I have a pet peeve: straight people who are married but nonetheless use the word "partner" rather than "husband," "wife," or "spouse." I'm not talking about the abstract sense, in which one says, "People should support their partners." I appreciate this looser, gender-inspecific term. Nor am I talking about people or couples with whom I am close friends and know that they use "partner" in all circumstances as a symbol of their commitment to marriage and/or gender equality. I'm talking about people I meet at a conference or know through work, and we are merely acquaintances and I'd have no idea if said person and his or her "partner" are legally married.
Reasons this bothers me:
I especially hate when people use "partner" in front of gay people, but "wife" or "husband" when they're with family or straight friends, it bugs me. If you want to adopt the term "partner" full-time, awesome. But you do not, I feel, get to have it both ways: happily traditional at Thanksgiving dinner with grandma but tolerant and sensitive around the lesbo at work.
Yes, it's all a little irrational of me. But when I get to know a straight couple, and they use the term "partner" all the time, and then later I find out that they're actually married, it bugs me. It's as if they were hiding their traditional selves to spare my feelings or pretend to be politically correct.
I feel an asshole for writing this post, because:
I guess "partner" bothers me because it can seem so inauthentic sometimes. Am I the only one who feels this way? What do you think, dear readers?
12/8/2011 01:43:39 am
It doesn't bother me. We are fighting for equality to marry. Why should giving the equality of calling their wife/husband a partner bother us? Perhaps they are in a poly relationship, or perhaps they too don't want labels. If I get married, being called a "wife" makes me cringe. I prefer husbutch. Each person has their own strokes...
12/8/2011 01:47:29 am
I'm gay and I don't like using the word "partner". It's not like my girlfriend and I run a business together or it's not like we're gonna rob a bank together. She's my girlfriend, not a partner. But, that's just me.
12/8/2011 01:58:04 am
@a_hadeda wrote about this very thing two years ago or so... http://www.getyourqueeron.com/idyke/cowboys-and-lesbians
12/8/2011 01:59:48 am
The fact that someone would alter their vocabulary because I am around bothers me. Even if they are trying to be supportive, they are perpetuating the idea that we are different and unequal. I think this is the root of many things straight people do (not just this) that bothers gay people... only the straight people do not know they are doing it usually and we don't say anything because we don't want to be "assholes" about it. I say if you have the right of marriage, use the terminology associated with marriage.
12/8/2011 02:17:57 am
I personally do not like the term "partner". As Amy said, it's not a business arrangement or a P.I.C. If I have a girlfriend, I acknowledge her as such! If someone refers to myself or her as "partners", I am the first to correct them that this is my relationship, not a partnership. It's offensive, although I see the PC in the reasoning, but I'd rather people just have the balls to say it like it is over calling it what it's not.
12/8/2011 02:35:55 am
I use the term partner because she's not my wife, and unfortunately, isn't likely to be since we don't have any marriage equality. I use it to be clear; in my world, that's the closest we're going to get -- she's more than my girlfriend, she's my partner until she's my wife. That said, I feel a bit co-opted by straight married people using the term partner. They have the option that I would like -- husband or wife. Leave my word alone -- it has a whole different meaning for me than it does for them. I hate when straight people use it -- it annoys the crap out of me.
12/8/2011 02:41:56 am
It doesn't bother me -- I think most straight people I know who use it use it pretty regularly, but then again, if I'm around, it's not a totally straight affair so unless I hid and eavesdropped at some het-only event, I might never know. I also think it's way more common in the Bay Area, land of tolerant terminology.
You do have the right to be annoyed actually, its an example of hetero co-opting of queer culture. Now to be fair, I like the term and what it implies but I will use girlfriend much more frequently.. I do feel like it's more inclusive, and I don't have a problem with folk of whatever stripe choosing it and all that it implies. But if you're hetero and married and you have all the associated privileges, its pretty ballsy to jump on the partner bandwagon too.
12/8/2011 03:03:17 am
intresting topic I was with my g/f for 18 months but here is the kicker , she was still married for many personal reasons and I went with her to many Bbq and such but she was not out so the first thing many would ask what does your husband do , these people are all in the airforce and could not seems to understand that no every one married , maybe it was their way of thinking and just one look from her I could not say I was gay and in love with her, but many of them called their wife their partner, which I found weird but as always the woman sit in one area men sit over there but my point being that most people are thought to be straight ah life
12/8/2011 03:30:33 am
I have a few friends who are in het relationships, but not married (for various reasons), so this is the most accurate term. I also know these same people have more than a few LGBT fils in their life and don't use out out of some distorted PC-ness.
