Love 'em or hate 'em, we use labels all the time – and other people make judgements based on them. So, how do you label your other half when you mention them? Are you ambiguous and use ‘partner’ when you’re chatting with people who don’t know your sexuality? Or do you shout it from the rooftops and make it obvious that you’re gay and attached at any given opp?
In a same-sex relationship we tend to stick to ‘partner’ or ‘other half’ or even ‘the ball and chain’ if the shoe fits. Is this simply because we feel like we’re back in the playground if we say girl/boyfriend? And while they say your school years are your best, I’ll happily disagree.
Maybe it just depends who we’re talking to, as I remember quite clearly mentioning my ‘other half’ (something which makes me sound like I’ve been married 50 years…) to a lecturer of mine when she asked if I had someone “back at home.” While I know my reason at the time was to avoid outing myself, I think I did pretty much that by avoiding using the words ‘boy/girlfriend’ or any other label. It felt like I was coming out all over again, and while she was professional and waited until I had to say ‘he’ or ‘she’, I was making things harder for myself.
When terms are used that can refer to either sex, what do you assume? There’s no need to rub my sexuality in people’s faces, and while I know that wouldn’t be my intention, others may think I’m someone that goes shouting from the rooftops when I mention my girlfriend.
‘I’m gay, gay, GAAAAAAAAAAAAY!’
I vividly remember sitting in my university library with a friend of mine when a girl from my course decided to tell me a back history of her and her wonderful boyfriend, before turning to me and saying “you have a girlfriend, don’t you?” Before I could reply, she continued: “I looked at your photos and was trying to figure out which one she was.” Oh good, I thought, she’s not only annoying as hell but a cyber-stalker too. Lucky me. And I’m considered the butch-ier one of the relationship, so it would have taken her a while to decide which out of my girly friends was more than a mate.
It’s a bit like ignoring a typo in an email when someone continues to mention your boyfriend you didn’t specify you had in a conversation: if you don’t wear your ‘I love my girlfriend’ cap all the time, you’re presumed heterosexual. Unless you’re in dungarees, have a buzz cut and have a Sue Perkins banner in your arms, then you’re so obviously queer they really won’t need to ask, nor mention your boyfriend ever again… •
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