Month: January 2015

‘They’re my main squeeze!’ Telling people about your non-binary lover

thy-page said:

“Hey I really want to ask just out of curiosity do people who use they have a word they get called when in a relationship eg with the biranry gernders boyfriend girlfriend. Is there something like they for people who use they?”

Hi there thy-page!

An excellent question. I think the most common word is ‘partner’ but this can be quite a heavy-duty term implying a primary if not monogamous relationship as well as a particular duration and intent (spouse is similar).

I see queer and/or trans* people around me overwhelmingly using partner language, but I also hear some straight cis-gender (non-trans) people using partner language, too. This has the nice effect of opening up the possibility that their (absent and referred-to ‘partner’) could be of any gender, and makes a little crack in the inevitability of heterosexuality. I often encourage my straight students to try referring to their partners with singular they and partner language in conversation with strangers, and to see what happens. Give it a try, interwebs!

But I digress.

‘Partner’ and ‘spouse’ certainly don’t reflect all ways in which people approach their relationships, particularly more casual, less primary or less durational ones. I’ve heard people use the following:

date

lover

crush

significant other

sweetheart

sweetie

new friend

main squeeze

Of course, some of these can sound pretty cheesey, and might have a bit of a tongue-in-cheek quality to them. They also may be a bit awkward to use when introducing your person to others: “This is my main squeeze!” or “Meet my crush!” However, I’m a big proponent of embracing and surviving awkwardness as best as we can; but I’m also an extrovert and someone who actively studies awkwardness as a teaching tool…

So another and perhaps more socially seamless option is to use gerunds (-ing words) in the style of ‘person-first’ language popularized by some disability rights advocates. Here are some examples:

“This is Matt, the person I’m dating.”

“This is Phoenix. We’ve been seeing each other for about a month.”

“Juniper and I have been spending a lot of time together recently.”

This is nice because you don’t need a label at all.

So, thanks again thy-page for a great question! Keep asking.

**

Happy new year from TIMP, everyone! Thank you for your many questions, both private and public. Thank you also for your patience with me as I caught up to my new post-Ph.D. defence life and had a big TIMP time-lag this fall.

I love writing this blog, but my only regret is that I don’t usually get to have ongoing conversations with anyone. Please feel free to comment far and wide on my posts, whether you agree or disagree with what I have offered. I would love to hear other points of view, which can only be helpful to people asking questions. I will get back to you, I promise.

My warmest wishes for a gender-inclusive (if not wholly gender-neutral) 2015,

Lee

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