12/8/2011 03:43:56 am
Doesn't bother me at all. In fact I think it is unreasonable to expect that the word "partner" should be for the exclusive use of gays and lesbians. I don't think that if straight people use it, it means they are trying to hide anything or be "pc" around me or other gay people. Don't internalize or take offense to it, it most likely has nothing to do with you.
12/8/2011 05:10:52 am
What really irks me is when people refer to my wife as my partner. We got married in CT, and I always refer to her as my wife; but some people just automatically substitute "partner", even right after I used the term "wife".
12/8/2011 06:33:44 am
My mom calls her unmarried male spouse of over 20 years her "partner." Which has always kinda bothered me.
12/8/2011 10:15:22 am
So...I have a problem with the word partner, period, when marriage has already come into play.
I use the terms partner and husband about equally. I don't do it to not 'own' being married I do it because we were partners long before we were married and it is natural for me. I do want to be very clear on one point you mentioned- I do not modify my wording if I am speaking to someone that is het, gay, queer or any other identification/ orientation- it's the same across the board. I feel that every healthy relationship is an equal partnership so perhaps this is why I flow back and forth between the two words without it being a conscious word choice.
12/8/2011 11:53:04 am
i fucking completely agree. the only thing that annoys me more is straight women using the term "hubby."
12/9/2011 02:51:21 am
12/9/2011 04:54:52 am
i totally agree with you! i had this experience recently; someone i did not know very well told me they were married and referred to their "partner", and it then became very uncomfortable for me because i was like, well, is it a guy? a woman? what? there were no clarifying pronouns, so it was hard to take the conversation beyond just the basics because it became awkward. i must admit, i also find it irritating because frankly, its a word that queers have been forced to accept because we really haven't been legally allowed to use wife or husband up until recently, so to hear straight person using it feels like REALLY privileged and kinda like a slap in the face. great post!
1/24/2015 09:21:25 am
It is nobodies business whom you are dating, whether straight or not.
12/9/2011 05:22:17 am
12/9/2011 07:52:47 am
12/9/2011 01:49:54 pm
Angela, you are awesome.
I have in the past referred to my good friends' same sex spouses in front of straight people as their husband or wife in an effort to get rid of the double standard which unfortunately still exists.
12/12/2011 04:55:56 pm
I don't care how people refer to their relationships. I choose how to refer to my own, and if people are paying attention and after listening to me, refer to my relationship the same way that I did, I feel comfort in the fact that they were paying attention.
12/13/2011 04:37:02 am
I'm with you, BW! Personally, I find that many people are so desperate for acceptance that they're 10 different people, throughout the day, to gain the acceptance of others. Very little authenticity exists.
12/31/2011 01:34:05 pm
Either way I don't reallly care. I mean I think everyone has a right to call the person they're with whatever they wish no matter what orientation they are or how they identify. I believe strongly in "to each their own.:" I personally despise the word partner myself. But some people prefer it. That's great. Do whatever makes you happy and stop worrying so much about the meaning behind it. All that matters is your meaning that you put behind the word.
12/31/2011 01:48:30 pm
Of course I forgot to get to the real point of your post. I don't know if it would both me so much if someone used the word partner for their spouse just because they are around gay people. It's a little misguided sure, but I think it all depends on the person and where their heart is. Some people have good intentions but it might bother me a little. I don't know. This is what I get for trying to right an intelligent post when I haven't slept in two days. Haha.
1/3/2012 05:20:47 am
Wow(!), I love that there are so many different, intelligent, thoughtful perspectives on this. I also like that people's opinions doesn't seem to be broken down in terms of sexual orientation or gender identification.
1/21/2012 02:42:05 pm
I'm a transguy dating a straight cisguy (!) so while we might have heterosexual privilege in some senses, I prefer to use the gender-neutral terms lover, paramour, or partner. I just don't like the connotations of the word boyfriend; while obviously there are plenty of gay men and male-male relationships it does kind of affect my dysphoria and my ability to pass. When the gender of my partner doesn't matter, I use a gender-neutral term.
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