What married gay/lesbian partners call each other

::Scarlett gingerly dips her toe into the Great Debates waters::

In this thread, there’s a discussion about children raised by gay/lesbian parents. One respondent mentioned her “aunt’s wife,” followed by another poster’s mention of “my husband and I” raising a daughter. In this particular thread one could easily assume that the one with the husband was a gay man – but she turned out to be a bi woman.

I’d like to start a discussion of the use of the terms “husband” and “wife” within gay/lesbian marriages. I’m neither endorsing nor condemning it – just gathering opinions and commentary. Do you find it confusing, or a natural extension? After all, a wife is a female spouse; a husband is a male spouse. Depending on the context, sometimes I have to do some mental gymnastics to figure out whose gender is what, if it’s not clear that we’re talking about a gay or lesbian couple.

Of course, that opens up the can of whether it’s really important to know someone’s gender and/or sexual orientation. For me, I don’t give a flip as to whether you’re gay, straight, male, female, green or purple – but it is something interesting to know about you, and it does help with the pronouns. :slight_smile:

I really don’t have many personal referents to go on – the only lesbian married couple I’ve known (now dissolved :() referred to each other as “partners” – the safe way out (you should excuse the pun), since they were business partners as well in their tiny (-minded) town.

Is this just something that needs time to be absorbed into the language, just as acceptance of gay couples is making progress? Does using the term “wife” assume a husband, and vice versa, or is that just straight-oriented programming at work? Should we all (gay and straight couples alike) adopt “spouse” as a fully inclusive term? Would legalization of full-fledged same-sex marriage make a difference? What’s used in gay and lesbian literature, fiction and nonfiction?

(Confession time: As you might expect, I’m wrestling with my white-bread WASP upbringing here. I’m lucky that the longer I’ve lived on my own, I’ve been able to seek out and acquire more diverse friends, interests, and experiences. Same-sex marriage is fine with me – if you can find love, more power to you, no matter whether your sexual equipment matches. But dang it, although I don’t bat an eye when my gay/lesbian friends talk about a boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse, the terms “wife” and “husband” in that context sound . . . not wrong . . . weird. I hate that I think that way. I think I’m trying to fix it with this thread. I’d also like to fix the fact that I “notice” when I see a black person in this lily-white hick town.)

While YMMV, most of my gay/lesbian friends refer to each other as “spouse” if they have had a ring ceremony/wedding, or “partner” if not.
Personally, I prefer (for any committed couple) “S.O.” or “numbysweetiepoochkins” :smiley:
'Course, if you want to go completely non-judgmental, I suppose they can refer to each other as “support staff”.


Uh, Sua? Are you feeling well? :wink:

My personal favorite has always been PeTCICOE. Of course, I heard it years ago, when I was in high school, as the punchline of a joke, but still.

I suspect it’s all a matter of how comfortable the people in the relationship are with gender labels, too; the only gay couple I’ve known IRL in a long-term relationship definitely referred to each other as “husband” and “wife” - though the appellations changed depending on who was being bitchier at the moment!

[sub]hm. wonder how they’re doing[/sub]

S.O., partner, mate, honey, sweetie, sexy, etc. I haven’t heard “the old ball & chain” yet. :smiley: You call each other whatever you want to be called. Easy as that. Naturally, this will vary from couple to couple.

As for my personal view on the topic, I would never, ever refer to my same-sex (male) partner as a “wife”, ever, for any reason, including legal. If I wanted a “wife”, I darn well wouldn’t be hunting other males, and those that insist on that kind of terminology are usually the ones that say things like “So which one of you is the wife?”. If there’s one thing in this world guaranteed to put me in a bloody-minded, pain-inducing mood, it’s a reference like that. Don’t even joke like that around me.

Others might not mind, but even embrace the term. That’s their choice. Not one I understand, but I’m not about to try to tell them what they mean to each other and themselves :wink:

Legally, “spouse” sounds good and non-specific to me, but that very ambiguity is also its weakness. We’ve recently been getting things like the “Defense Of Marriage Act” (what a sanctimonious name) here in Kentucky that, among other things, explicitly defines the legal meaning of ‘spouse’ as being (only) of the opposite sex. So while I think it will eventually assume its proper non-specific meaning in truth as well as theory, it will be a long fight, tooth and nail, before that comes around.

