Sunday, December 23, 2007

WC: Spouse, Lover, Girlfriend, Partner

Years ago, I wrote a column about the importance of coming up with a common term for gay people to use to refer to our significant others. Consistency in language improves communication, and having such a label would allow us that consistency.

Now, I'm somewhat pleased to report, we have that label.


And what a boring, lackluster, non-clarifying choice it is.

I remember, some 20 years ago, two friends laughing that when they had used the word partner at a party, someone asked, "What kind of business do you two have?" They found this incredibly uncool. I thought it was a perfectly logical response, and I still do. That's what partner means!

Spouse isn't really an option, because gay people can't get married in 99.99% of the world, and it's important that straight people know this (you'd be amazed how many don't). So, politically, it would be a mistake to call each other spouses.

Husband and wife have the same limitations as spouse. In addition, a friend of mine who is legally married in Massachusetts says that she and her partner (their choice) hate wife because of all the baggage that comes with that term.

I like the term girlfriend, but it has two serious limitations: (1) it doesn't denote long-term and serious, and (2) adults in relationships aren't girls.

In the Village Voice years ago, someone suggested sother, for significant other. I like that term. It has no pre-existing connotations and it's kind of cute. But it died the quick death that most deliberately invented words die.

I rooted for lover to win. Not lover as in "someone you have sex with," but lover as in "Errol Flynn climbing up to Olivia de Havilland's balcony in the Adventures of Robin Hood." Lover is a dashing, loving, emotional, sexy word.

On the other hand, partner is cold, legal-esque, and confusing. But language is a place that majority vote wins, even if it's wrong (eg, "I could care less" for "I couldn't care less").

And I lost.

But, if I'm ever in a relationship again, I ain't gonna use it. So there.

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