at the time, I knew it wouldn’t work.

But maybe I wasn’t really gay?  Maybe I just hadn’t met the right boy or maybe my expectations of how relationships are supposed to work was unrealistic or <insert all sorts of ridiculous bullshit here>.  For me, (among other things) being gay effectively meant never meeting, let alone exceeding, my parent’s expectations again.

In the throws of my questioning phase, much of my mental efforts were caught up trying to reconcile the person I am with the person I was supposed to be, and doing the mental gymnastics to reconcile the fact that I wanted to be a good person with the fact that, according to my upbringing, I technically wasn’t a good person anymore.  This crisis overshadowed much of the fall of my third year of university and set me up for an absolute disaster of a semester academically.  However, unlike a student with a terminally ill family member or a personal medical issue, there was nothing obviously wrong.  Gay?  Not gay?  Who cares?  It mattered little to anyone, except me, at my nice liberal university whether or not I was queer.  Luckily, that semester I happened to have the same professor for two of my upper level (non-science) major classes who was gay and very out.  I’m not sure how much I confided in him – at that time, I probably couldn’t/didn’t come out – or if any tears were involved, but he recognized and validated my internal struggle for what it was and, without further questions, made the academic arrangements that I needed to finish out that semester on a kinder timescale.  That little bit of mercy kept me in the game.

I’ve mentored some really interesting and fantastic people.  They have it together.  They know where they are going.  They know who they are.  And I have to say that their easy self-knowledge continues to blow my mind.  These kids are not disappointments to their families.  Sure, there is pressure from their families for particular career tracks, usually to become medical doctors.  There can sometimes be a little tenseness when the person they take home is of a different race or if they become vegan or change political parties.  However, these things usually don’t change them into evil sinners in the eyes of society, their families of origin or in their own eyes.

For the minions I’ve mentored that fall somewhere on the rainbow spectrum, the texture of their identity shaping process resonates with my own.  When I was an undergrad, Ellen came out on a sitcom, there were a ton of newspaper headlines about it and a season later the show was canceled.  Things have changed a lot since then.  However despite all of the recent exciting social justice victories, identity questioning and coming out remains, on a personal level, even in supportive environments, even with loving families, tremendously difficult.

When thinking about how best to mentor all your minions, but in particular the LGBTQ ones, I’ll offer up two gifts my academic parents gave to me.  One was knowing that there was one (although there were rumors of one other person in a different department) very out faculty member.  This person helped me through an acute crisis by being a someone I felt like I could approach to even consider asking for help; in the space of half an office hour, he validated my poorly-articulated struggle (and possibly doesn’t even recall doing anything in particular).  The other was that as a UROP, I was able to meet, and sometimes exceed, the expectations set out for me in my undergraduate lab – and those expectations were focused uniquely on my project.  Given my strained relationship with my family at the time, sharing that excitement with my (straight white male) mentor – someone I respected – was really important.  By valuing my work, my mentor taught me that I could do work that had value and forced me to recognize that I had value as a person and as a scientist.

Simultaneously Premature and Tardy Entry into the Academic Job Market

It is ill-advised to make a pre-mature entry into the academic job market.  I made the decision months ago to sit this season out, for good reason; my big stories are currently not published.

Yesterday, my post-doc advisor told me that xe had recommended me to a department head leading a search and encouraged me to apply.  I contacted my PhD advisor, who told me that xe had spoken with the same person two weeks ago.  The chair is apparently interested in “grabbing youngsters before they bloom” to avoid having to “compete” for talent.  The application deadline is, naturally, a few days from now.  And while some exception will be made in my “special” case for late application materials, and while I have very clear ideas of research directions I’m excited about persuing, well, there won’t be much of an opportunity to work up my package.

Besides feeling somewhat obligated to apply, I do, indeed, want an academic job.  Everyone knows that there aren’t many and it seems just as stupid to not apply when asked as to apply both pre-maturely and late to a single position.  Assuming that once they receive my hastily put together application material they would even consider inviting me for an interview, I would relish the opportunity to go and meet the members of this department.  In the unlikely event of an offer, well…  I’d certainly seriously consider.  And, of course, wonder.

Any opinions, internet?

