Tuesday, March 01, 2011


As readers know, lately Puck has changed their preferred pronoun to reflect their genderqueer status, and I’ve been slowly learning to use gender-neutral pronouns when referring to them.

So I asked them last night if they still wanted me to refer to them as my girlfriend. Interestingly, they didn’t really mind that because for some reason, they can hear me saying they are my girlfriend without thinking of themself as a girl. However, in order for me to reinforce the usage of gender-neutral pronouns, it’s helpful for me to use something other than “girlfriend” to describe them, because when I think of girlfriend I can’t help but assign gender to that role. It’s not unheard of to de-gender a previously gendered word (e.g. “guys” is now pretty gender-neutral when used in direct address) but “girl” is still pretty strongly gendered toward the feminine, at least in my mind.

So I’ve been thinking of what else we might call one another to describe our relationship to other people, especially those in the mundy (mundane, or non-queer) world, where girlfriend has a clear meaning depending on how you emphasize it, and can also provide ambiguity if needed (although we are both pretty out to everyone).

While “significant other” is also appropriate and accurate, it’s kind of unwieldy and technical. “Partner” seems to imply a more serious and interdependent relationship than we currently have, since most mundys think queer people use that to describe their marriage partner, whether legal or not.

Two years ago we were "affectionate friends" (which seems inadequate to describe us now), or in an amitié amoureuse (“in-love friendship”) which is probably still applicable, but too difficult for everyday use. "Lovers" implies a more serious and sexual pairing than we currently have. "Sweethearts" is probably the most useful and accurate word to describe us, although they probably prefer the short form, "sweeties." I like the more formal version, maybe because it sounds so charmingly old-fashioned.

Most of this is just mental masturbation because it's not like it matters to anyone really, other than helping me adjust to them being genderqueer. We both know what our relationship is and what it means to us - the rest is just semantics.