Author Topic: How to gently correct - GLBT phrasing  (Read 13975 times)

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baglady

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Re: How to gently correct - GLBT phrasing
« Reply #30 on: September 22, 2012, 09:14:41 PM »
I don't think that co-workers' use of "friend" necessarily comes from a place of denial or disapproval. Aren't all spouses and SOs also friends? That's why we have terms like "girlfriend/boyfriend" and the quainter "gentleman friend/lady friend." For many people "friend" is the polite default position, the "it's none of my business whether you're playing Scrabble with him/her" position.

Bagman introduces/refers to me as his girlfriend. I'm OK with that but I don't like the term "boyfriend" for him -- he's not a boy, he's over 60. In conversation I refer to him by his first name. If anyone needs clarification, he's "my sweetie." For official purposes (e.g., "relationship to patient" on medical forms), he's my "significant other." To his granddaughter, I'm simply "Grandpa's friend." She's too young to understand or care about any further distinctions.

I wouldn't bother correcting the "friend" people. Refer to partner by her name as much as possible, and if anyone asks "Who's Allison?" then say, "My wife" or "my partner" or whatever you prefer. The "friend" people will catch on.
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Sharnita

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Re: How to gently correct - GLBT phrasing
« Reply #31 on: September 22, 2012, 10:22:15 PM »
I think that there are some many different couples with so many different ways of referring to each other that it can be tricky, regardless of sexual orientation.  Some people are not legally married but still refer to each other as "husband" or "wife".  Others wouldn't dream of that.  Some people might use "partner" others might not for whatever reason.  Somebody else might like "significant other" and there are other people who would shudder upon hearing themselves called that. I think in a work situation where you might be more friendly than close friends you are unsure of what to so or say.  You like your work friends but you might not really know them in the way you know other friends, not intimately enough to know what the "right" term is.

kareng57

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Re: How to gently correct - GLBT phrasing
« Reply #32 on: September 23, 2012, 12:00:52 AM »
Your co-workers will take their cue from you.  If you want to use "partner" "wife" or "[her] name" then refer to your DP the way you would like others to refer to her.


"Friend? Sorry, I have a lot of friends..."  ???
"Your, ah, special friend."
"Oh, you mean my partner/spouse/consort/helpmate? She's doing better, thank you for asking."

Seriously though, NyaChan's suggestion is what I would do if I were in the situation, and what I've heard from others.

Actually, I would do the above.

Coworker: "How's your friend?"
You, friendly, polite but puzzled smile: "Oh, which one?"
Coworker: "You know, Whateverhername is?"
You, big smile and friendly tone of voice: "Oh, my wife! Haha, sorry, wasn't sure who you meant. Whateverhernameis is doing great, thanks! How's your husband?"

Do it with genuine friendliness and I think your point will get across without it being harsh. I would use the term wife, even if it's not the personal term you two would use, just because it's easy, but fill in whatever makes you most comfortable.


I would be embarrassed and a bit angry at this PA way of addressing this issue if I were on the receiving end.  There are many people in this country that don't know anyone who has a same s3x spouse.  No one at OP's work wants to offend her, they just don't know what to call the OP's DP. 

OP, if you feel you need to address this head-on it's perfectly OK to ask your co-workers to refer to DP as "Name" or "wife".


I agree - this PA tactic is only going to guarantee that people who already feel a bit awkward about the situation are going to feel a lot more awkward about ever referring to it again.

First-names are great - occasionally I was never sure which co-workers were married or longterm co-habitating, and it was none of my business anyway.  Knowing the first names of the partners made everything a lot simpler.

I get what you mean - this tactic certainly could come across as PA or snarky, but I think that if your tone of voice is genuinely friendly, it will get the point across in a gentle but still obvious way.

I guess that way I see it is that, even if people don't know what term to use for a same-sex relationship, using the term "friend" to refer to someone's spouse is somewhat insulting. I don't think there is any reason to believe OP's co-workers are deliberately being insulting! But, if I were in the OP's position, any term would be better than a term that diminishes the relationship in the way 'friend' does. And I feel like even if the co-workers don't know what term to use, they ought to have enough tact to either ask the OP or use a term that doesn't reduce the very special bond between spouses to 'friend'.