Post-election reflection

Today they started marrying people in Washington.  Maine and Maryland will open their court houses in the next few weeks.  I must admit that I still feel a little bit dumbstruck.

My wife and I married in 2003, in Canada, before the US really entered into the business.  At the time our options were limited.  There had been that crazy couple of weeks in San Francisco.  Massachusetts was busy trying to squirm out of their court’s ruling.  And while Vermont had been issuing toothless civil union certificates for a while, we wanted to be married.  We’ve been happy with our boring Canadian marriage.  Aside from a short eight hours a year and a half ago following a statement from a misguided Canadian politician, our northern neighbors haven’t fought much or changed their minds.  The rhetoric surrounding the struggle for marriage recognition is hateful and heated and, even if it is in a far away state, feels very personal.  To chose to have our relationship recognized in a place where those attacks may be successful?  On our actual personal marriage certificate?  No thanks.

Election night in 2004 was a bad night for us.  Recently married, we were at a little dive bar a few block from home.  The mood was subdued as state after state showed up red and it became obvious early that Bush was going to win.  We left early, not up to even the atmosphere of people making the best of it with the dollar pitchers.  11 states banned gay marriage that night, most by super-majorities.  It hit too close to home.

Election night 2008 was a different sort of beast.  As the results came in, we could hear celebrations though the windows of our apartment as our baby slept in the back room.  People ran down the streets, cheering in crowds and hugging each other.  But three more states had banned marriage – including the bitterly fought Prop 8 in California, particularly terrible because unlike other bans that were banning things that were already banned, the people were voting to take away something people already had.  I was surprised by how much it hurt, which was rendered more poignant in contrast with the celebratory atmosphere.

This past big election was a little different than the last two.  Yes, marriage was on the ballot, again.  Only this time, the propositions were to legalize marriage, not ban it.  And this time, for the first time, a majority of people voted FOR marriage.  I still feel a little dazed.  But the results are the results and today there are pictures of couple after couple after couple at the city hall in Seattle, holding marriage certificates and wearing huge smiles.  It’s personal this time too, but in a good way.

Honorific Doctors

I use my honorific approximately never.  I’ll sometimes choose it as a gender neutral prefix for internet drop down forms.  It pops up on wedding invitations (Dr. and Mrs. Zwitter Ionique!).  It hangs out in the rarely used “formal” version of my e-mail signature.  And when I’m listed as a reference for a trainee, it shows up there as well.

Recently a hiring manager e-mailed me, using the honorific, about a minion.  After a quick bout of phone tag, we connected by phone.  And… he asked to speak to Miss. Ionique.  Not Doctor (which, given the context, was probably the most appropriate).  Not my first name (which would have been totally cool). Not Ms (which would have been fine).  Not Mrs. (which would be a little weird, but whatever).  But Miss.  Like it was the 1950’s and I was wearing a polyester dress and taking dictation in short hand.

Now, he had a lot of forms of address to choose from however I was “introduced” as Doctor.  During our polite, professional game of phone tag, I re-introduced myself as “Zwitter”.  To chose to ask for “Miss” signaled a lack of respect for my experience.  Not only does it ignore my education but he also picked the honorific that is specific for (young) unmarried women, implying a lack of life experience (that both Ms and Mrs allow for).  Indeed, I had to spend a significant portion of our conversation on my own credentials as a scholar and an advisor before this d00d respected me enough to give my opinion about my minion any weight.  As ego-building as it can be to hear someone mentally totally revising their opinion of you up several notches over the phone, it’s also a little depressing to know that he called expecting to speak with someone with the breadth of experience of an undergrad.

Please.  Unless someone specifically introduces themselves as Miss, don’t use it.

Perspective

I’ve been varying my morning route into lab.  A few weeks ago, and again today, I walked by a group of building that I now know to be residences because my progress down the sidewalk was halted by a moving truck working to get the angle right to slowly back down a narrow driveway.   The truck was black with the words “EVICTION MOVERS” in huge white letters on the side.  Even without knowing anything about the situation, everything about that picture sucked.  In the few minutes the driver needed to get their approach correct I totally re-calibrated my internal “bad day” scale.  As bad as my day had started (full on refusal to wear pants, missed bus, 20 minutes late to school) and as bad as I thought it probably would be due to an scheduled unpleasant interaction that I had been darkly bracing myself for, I was still someone who never, until that moment, had cause to think about evictions enough to realize that there would be a market for movers specializing in them.  Pow!  Okay.  Thank you, universe.  I got the message.

