“Life Partner”

I was all ready to complain about what a stupid phrase “life partner” is and how we all ought to support gay marriage so that when a dude wants to talk about the dude who’s been his “life partner” for decades, he can either say “spouse” or “husband” or we can all click our tongues about what a shame it is that so-and-so won’t make an honest man out of so-and-so, when they toss out the word “boyfriend.”

But “life partner”?

Ugh, I hate it.  It makes it sound like a business arrangement or something so cutesy I about can’t bear it. It’s like, “Oh, gay people, they’re so different from us, even our ‘normal’ words can’t stretch to fit them.”

I was all, “Can’t the Nashville Post come up with some other phrase to use?” I don’t know what, but life partner just sucks.(And clearly, there’s room for innovation, as the writer says at the end of the story that they will have duel state citizenship, which is just a metaphor for them splitting their time in two different states, since states have residents, not citizens.)

And then I read further into the story and it’s worse than just that the phrase “life partner” sounds like a constant reminder of the fact that, here in Tennessee, you can’t have a real, recognizable phrase to describe your relationship. It’s that these guys got tired of living in a state where it seems like most folks don’t see your relationship as real.

The ultimate outcome was tailored for both partners. “Brent was recruited by more than one children’s hospital, but L.A. Children’s made a concerted effort to recognize me and recognize our relationship. And they were very food-savvy,” Carr-Hall says.

Anyway, straight folks with kids, keep this in the back of your mind when you wonder why you should give a shit about gay rights, since you aren’t gay. Gay people with expertise you need when your kid is in the hospital like working places where their partners are recognized and the importance of their relationships is recognized.

If that’s not happening in Tennessee, they will go elsewhere.

12 thoughts on ““Life Partner”

  1. Pingback: Life Partner : Post Politics: Political News and Views in Tennessee

  2. For the first few months I was at my last job (before I was “promoted” ie, given additional duties and titles without compensation) I had to follow my boss everywhere to take notes. I had to communicate for her to other departments.

    Everyone started calling me her life partner.

    I can’t hear that phrase now without thinking of secretarial duties.

  3. I call her my wife. It freaks people out but it’s true — we married prior to my transition. there’s all kind of legal uncertainty, but even if TN ends up not recognizing our relationship, she’s my wife. I sometimes have to drop back to partner if I’m not wanting to out myself as trans, but she’s my wife damnit.

  4. Polerin, you hit on something there. If a couple gets married by a justice of the peace, but not in a church, no one would say they aren’t married. Likewise, if people have a church wedding, but don’t submit legal paperwork (for whatever reason), they’d still be called married. Shoot, in some states, if you just live together long enough, you’re common-law married.

    So, the term is already loose enough to accommodate a doctor and his loving husband, even if they can’t legally be married in Tennessee.

  5. I change the terms pretty fluidly depending on the context. Among friends I’m more likely to say “boyfriend” but in less casual conversations I do sometimes default to “partner” though I don’t particularly like the term.

    I think I’m hesitant to use the term “husband” just because I feel like we’re close enough to the time that he can be my legally-wed husband, that I want to reserve the term until it’s “real.” On the other hand, we’ve briefly discussed the idea of holding a ceremony after we reach 10 years (that’s 2 years away) if we still can’t legally marry, so after that point I’m not sure if my feelings on it will change. The reason we’ve held off on any ceremony so far is the same reason I hold off on the “husband” term.

  6. Dolphin, heh. I have long referred to my sister’s partner as my sister-in-law, and these days when I do so I get asked, “oh, did they go up to this or that state and get married?”

  7. nm: Hah! I get that when I refer to Lissa as my wife. People are like “oh what state did you get married in?”


    “…. I don’t get it”

    Makes me cringe and laugh every time. **sigh**

    dolphin: yeah I think that in some ways “partner/wife/girlfriend” is part of a code switch that I do with people, but I really try to stick to wife.. I feel like I loose something when I don’t.

  8. My significant other and I do not have a marriage license because we don’t like how the state handles marriage. (As an opposite-sex couple, we could get such a license if we wanted.)

    I usually call him my “husband” so I don’t have to explain our decision to every casual acquaintance. But with people we are closer to, I like calling him my “life partner”. So I guess I’m a defender of the term.

  9. All of this is right on, except one tiny thing – state “citizenship” is a real thing. Near-bout every lawsuit that gets filed in civil court starts out “Plaintiff is a citizen and resident of XXXX County, Tennessee”, and whether or not a person is a citizen of this or that state is occasionally important in determining whether they can be sued in a given jurisdiction. State citizenship is irrelevant to just about everything except personal jurisdiction in lawsuits, but it is real. :D

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