I was chatting with a group of my peers on campus the other day when Jennifer, a very outgoing, very likeable young woman asked me a simple question: “Why do you refer to your spouse as your partner instead of your husband? I mean, you wear the wedding rings and all…”
You know, that’s a good question and I told her so. Earl and I know several gay couples that have become legally hitched, however not in New York State because The Empire State isn’t doing that sort of thing yet (though I feel that we’re thisclose to having gay unions legalized). I admire the way our friends Sean and Jeffrey got married – they left the state and country to get hitched in various flavors. I find this to be delightfully interesting.
Anyway, back to Jennifer’s question. Earl and I have always referred to each other as “partners”. Once in a great while I might refer to him as my husbear or husband (it’s very rare and usually when I’m drunk and being hit on in a gay bar, where I point in his direction and say “that’s my huzzzzband” over there in a weird drawl.) We find the term “partner” best describes our relationship, because when we exchanged our vows and rings at our commitment ceremony almost 11 years ago, we took two halves and assembled them into one unionized piece. We are partners in life. When one of us is struggling, we both tow the line; when one of us hurts, the other hurts as well; when one of us is giddy, we both get silly.
Earl and I are not legally wed or unionized. Once same sex marriage/civil unions are ‘allowed’ in New York, we’ll be having one big party, asking our friends and family to join us as we become a legal couple. Will we change what we call each other? No. Will one of us change our last name? Likely. But the partnership started a long time ago.
And that’s what we are. Partners.