There’s been a bit of blog silence lately.  My draft box is full, but most of what I’ve been filling it with lately is either too difficult to generalize (not necessarily in a bad way, mind) or veers rather more navel-gazy personal than I’m up to putting out there on the world wide web, knowing full well that anyone that stumbles here that knows me in real life will know exactly who I am.  Despite that seeming omninous, things are actually going pretty well – results, paper drafts, and diseases only of the type that do not involve fevers and therefore do not necessitate days home from school.  Or rather, let’s revise that a bit, I’d have to say that things are great.

Managing Minions: Establishing your track record

August just started and that means that your summer minion’s period of indentured servitude is coming to an end.  If you’ve played your cards right, your minion may have actually gotten one result that anyone besides you may tangentially care about and now it is time to tell the world – or at least your PI – all about it.  For you to get the most out of the mentoring experience, you should take the following steps to ensure that your investment continues to pay dividends.

1.  Set up a meeting with you, your minion and your PI.  Make it formal.  Your minion should feel a little scared.

2. Tell your minion how important this meeting is for them, mentioning their letter of recommendation.  This serves the dual purpose of signaling to your minion that you expect that they will ask for a letter while motivating them to nail down those last few experiments, rather than just slacking off for the last couple weeks when they’ve finally attained a reasonable level of competency.

3. In advance of the meeting, send your PI an e-mail that details the project, your minion’s accomplishments and your minion’s strengths as a budding scientist.  Write this email in the formalized, glowing language used in letters of recommendation.  The subject line should be your minion’s full name.  Your PI will never delete this e-mail because xe will immediately recognize how valuable these two paragraphs will be in two years when your minion is applying to med school.  As your PI copy-pastes this text directly into their letter of recommendation they will be reminded of just how awesome *you* are.

So you’ve set up a joint meeting, now you need to make it a productive use of everyone’s time.  Your minion’s performance certainly reflects upon hir, but it also reflects very much upon you.  Without your guidance, the meeting you just signed everyone up for will be painfully awkward.  You know all about how to create a compelling talk.  Your minion however likely has not the first damn clue.  At this point, your minion’s success is your success. With this in mind:

4. At least a week before the “big meeting”, have a big picture science chat with your minion, using a copy of your most relevant slide deck.  Give your intro, tell your minion that they will probably want to introduce the subject in a similar way and then give your intro to them again.  Watch them try to memorize every word you say on the spot.  As you walk through the presentation, insert a blank slide or two at points where you think they will need to introduce any new concepts and put a key word on that slide to remind them what to put on it.  Delete most of the irrelevant sections saying “you won’t need to talk about this”, but leave at least one data section in as an example.  You’ll save time overall if you spend a couple of minutes showing them how to control line weights and font size in your graphing program of choice right now, reminding them that font size may not be smaller than about 14 pts AFTER they scale the image for their slide.  NOTE: If there is information in the presentation that is confidential for whatever reason, make sure that they understand where and how they can talk about those parts.  Your little meeting may not be the only time they use these slides.

6. Now, some people have trouble with this step, but I’ve found that it is the best way to get a minion to put together a reasonable presentation: email this modified presentation to your minion.  Seems obvious, right?  All of the images, all of the references, all of the structure.  Give it to them.  Your PI will not be confused and think that your minion is some sort of super-genius.  Xe has seen your slides before.  Xe knows the origin of the genius that will be on display.  Xe will be relieved that xe will not have to cringe through an intro so full of holes and misconceptions that stunned silence is the only possible response.

7.  A few days before the meeting, ask to see your minion’s presentation.  If they have actually worked hard on it, inevitably they will reveal an amazing misunderstanding about something fundamental to the project.  Also, their slides will be so ugly that it will hurt to look at them.  Try to be gentle as you school them.  It may be advisable to repeat this step a time or two, possibly allowing your minion to practice what they are going to say, however repetitions of this step are a minion-lead rather than a mentor-lead initiative.  NOTE:  Some minions, usually the perfectionists, will choke and try to weasel out of showing you their presentation precisely because they realize that they are going to reveal amazing misunderstanding and that their slides are ugly.  Don’t let them.

