Just when I think I’ve heard every permutation of casual homophobia/heterosexism in modern culture, something happens which proves me wrong.
I’m not talking about actual, hate-filled anti-queer rhetoric here. I’m talking about those little turns of phrase, which aren’t meant as insults at all, but which betray an attitude about non-heterosexual orientations that leaves a lot to be desired.
I’m talking about the people who use ‘gay’ as a synonym for ‘crap’ but can’t be homophobic ‘because my best mate’s gay’. Whether you meant to or not, whether your gay friends object or not, you just used somebody’s sexual orientation as an insult. Not cool.
I’m talking about the people who create forms for employees or clients to fill in which do not allow for same sex relationships or non-binary gender identities. When we went to apply for our civil partnership, I had to be listed as the groom! Screw that.
I’m talking about - and I feel sort of bad about complaining about this because the people involved really meant no ill will – I’m talking about people who meet us as a couple, and immediately hug us and congratulate us on our marriage. That’s lovely, really, but we’ve been married over two years and been together for over a decade. Do you congratulate EVERY married couple you meet for being married? Or are you congratulating yourself for being cool enough to know a same sex couple? If so, get a life. Really.
See, it’s rarely meant nastily, which makes it all the harder to challenge. And this brings me to my latest irritation.
At a recent and absolutely fabulous party (on a boat!), I was introduced to a very pleasant young man as my beloved’s wife. He looked at us both, eyes narrowed, and said to the Missus ‘But is she your WIFE wife, or is she just your “wife”?’ We blinked, but then I remembered how before we were married, people often referred to us as each other’s “wife”. I know other same sex couples who use the words “husband” or “wife” to denote their relationship despite not being married, particularly if they live in countries where same sex marriage isn’t an option. Personally, I feel that as long as same sex marriage exists in any form, the only people using the words “wife” and “husband” should be people who have made that legal commitment to one another. And no, a shared mortgage doesn’t count.
We looked at him a bit funny and showed him our wedding rings. ‘No,’ I said, ‘we’re actually married. Well, civilized.’ (That joke never gets old. Well it does, but I’m gonna keep making it until they change the sodding wording. ‘Partnership’ my arse.)
‘Oh right!’ He said, NOT congratulating us, for which he gained valuable points. ‘I thought you might be one of those straight girls who calls their best mate their “wife”.’
Sorry, what now?
Apparently, there is a new thing where single straight girls who have a particularly close friendship with another straight girl refer to each other as their “wives”. Now that it’s been pointed out, I have noticed it on Facebook a couple of times. And isn’t that cute? ‘I don’t need a man; I’ve got my “wife”! And we’re going to have slumber parties and paint each other’s nails and drink cosmopolitans and dance provocatively with each other in nightclubs! And if that fulfills the lesbian fantasies of any eligible straight men in the vicinity, well so much the better, it improves our chances of pulling! Not that I need a man…’
Total nails down the blackboard time. Sorry. No.
After years of meaningful, valid, loving same-sex relationships being relegated to the category of ‘Um…friend’, I am damned if I am going to accept actual platonic friendships moving in on the "wife" territory. I KNOW they don’t mean it in a homophobic way; they’re just being cute, and therein lies the problem. Two women together who enjoy each other’s company and spend a lot of time together are FRIENDS. But to hear a lot of people tell it, that is the exact nature of my relationship with my wife. No, really.
Gay and bi men get a hell of a lot more hassle than queer women and are much less accepted if they hold hands or kiss in public, (notice how you don’t see straight men calling each other ‘husband?) but the flipside of that is that lesbians and bi women are much more ignored, belittled, dismissed as not ‘real’: after all, we’re just good friends, no matter what we say about loving each other and being each other’s wife – that’s the sort of thing girls say all the time, isn’t it? Really, we just want a man.
Sorry girls, if she hasn’t given you a ring, a marriage contract and at least one orgasm, she ain’t your wife.
She’s your um…friend.
Or if you really, really are more than just friends, but really, really aren’t hot for each other, may I direct you to that excellent Jay-and-Silent-Bob-ism “Hetero-Lifemate”?
Don't take “my wife”. Please. Thanks.