As of my senior year, I’ve been with my current partner, so almost four years. I call him my partner because I’m bisexual, and one of my preferences regarding pronouns is using terms such as “partner” instead of boyfriend, or fiancé, or husband. If I were dating a woman, she would be my partner, too. For me, this is deeper than inclusion: it’s a safety net.
To understand why this is important to me, I have to recollect on my experiences in high school and middle school. I never came out, I had always had relationships with both women and men, and everyone who knew me knew that gender was not one of my preferences. It was a strange, unceremonial event: one day I started dating my best friend, and boom, I had a girlfriend. My friends would later ask me and I’d say, “Yeah! I love her, she’s so epic!”. This was back when “rawr xd” and “I love boobies” bracelets were popular among myself and other middle schoolers. I had the added benefit of being a youth in Miami, so everyone was pretty relaxed about it.
My parents did not know I’ve had girlfriends, I believe it was a “we won’t ask but we know” situation, but even to this day, I’ve never asked them. I truly believe they would have been accepting, but I was a very rebellious child. I often refer to myself as “a nightmare of a child”, I dyed my hair because I was told I wasn’t allowed, my closest friends were the ones my parents expressly disliked. I was a rebel, and I didn’t come out to them formally because I’d always say, “I don’t need anyone’s acceptance.” This is a catalyst for my never coming out to them.
Years later, a friend of mine shared with me that he resented how indifferent I felt about my coming out to others. He had not come out to his family and he was scared to be kicked out if he had. It was awkward, I felt ashamed that I could flaunt my partners regardless of their gender without consequence. I wanted to switch places for a day so I could heal his worries. He was right though, I would never know the angst of hiding my sexuality.
I understand that others cannot be so ambiguously queer within their inner circles. This is why I encourage my partner to refer to me as his “partner” and not his girlfriend. We still slip up in conversations, but his friends know me so well that they love me regardless of what he refers to me as. As for myself, I try to correct my language whenever I misspeak. It’s important to me, and everyone in our lives has come to know that it’s a distinction that matters to me. I make an effort every day to shift my language to include everyone. I spend the greater part of my day writing and speaking on account of being an English Major, so to say that I check my language every day is not an understatement.
By removing gender, I hope to communicate with my own inner circle that relationships are allowed to look different. Everyone should be allowed to praise and reference their partner in conversation, whoever they might be, or how they identify themselves. It might not be a lot, but shifting the way we refer to our partners is a stepping stone to including all types of relationships in the conversation.
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