8. Right before the meeting, bolster your minions confidence by listing specifically all that they have accomplished.  Something along the lines of “Wow!  This project is so awesome.  It is great that you could show this and that and this other thing.  We couldn’t show this but we totally ruled out that.  It really lays the groundwork for us to nudge a long standing paradigm!  Are you sure you can’t stay just a little longer?”  You want your minion to walk into their big meeting feeling confident.

9. At the meeting, put your minion in the hot seat and make them do all the talking.  You’ve got their back for when the conversation gets out of their depth, but this meeting needs to appear to be all about them.  It helps to put your hand over your mouth.  You’ve been working with a highly motivated, intelligent individual.  Give them their moment.  And enjoy it.

10. After the big meeting make sure you have a final electronic copy of the presentation for your own purposes later on.  Also have them put a print out of their slides in their notebook.  If you’re in that kind of lab, have someone snap a picture of you with your minion and your PI.  Warm fuzzies for everybody!  And ta-dah!  You’ve just established yourself as someone with a strong track record of mentoring minions.

preschool potluck

There were at least three parent preschool potlucks that neither my wife nor I attended this year for a variety of reasons.  I was determined to make it to the last one and arrived slightly late – I ate dinner with the kids first – bringing only a bottle of wine that the clerk at the liquor store around the corner picked out for me.

Feeling victorious, (only twenty minutes late!  I remembered to bring something!), I entered directly from the street into the kitchen, where a small group of parents was standing around the island, drinking.  Perfect!  I said hello, made my potluck offering and poured myself a drink.  When it became apparent that I was settling in at the bar, one of the parents informed me that the men were in the kitchen drinking and the women were in the dining room eating, and explained that it had been the opposite a little earlier in the evening.

“Oh!  Thanks, I already ate too!”  I say.  “Cheers!”  And I ask if they’d already drank all the scotch, or if someone was shirking their duty because I swore I saw it on the sign-up sheet.

I’m not uncomfortable around men and, while I won’t go so far as to say I don’t notice being the only female in a crowd of dudes, I don’t typically find a single gender group of people to be intimidating.  In this case, I know a couple of the dads and enjoy talking with them.  There’s a scientist that does work distant but related enough that it’s fun to talk shop with him and another with a sardonic sense of humor I enjoy.  I wasn’t hanging with the men to make a some sort of statement about gender or buck the social order.  I was at the bar to have a drink and, as I had previously enjoyed talking with some of the parents that were there, to repeat that experience.  I didn’t even think too much about it, weird comment notwithstanding.  That is, until it became obvious that one lady in the midst of the men was so disruptive (to some of them), it ruined standing around drinking at the bar.  Perhaps the problem was that only some of the dads were able to hear me when I said something, so it made the situation disconcerting for the dads who have trouble hearing the higher frequency of a woman’s voice.  Misogyny: powerful enough to chase (some) grown men away from the bar at a preschool potluck.

I should have walked home encouraged.  Quite a few of the fathers were actually able to hear me when I said something!  Indeed, a lot of the parents responsible for raising the next generation at this preschool are awesome.  But instead I walked home surprised and discouraged by the ranks of the tone-deaf.  Their kids must already have a lot of un-learning to do if they’re going to experience much of what the world has to offer; the boys because they won’t be able to hear and the girls because they won’t be entitled enough to speak.

Queer advocacy (Pride carnival)!

What does queer advocacy mean to me?

Being out and being comfortable with being out – even when it is a little uncomfortable.

When Massachusetts was all in an uproar over gay marriage, a friend of mine threw himself head-first into the foray.  He wrote his senators and lobbied.  He marched around the Boston Commons.  He tabled tables.  He collected signatures.  The photograph of him behind a big rainbow banner at a rally that a local newspaper ran on their front page is still one of the things he is most proud of.