(and what hick town are you at where there are b]married** lesbians"? Can’t be all that backwater…)

Well, now, I say “married” because that’s what they considered themselves. I asked Jo once if they had had a ceremony, and she said no, they just stood on the beach and told each other “I love you” and other mushy stuff, then exchanged rings. And they weren’t originally from here, but rather “imported” from the nearest metropolis.

I call Cajun Man my partner. Sometimes, I say my SO. Spouse/husband just doesn’t sound right; We aren’t (legally) married. We are domestic partners.

Hmm, the time I met you guys, I could’ve sworn I heard “numbysweetiepoochkins”.


I call quietgirl “girlie”.

Hope that helps. :wink:

Here in Australia, so few people get married (well, in the circles I frequent) that almost everybody I know calls their live-in-lover their domestic partner or just partner. This is the term I use with most straight people.

Sometimes it’s appropriate to use the term friend (“Officer, my friend’s alright, he just needs to lie down somewhere”). In gay circles I would usually say boyfriend to people I don’t know well (“yes, I have a boyfriend, but he’s out of town at the moment”) or boyf when trying to sound cool.

But to my old friends, and to the lad himself, I say boy (“where’s my drink boy?”), which he really enjoys.

Now. What do you straight people call the large leather thing you hang from the ceiling with all the hooks, bolts and and stirrups, and - oh, perhaps you don’t have those when you’re straight… don’t bother.

Given that this is my aunt…well, it seems appropriate in their case. I mean they’re definatly married. And “partner” doesn’t quite do it.

I’m not sure if that’s the best thing to call them- generally we refer to them as KerryandAndrea.

Oh yeah. Heterosexuals know nothing of such things :rolleyes: .

Mekhazzio wrote:

Hunting other males?
Um … so … do people really taste like chicken?

The younger males are chicken, older ones tend to be bears.

And, you know that old drag queens never die… they just turn to leather.

As far as what people call their signifigant other, or spouse, (whether a homo or hetro sexual relationship), i’ve always liked the term “Other half” or “Better half”

Back when they were still together, I once heard Anne Heche call Ellen DeGeneres her wife.

In my relationship, we prefer the term husband. I married my husband last October 31st in a medium sized pagan ceremony.

I find partner and significant other to be far too bland.

If I were married, I would definitely call him my husband, otherwise what’s the point?
For official purposes, I’d sigh and call him “partner” or “friend”, if absolutely necessary.
Until I get engaged, they’ll be “boyfriends”.
Due to current endless problems I had with the most recent one’s status, I usually mumbled something like “lover-sex-partner-type-person.”

Some insight:

“Love and domestic partnership/Go together like no health insurance and no presents.” - Sara Cytron

My sister calls her “wife;” I refer to her as my sister-in-law. The two children she gave birth to and my sister adopted are, of course, my nieces.

Sounds like we got an etiquette rule, then: a female married person is a wife, a male married person is a husband, irrespective of the gender of the person they’re married to. (Of course, homosexual married persons, like heterosexual married persons, are free to prefer a different term like “spouse” or “partner” to refer to themselves if they want to. And note that this builds on an existing etiquette rule, namely, that as far as social usage goes, people are married if they say they are. Even if their relationship doesn’t meet current legal or sacramental requirements for civil or religious marriage, polite society does not consider that a suitable response to a remark like “We’ve been married for three years” is “No you haven’t”.)

Hope this clears things up somewhat Scarlett, and I bet once you’ve practiced saying “her wife” and “his husband” a number of times, it will seem much less weird. Good luck with your work on not “noticing” the black people in your white town too (I lived for several months in India and, being a blue-eyed pink person, got “noticed” wherever I went, and boy does it get annoying after a while, even when you know that everybody’s just genuinely a bit surprised by you and isn’t doing it on purpose).

In speaking in intimate terms, I refer to him as “honey bear.” Generally, socially, he’s my partner or with good friends, my husband.

With the gay subculture of bears, they refer to their respective spouses as hus-bear. YMMV.