Partner? Boyfriend? Limits Of The English Language

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the words I use to describe the people in my life. Though there are so many words to describe various relationships (friend, family, acquaintance, boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, lover, significant other, etc), each one definitely carries a certain connotation. It was never really an issue for me until I started dating a trans guy.

To me, it seems my options are either “boyfriend” or “partner”. However, both of these words are problematic for me. Calling him my boyfriend strips me of my queer identity. When I casually drop that word in conversations, people automatically assume I’m straight. Which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just not how I identify, and not how I want to be seen. When I say partner, on the other hand, it feels like I’m describing my long-term, committed lover who I’m destined to spend the rest of my life with…which is a little intense for me. I recently stumbled upon an article that touches upon these same kinds of issues. However, the issue of limiting words is not just an issue in queer relationships.

My mom has been dating her boyfriend (here I am again, using these words) for a few years now, and seems to be in the same boat as I am as far as naming the relationship. To her, a 40-something year old mom, it feels strange to call Len her boyfriend, as he’s a great deal older than her and by no means a “boy”. However, when she uses the word partner, everyone assumes she’s gay. It’s ironic, actually, that I am assumed straight by using boyfriend and she is assumed gay by using partner.

I can’t help but wish that we could come up with some better words to describe the complicated relationships that we all have without limiting ourselves so much. I’ve already considered luffer, partner in crime, sig o, tranny boyfriend, boi toy, and person, but none of those seem to hold a lot of weight. So, MSP readers, I challenge you…can you come up with new words to describe these types of relationships?

About Michaela

Michaela

Michaela is a recent Seven Sisters graduate with a self-designed degree in Sexuality Studies. When she's not blogging, you'll find her teaching Health and Wellness and A Cappella to high school students, helping women find properly fitting bras, and working as an editor on a documentary. She hopes to continue her education one day with a PhD in Feminist Anthropology.

  • Erader

    lover

  • Kiersten

    In my family we like to use the term “mucho smoochies” since it’s a cute and accurate descriptor that doesn’t have a lot of social implications at this point.

  • TheSpecialLadyFriend

    I have similar definition problems. Boyfriend is too cutesie and casual, partner is too involved and can have homosexual implications… Who knows. An ex of mine used “core friend,” but I always thought that sounded dumb.

  • http://twitter.com/foxyfolklorist Jeana Jorgensen

    I agree, it’s a pretty sticky issue. I bounce between various terms, sometimes resorting to unwieldy phrases such as “the person I’m seeing.” (which is monocentric, unless modified to be “one of the people I’m seeing,” which can lead to unwanted questions)

  • http://twitter.com/foxyfolklorist Jeana Jorgensen

    I agree, it’s a pretty sticky issue. I bounce between various terms, sometimes resorting to unwieldy phrases such as “the person I’m seeing.” (which is monocentric, unless modified to be “one of the people I’m seeing,” which can lead to unwanted questions)