At that time, while I was certainly one of multiple LGBT advocacy groups’ troups of flying electronic monkeys, my level of engagement was significantly lower than his.  Visiting him, I admitted to being a little embarrassed about the discrepancy, especially considering that I had much more at stake.  He disagreed with my assessment.  As as straight white (scientist!) dude, all the work he was doing was like a hobby, something to fill an odd afternoon or a day or two on a weekend.  It was, he felt, the least he could do.  I was the one who was hard core.  As a completely-out gay-married lesbian, I was being an advocate and an activist all of the time – whether I liked it or not.  And then that little twerp turned around and thanked me.

What works?

Delegation.

Papers aren’t published in academic journals until every author turns in that COI form.  Advocacy for being treated like a “person” instead of a “queer person” is clearly different from reporting financial conflicts of interest along side scientific findings.  But in both cases, people tend to trust “impartial” sources more.  Advocacy for a minority group by people outside of that group is usually more effective than advocacy from within that group.  My remark to HR that the affidavit stating “when my domestic partnership dissolves, I will inform HR immediately” is offensive sounds combative and whiny.  The same observation from an “impartial” straight person may trigger some introspection as to whether such a document is really necessary (and if so, uh, straight people split up too so maybe there’s a huge affidavit shortage) or at the very least result in a change in the wording from “when” to “if” and not require me to re-sign it every god-damn year.

My most effective moments of advocacy are those when a straight someone advocates for the LGBT community.  That’s going to happen more often if people know someone who is queer.  So I’m fantastically out – all the time.  Coupled with that, I try to correct misconceptions about the discrimination LGBT people face when they come up.  For example, my marriage isn’t *illegal*, just not recognized and I’m actually lucky that I can insure my family since the university is under no legal obligation to provide such coverage and, indeed, many employers do not.  A lot of very liberal highly-educated people don’t know a lot about LGBT rights and are surprised to find out how few protections there are for LGBT couples and families.  I don’t expect people to know these sorts of things and I’m happy to take the time to change that.

Despite all this low-level educating, I must admit that I’m always floored and humbled and so so grateful when an ally takes that step and advocates on behalf of the LGBT community.  Most recently I found out that there comes a time during interviews for faculty positions in which one meets with HR.  A (straight white male) friend on the interview circuit took that opportunity to ask every single HR person what the benefits packages looked like for graduate students, technicians and post-docs, inquiring specifically about benefits for same-sex couples, information he needed to place how competitive the university (and therefore he) would be at recruiting the best talent.  He argued that his motives were completely self-serving but I know that I have amazing friends.

How do these issues change your life as a scientist?

Unlike many, I find academic science to be a care-bears’ fucking tea party (at least when compared to the totally lame “real world” tea parties I’ve attended).

My wife and I grew up in small towns in different regions of the United States.  Between our high schools, there were three out/outed gay kids.  Not one – 0% – of them lived long enough to graduate.  All three committed suicide – two in “car accidents” and one with his father’s gun.  Now, both of us quietly skipped our ten year high school reunions a few years ago, so this sample is small and dated, but despite the huge strides in civil rights for LGBT people in the past decade, there is a lot of hostility out there.

I am a scientist.  I love science.  Even if my lab was frightfully unfriendly, I’d persist.  That said, academic science – for my queer ass – is a care-bears’ fucking tea party and a fabulous one at that.  Universities are fantastic employers when it comes to benefits packages for LGBT people (relative to the “real world”, which is pretty uniformly terrible).  They also collect people who, even if they aren’t socially liberal, are usually intellectually-driven enough to put aside most personal issues to figure out how to solve a problem.  If the person who can answer their question is a huge dyke who is probably going to hell, well, whatever.  Are the data good?

Nothing is perfect.  Things can always be better.  I’ll be here to tell you how.

Managing minions: Narrative Arc

If I’m going to have a late night, I’ll video chat with the kids before bed from lab while I’m rocking out at the bench.  As we were finishing up our conversation recently, my older kid asks:

“What you’re doing, that’s your work?”

“Yes.”

“And you do that all day?”

“Well, yes.  Today I did this all day.”

“You know, mama”  Xe gentles hir tone and tells me, for my own good, in all seriousness, the obvious truth that I appear to be oblivious of: “Your work is pretty boring.”

