Why do people intentionally disguise the gender of their "partners"?

A lot of times on these boards I’ll see someone telling a little anecdote about their “partner” or “SO” and use “they/them” as pronouns, carefully avoiding identification of gender by saying “he” or “she”.

It bugs me a little only because the story is harder for me to visualize when instead of a man or a woman I’m just picturing this featureless, amorphous blob of goo. It would help to have the context.

Whenever I see the behavior, I tend toward the assumption that they are gay and ashamed or embarrassed to admit the same-sex relationship (not that most of us would even know, since we don’t know the genders of many posters themselves). But even if you out yourself by telling a story about your gay lover, who gives a crap? And if my assumption is wrong and there are straight people doing this too, why?

Mostly it’s done out of dislike for the words boyfriend and girlfriend, I think. Some people find the word a little childish or lacking in gravitas, and it seems to me we have a higher percentage of those people at the SDMB. And there are probably some people who do it for principled reasons or because they are bisexual.

I knew a woman on another message board who for months talked about her partner. We all assumed she was gay. Nope, turns out she hates the terms husband and wife.

Well, I don’t entirely understand that but I know the terms SO/partner are prevalent around here. But it’s those terms coupled with clear and intentional avoidance of identifying pronouns that bugs me.

Bingo. I hate the word boyfriend. I’m 34, we’ve been together for THIRTEEN years, we are way past boyfriend/girlfriend, IMO. And there really isn’t another good word, so I’ll say SO. But I do use pronouns, when relevant.

Some folks are leery of giving out too much identifying info on a public message board.
(I know, I know, don’t post at all then. But it’s so much fun!)

I don’t think I’ve ever noticed that. I’ve seen people use “they” when referring to individuals, but not as an attempt to hide details.

Carol Stream is the only poster I can think of who went out of her way to disguise her gender. I’m not going to speculate about why she did any of the things she did.

I don’t doubt there are many people who do this, but I think often there may be less “carefully” than you think. I’m pretty sure I’ve used “significant other” and “they” / “them” in reference to my wife, but I’m pretty sure I’ve used “wife” as well.

And as other posters have noticed, there isn’t a universally accepted good word to use to describe a committed heterosexual relationship where there is no marriage. It would be strange to refer to my sister’s “boyfriend” for example, given that they own a house together and have been a couple for nearly 10 years. It seems wrong to give that the same word as a teenage couple that have been together for two weeks!

“Significant other” is the best we have, and it makes no gender distinction. Since people use it to describe a very committed relationship, it does not surprise me that it has crept into describing heterosexual marriage partners as well.

Maybe some say “SO” because “Bringer of Joy, Beacon of Beauty, My Reason For Living” takes too long to write.

I just say “wife.” That way the above is taken as a given. :smiley:

I would think that, if you were really trying to hide the fact that you were gay, you’d just use the wrong pronoun.

As for not liking the term boyfriend/girlfriend–I can understand that. But I find partner, and especially “significant other” to be much less personal. The latter just sounds PC, and the former sounds like you guys started a business together.

And I’m actually a bit confused here: what’s the difference (besides legal status) between your live-in “partner” of X years and your spouse? I mean, after a while, why does the legal status even matter?

I didn’t want to single anyone out, but I saw a poster doing it in the past week or two. I don’t even remember which thread it was anymore anyway.

That’s easy. They’re called sinners. :stuck_out_tongue:

Well, it my case it’s because it’s accurate. My partner’s name is Legion, for they are many.

Well after thirteen years two words that occur to me would be fiance or de-facto…neither of which help with the gender issue but both imply a more rooted relationship the boyfriend / girlfriend…

For me I’m not all that hung up on titles anyway - if you r living together, regardless of whether married or not and have been in a relationship for 13 years I will call the bloke your “hubby”.

If still living apart after 13 years I think the terms bf / gf are quite appropriate

I wish there were another word. Every time I hear someone talk about their partner I picture a cowboy.

We live together and we plan to get married one day. But I get tired of arguments like,

“You’re not engaged, he’s not your fiance.”
“You’re not married, he’s not your husband.”
So I don’t use those terms here.
Once in a while I even ask if there’s a better term. But I have then gotten the
“If you can’t even be arsed to formalize your relationship then honestly you don’t deserve a better word.” Regardless of whether I believe in the institution of marriage (I do, for certain purposes) or you know, if I even have money or time to get married, or really any reason not to get married.

As for common-law marriages, which some of you are referring to indirectly, they are not valid in NYS.

Jack or Ennis? :smiley:

I don’t go out of my way to hide the fact that I’m married…to a boy! :eek: I think I mostly call him husband or Jim.

It could be that they really don’t think it matters what parts they or their partner(s) happen to have. It’s the same as with babies, the first thing that anyone asks is “boy or girl?” Honestly, why do you care what genitalia someone else’s child has? It’s a bizarre fixation that some of us aren’t interested in pandering to.

In real life I often play the pronoun game to hide the fact that my partner is the same gender as me. However, pretending that she was male would be an actual lie, rather than just avoiding revealing her gender.

Fiance? But what if you don’t plan to get married? I’m not even sure what de-facto means.

And it’d be a bit weird (and untrue) to say husband or wife if you weren’t married.

I use ‘partner’ and GF interchangeably. We’ve been together for almost six years, live together and are raising a child together. Sometimes GF is too frivolous a term. Many straight couples I know use the same term for the same reasons.

We also say ‘bloke,’ as in ‘my sister and her bloke are coming to dinner.’ We can say bird, lady or ladyfriend for a female partner, but that’s usually tongue in cheek. The most common one is ‘other half.’ ‘Significant other’ hasn’t caught on in the UK.

I’ve never seen anyone online hide the gender of their spouse by saying ‘they.’ Two possible explanations are that they’re used to hiding their spouse’s gender in real life and it’s juist a habit, or perhaps their partner doesn’t refer to themselves as he or she (I know a few people like that).

I hope you don’t get that shit around here. Not that anybody else should be that judgmental either.

I remember we’ve had threads looking for better terms, and nothing ever won much support.

I refer to my spouse as “spouse” (or “spousal unit” when I’m feeling silly) on message boards and usually in real life. Reason? I hate the word “husband.” I’m one of those folks who think about the meanings of words, and “husband” has a connotation of someone who’s in charge or who makes the decisions for the person he “husbands.” I’m not trying to disguise his gender–I just don’t like the word.

I also don’t like the words “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” when used for anyone over school age. It seems a bit ludicrous to me for a 40-year-old woman to have a “boyfriend” (the word, obviously, not the relationship). I agree that “partner” is a little confusing too, but it beats “boyfriend.” “Lover” has different connotations. “SO” isn’t bad.

Just my opinion–no offense intended to anyone who likes or prefers these terms.