Monday, January 23, 2006
Howdy, Partner 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Recently, in conversation, someone commented that using the word "partner" to indicate "significant other" implictly assumes a same-sex relationship. I disagreed, since I personally know several heterosexual women who refer to their long-term boyfriends as their "partners." The response? "No way. A straight person would never use the term 'partner,' because everybody knows that's code for 'gay'."

Hmmm. After giving it some thought, I realized that we might both be right, in a sense. At least in my experience, there seems to be a recent shift in the term's use falling along gender, political, and socio-economic lines. While I personally haven't encountered men who use the term "partner" to refer to a female significant other, I do know of some and I'm convinced they exist - at least in Blue States. My observations: women who use "partner" to refer to a male significant other tend to be:These women would also fall into the category of what's known as "straight but not narrow" - that is, heterosexual but supportive and accepting of those who may not be. I would also describe them as women who believe in an egalitarian view of heterosexual relationships. What they are doing is taking a risk and stretching the boundaries of public expectation by calling their guys "partners."

Go ahead: call it a "yuppie feminist thing." Maybe if more straight women begin to use the word "partner," some brave men might follow suit and call their female significant others "partners." At least it's a hell of a lot better than the term demographers coined in the 80's to refer to unmarried heterosexuals living together: POSSLQ's (Persons of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters). That's pronounced "poss-əl-cue." And if you happen to know of any straight men who call their girlfriends "partners" (and I don't mean when they're referring to 'sex'- hyphen - partners), feel free to tell them they're on the vanguard. And let me know, just in the interest of academic research. :)