There is an odd phenomenon I have stumbled upon in the last half year. I have been working on my gender neutral language and found that it is having an unusual effect. I started referring to my “girlfriend” as my “partner.” I have been doing this for about 6-8 months, but within the past few I have been asked some form of the following question, “You are gay?” I typically respond with “No, I am not gay. I am just using gender neutral language.” This happened to me multiple times at ACPA in Boston and quite a bit at my new job.
I guess it is good to know that people understand that “partner” is terminology that is more associated with the LGBT community and it seems to be catching on. However, I was not expecting the response I have been receiving from individuals. It is a good thing that people are asking me the question. I guess I just wish that there was not an automatic association with the LGBT community.
I suppose I perpetuate the stereotype of a gay male. I wear pastel colors. I work in student affairs. I live in San Francisco. I put pomade in my hair. (This is sarcasm btw)
I thought the point of gender neutral language was to eliminate the association with a binary society; getting away from the “you either are or you are not.” It seems that gender neutral language is still caught up in the binary game, but swings the pendulum to the LGBT end. I hope in time that the gender neutral language word “partner” will eliminate the binary structure of gender and relationships altogether. Only time will tell, but we need to start ourselves by not jumping to conclusions when we hear certain words. Automatically associating a word with a particular idea only strengthens the binary ideals.
I know that this has happened to me frequently, but I am curious if it has happened to others? Have we accidentally stereotyped “partner” to mean a same-sex relationship?
Until next time…