That's why I like this tactic - because it's a way of suggesting that 'friend' is an inappropriate term and it gets across why it's inappropriate (I have lots of friends, but only one spouse) without a direct confrontation. Again, I do totally see how it could come across as PA, but I think it's all in the delivery/tone of voice.


Sorry, no, I still don't buy it.  Even if you tried to use a light-hearted way of saying this - to me, it would come across as mocking.

I still maintain that the best way is to say "Susan and I went to this great restaurant"  - "Susan and I are getting some estimates on house repairs" etc.  It will fairly quickly become evident that Susan isn't your mother or your visiting cousin.  One suggestion that I would never use is "lover".  Yes, I know what life-partners generally do but this is really TMI.

greencat

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Re: How to gently correct - GLBT phrasing
« Reply #33 on: September 23, 2012, 12:14:49 AM »
Even taking the gender/orientation issues out of it, it is still extremely uncomfortable to have people refer to your significant other in a way that doesn't reflect the actual commitment status of your relationship.

My mother actually tended to do something that was kind of the reverse of this - after my boyfriend and I had been together for two or three years, she started presenting him to people as her son-in-law or as my fiance or as my husband.  We were living together, but not engaged or married, nor did we attempt to present ourselves that way.  I actually had to ask her to stop because it made me feel really uncomfortable.

My parents have been together thirty years without having their union legally recognized - and common law marriage does not apply in their state of residence.  They refer to each other as husband and wife and they'd find it very strange if someone was being particularly pedantic and attempted to refer to them as anything other than spouses/husband/wife.

Sootikin

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Re: How to gently correct - GLBT phrasing
« Reply #34 on: September 23, 2012, 07:50:56 AM »
Back in the distant past, when gas was .50 a gallon, there were people had same s3x partners.  These people were referred to as "friends" or even "roommates".  If the age of Rebecca's coworkers is over 45 or so, they may have learned to refer to same s3x partners as "friend". 

It's OK for Rebecca to correct her coworkers by asking them to refer to her partner by "Name" or "wife" or "partner".  It is not OK to try and embarrass them by pulling a PA conversation on them.

I'm over 45 and in my experience same sex partners have always been referred to as boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/partner just like hetro couples.

OP I think you are perfectly OK in correcting your co-workers by using whatever name/term you are happy with.  It doesn't sound like they are being malicious or PA rather they just don't know what you'd prefer.

gellchom

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Re: How to gently correct - GLBT phrasing
« Reply #35 on: September 23, 2012, 01:52:21 PM »
I think a lot of this stems from so many people making so many different choices about terminology that people simply get confused or forget -- i.e., it isn't necessarily a sign of discomfort or disapproval when people say "friend" or something.  Far from an indication of homophobia, it may even be because that's what their gay brother calls his spouse.

Conventional terms like "husband," "wife," "spouse," "girlfriend," and "boyfriend," whatever their relative merits or problems, have one thing going for them: we all understand what they mean.

"Partner," "life partner," "significant other," and all the other choices we hear, are used by different people to mean different things.  I know married couples who prefer "partner" to husband or wife, and it's anyone's guess whether "partner" means permanent, equivalent-to-married coupledom or  just someone who thinks "boy/girlfriend" sounds too juvenile.  Does "life partner" imply permanent status?  Or just distinguish your sweetheart from your law partner?

Now, I'm not saying that therefore everyone must use the conventional terminology. If you're not comfortable with it, then don't. 

But recognize that if you don't, people who don't know you well will be confused, and even those who know you very well will forget your preference and perhaps mix it up with others they've heard.  I've been married thirty years, and I have never ever used my husband's surname for anything.  Even my own relatives and friends mistakenly hyphenate me and so forth.  It is a mistake to take that kind of thing personally.  And I absolutely agree that that little pretend-you-don't-know-whom-they-mean game someone up thread suggested is a terrible idea.  Not only rude and at best PA, but counterproductive: the person will probably be even less likely to remember if they're busy thinking about what a jerk you just were for trying to make them squirm (for the crime of asking after her  spouse's health.)