While summer student projects should be repetitive, they need to have a narrative arc. Much of bench work is boring and repetitive.  You can’t make your minions one-trick ponies and expect them to keep doing that trick just because they can.  You’ll get the most out of them (and they’ll get them most out of the experience) if the reason for doing their trick so many times is made clear.  Give them your grand vision, tell them about the disease this work someday may cure, or the paradigm they might help shift.  Give them a few grandious sentences they can repeat to their parents and impress their friends with.  And then make clear exactly what their contribution can be to the work and why the work is critical and important.  The intense hour you put into them with the slides from your last group meeting and an enthusiastic conversation will pay huge dividends.  They’re all jazzed up to be doing SCIENCE in a real lab.  Keep it that way.

Ciao DOMA!?!

Holy crap!  A federal appeals court just unanimously ruled the defense of marriage act (DOMA) unconstitutional!  I’m sure this decision will be appealed, but for the moment – wow!  This musty piece of legislation is the one that specifically allows the federal government to not recognize my marriage.  I’ll admit that up until we had kids, the impact it had on my day to day was small.  We were both healthy, working and immortal.  Probate court, social security survivorship benefits and the like didn’t weigh heavily on our minds.

With the addition of dependents and a change in the sources of our family income, however, DOMA freaking sucks.  Practically, the impact DOMA has on my life is an increased financial burden – with a wee bit anxiety that kicks in the dark moments when one thinks about exactly how fucked our family would be if one of us were to die; our stuff will be stuck in probate and have the shit taxed out of it because we’ve not paid a lawyer to create an appropriate set of state-specific documents that will need to be continually updated to mitigate the ridiculousness.  Mostly though, we simply pay way more in federal taxes than our straight friends, a little because the best rate we get is claiming a head-of-household rate – not married filing jointly – and mostly because of the health insurance.

Health insurance you ask?  Let’s take a moment here to talk health insurance:  Even though I’m in a friendly state and married, to cover my family, I have to prove a domestic partnership because my marriage isn’t recognized – thanks DOMA!   To prove I’m domestically partnered, sometimes HR will begrudgingly take a copy of our marriage certificate, but often I need proof of co-residence (lease & joint utility bill) and shared finances (joint bank or credit card account, and sometimes also that we’re beneficiaries of each-other’s life insurance or retirement accounts to prove a long-term financial commitment).  Then I’ll need to sign anywhere from 1 to 3 affidavits holding me completely financially and legally punishable if I’m lying or if I don’t inform HR when (not if) our partnership dissolves.  By this point, the HR person is typically somewhat apologetic.  Finally, I pick the domestic partner + family insurance (which has a slightly higher co-pay than the family one) and I just nod when they warn me that the actual value of the insurance (usually between $15 and $20k a year, mostly paid by the university) will be reported to the federal government as income (so post-doc salary + $15k in imputed benefits income), increasing our tax burden by about $2500 (thanks DOMA!).  And I’m lucky – the university is under no obligation to provide health insurance to domestic partners (and in some states – hey there Michigan! – is explicitly NOT allowed to do so with state tax money, such as the cash that funds the state universities).  I was surprised to learn that my co-workers don’t even need to bring in their marriage certificates – even if their spouse is foreign born they can just put down a name and a social security number.  Think of the possibilities for abuse!

So no more DOMA – assuming it isn’t appealed or whatever (it’s only been a few days) – means I just got a huge-ass raise!!  I can finally hire the lawyer and get those documents drawn up – but wait!!  No more DOMA means that I don’t really need those specially-crafted state-specific documents any more!!  Instead of an existential crisis at take-off, I can flip though the in-flight magazine.  Drinks are on me!

p.s. Some places recognize that being taxed at a special rate is bad for their employees and “gross up” wages so that employees with the same job take home the same salary.  Some people at some places get their panties in a twist about this.  This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t advocate for your place to “gross up” because you want your place to be competitive so that you can recruit the best possible trainees (because the cynic in me doesn’t really believe that DOMA is going to disappear quite this easily).  Send this page to your HR department:

http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/domestic-partner-benefits-grossing-up-to-offset-imputed-income-tax