I’ve had several different types of relationships throughout my life, many of them nebulously defined. Midnight lovers, f*ck buddies, crushes actualized through love, crushes crushed by love, sexually-tense best friendships, location-based lovers, and a partner.
I was discussing a potential relationship with a new lover once and he said, “if we were ever boyfriend/girlfriend,” and I stopped him, short. “Sorry, but we will never be that because I hate that terminology.”
Now that the homophobic, early 2000s joke “business partner or sexual partner?!” has finally subsided, it’s time to embrace it. Partner is the best possible title for someone you’re in a loving relationship with.
Partner is an incredibly dynamic term for several reasons, which I’ve outlined here. All it says is, “this person matters a lot to me.”
1. First of all and most importantly, it’s genderless.
I’m never in favor of assigning irrelevant gender information to anything. Why does one need to be designated with having a vagina by adding a suffix? An actor is an actor (not actress), a server is a server (not waitress), and partner, similarly, doesn’t demand a gender assignment. People love people. So, let’s get away from acting like one’s sex determines everything about them. And it’s perfect for people who don’t identify as either — genderqueer, intersexed, trans, etc. Let’s make space for those who identify outside the female/male binary!
2. It’s less privileged (if you’re straight).
Instead of flying your heterosexuality banner high, experience the discomfort of coworkers, family, and middle-aged strangers stumble over the pronouns of your significant other. As a queer person myself, it feels much more comfortable to evade the sexuality question and settle into the ambiguity of my various partners’ genders. I also enjoy forcing people to use “they” as a pronoun and feel endeared to those who use it comfortably.
3. It’s free of stage and status.
No longer do you have to differentiate between whether you have been engaged to marry by saying “fiancée,” or have undergone dear holy matrimony with “wife.” As younger generations move away from traditional lifestyles, where less and less people get married, referring to a relationship as a partnership is a nice catch-all term for every stage of the relationship.
4. It implies equality.
It says, this is a partnership in which both sides work together in order to make it work. No longer is there a set of obligations attached to what girlfriends or husbands are supposed to do. This is a joint undertaking in which both of us are expected to take time and energy supporting one another, whether that means providing for a child or washing the dishes.
5. It can be both serious and casual.
I think when one says, “my partner,” it means that this is the one, the most important of my romantic relationships (ignoring the implied possession). And if one says, “a partner,” it could be a sexual partner, or a polyamorous lover, or a monogamous life partner.
Of course, you can call your sweetheart whatever you’d like. I know a lot of those in the LGBTQ community want to specifically identify their partner’s gender because hell yeah, you’re here and you’re queer. Shout it out about your girlfriend, girl. And that’s really rad too.