Also recognize that the more couples who adopt a single convention, the sooner people will know to use it and not have to retreat to "friend" and the like.  Personally, I'd go with boyfriend and girlfriend for unmarried people of any orientation, and husband and wife ditto for married, because they are the clearest, although I certainly understand the objections to all of them.  (Yes, a 60-year old isn't a "boy," but we don't actually "dial" a cell phone or "type" on a computer, either, and "influenza" has nothing to do with possession by demons.  Language evolves.)

So in the OP's case, to answer her question, I wouldn't say anything at the time, just answer the question about her health.  If she consistently uses a term like "wife" or "spouse" to refer to Husbutch, people will eventually get the idea.  But unless and until that becomes fairly universal, people are still going to forget occasionally that you are the one who likes "wife," and it's Phyllis and Louise who prefer "partner" and Todd and Josh who prefer "spouse" and Lee and Robin who use "life partner."

GeauxTigers

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Re: How to gently correct - GLBT phrasing
« Reply #36 on: September 23, 2012, 02:51:46 PM »
If a wedding or other commitment/union ceremony as been performed, and the celebrant/officiant has prounced the couple to be XXXX and XXXX, why just not use those terms?

Sharnita

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Re: How to gently correct - GLBT phrasing
« Reply #37 on: September 23, 2012, 02:55:48 PM »
If a wedding or other commitment/union ceremony as been performed, and the celebrant/officiant has prounced the couple to be XXXX and XXXX, why just not use those terms?
I have not been to the ceremony of any of my coworkers.  In many cases I might have to stop and think if I have seen wedding pictures, if I have ever heard them use the term husband or wife in conversation or if they have just used first name.

squeakers

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Re: How to gently correct - GLBT phrasing
« Reply #38 on: September 23, 2012, 04:18:43 PM »
One thing most people have overlooked is that RebeccainGA has said is that she and her DP don't think of the DP as a wife.  So we have to take that word out of the equation.

Partner works ok but can confuse people both ways: DH has a BFF that everyone calls his partner because they do everything together.  But they are not gay.  And while partner can mean same sex significant other.. that takes away the privilege of being married.

Significant other is ok but again doesn't show they are actually married.

Which leaves "my spouse", I guess. 

Since there isn't another good word to describe the various ways a married couple could be comprised maybe it's time to co-opt a word? Get enough people to use it and maybe it will get into the dictionary.

I like the idea of "my sidekick" because of the hero implication  ;) and it is gender neutral so could be used by any coupling.

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Slartibartfast

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Re: How to gently correct - GLBT phrasing
« Reply #39 on: September 23, 2012, 04:49:26 PM »
I think a lot of this stems from so many people making so many different choices about terminology that people simply get confused or forget -- i.e., it isn't necessarily a sign of discomfort or disapproval when people say "friend" or something.  Far from an indication of homophobia, it may even be because that's what their gay brother calls his spouse.

[snipping the quote, although it's all quite good]

I agree with you, Gellchom - to a point.  However, what's unique about this situation compared to opposite-sex relationships is that people can (and do) use "friend" as a pointed way of emphasizing they believe same-sex partnerships are wrong/evil/unnatural/etc. and should not exist.  "How's your friend?" after being told repeatedly the partner is a spouse/partner/SO is a passive-aggressive way of taking a stand, just like when your mother-in-law "forgets" you're childfree by choice and keeps hinting about grandbabies or your grandmother consistently "doesn't understand" that you no longer practice the same religion as your family does.  It's possible these people are just using outdated terminology or are unsure what to say, true, but if they do it repeatedly and don't pick up on constant hints from the OP, they may also be saying it maliciously.  And if that's the case, the OP has every right to be more stern in her response.

Carpathia

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Re: How to gently correct - GLBT phrasing
« Reply #40 on: September 23, 2012, 06:18:28 PM »
Would it be considered PA or snarky to simply say "Do you mean my xxx?" (if you've chosen a suitable word) or "Oh, you mean my xxx" when somebody says "How's your friend?"

That's what I'd do I think.

edited because I somehow managed to post before finishing typing!

HonorH

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Re: How to gently correct - GLBT phrasing
« Reply #41 on: September 23, 2012, 08:30:24 PM »
Why not just be straightforward? Say, "She's actually my spouse, and she's doing great. Thanks for asking." Say it in a friendly, casual tone, and I'd hope no one would take offense.
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kareng57

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Re: How to gently correct - GLBT phrasing
« Reply #42 on: September 23, 2012, 09:21:19 PM »
Would it be considered PA or snarky to simply say "Do you mean my xxx?" (if you've chosen a suitable word) or "Oh, you mean my xxx" when somebody says "How's your friend?"

That's what I'd do I think.

edited because I somehow managed to post before finishing typing!


Yes, I think that's slightly PA, although nowhere near the level previously suggested in this thread.

I think HonorH's reply is perfect - getting the preferred-term across without being confrontational.

Piratelvr1121

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Re: How to gently correct - GLBT phrasing
« Reply #43 on: September 23, 2012, 09:57:55 PM »
Back in the distant past, when gas was .50 a gallon, there were people had same s3x partners.  These people were referred to as "friends" or even "roommates".  If the age of Rebecca's coworkers is over 45 or so, they may have learned to refer to same s3x partners as "friend". 

It's OK for Rebecca to correct her coworkers by asking them to refer to her partner by "Name" or "wife" or "partner".  It is not OK to try and embarrass them by pulling a PA conversation on them.

Not just same sex partners, I had people of that generation and older referring to DH as my "friend" when we were engaged. It irritated me until I realized it might just be a generational thing.
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CakeEater

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Re: How to gently correct - GLBT phrasing
« Reply #44 on: September 23, 2012, 10:38:05 PM »
I think a lot of this stems from so many people making so many different choices about terminology that people simply get confused or forget -- i.e., it isn't necessarily a sign of discomfort or disapproval when people say "friend" or something.  Far from an indication of homophobia, it may even be because that's what their gay brother calls his spouse.

Conventional terms like "husband," "wife," "spouse," "girlfriend," and "boyfriend," whatever their relative merits or problems, have one thing going for them: we all understand what they mean.

"Partner," "life partner," "significant other," and all the other choices we hear, are used by different people to mean different things.  I know married couples who prefer "partner" to husband or wife, and it's anyone's guess whether "partner" means permanent, equivalent-to-married coupledom or  just someone who thinks "boy/girlfriend" sounds too juvenile.  Does "life partner" imply permanent status?  Or just distinguish your sweetheart from your law partner?

Now, I'm not saying that therefore everyone must use the conventional terminology. If you're not comfortable with it, then don't. 

But recognize that if you don't, people who don't know you well will be confused, and even those who know you very well will forget your preference and perhaps mix it up with others they've heard.  I've been married thirty years, and I have never ever used my husband's surname for anything.  Even my own relatives and friends mistakenly hyphenate me and so forth.  It is a mistake to take that kind of thing personally.  And I absolutely agree that that little pretend-you-don't-know-whom-they-mean game someone up thread suggested is a terrible idea.  Not only rude and at best PA, but counterproductive: the person will probably be even less likely to remember if they're busy thinking about what a jerk you just were for trying to make them squirm (for the crime of asking after her  spouse's health.)

Also recognize that the more couples who adopt a single convention, the sooner people will know to use it and not have to retreat to "friend" and the like.  Personally, I'd go with boyfriend and girlfriend for unmarried people of any orientation, and husband and wife ditto for married, because they are the clearest, although I certainly understand the objections to all of them.  (Yes, a 60-year old isn't a "boy," but we don't actually "dial" a cell phone or "type" on a computer, either, and "influenza" has nothing to do with possession by demons.  Language evolves.)

So in the OP's case, to answer her question, I wouldn't say anything at the time, just answer the question about her health.  If she consistently uses a term like "wife" or "spouse" to refer to Husbutch, people will eventually get the idea.  But unless and until that becomes fairly universal, people are still going to forget occasionally that you are the one who likes "wife," and it's Phyllis and Louise who prefer "partner" and Todd and Josh who prefer "spouse" and Lee and Robin who use "life partner."

Definitely all of this. I would be embarrassed and annoyed at being 'corrected' in a PA way as suggested. It would make me dial back my friendliness. I like the suggestion to refer to DP as whatever term you'd like people to use, and that you think they'd feel comfortable with, in other situations, and it should catch on.