Saturday, October 09, 2010

Husband, partner, does it matter?

You call John your husband? A colleague asked.

I was recounting a recent event I attended, which had me surrounded by card-carrying, gun-toting, anti-Washington conservatives. It was a business dinner and I was the guest, so I talked mostly about work. Until the conversation turned to families and children.

A woman across the table looked at me, pointed at her diamond encrusted ring finger and said, “I noticed your wedding band; tell us about your wife.”

Funny she should ask. Immediately after John and I got married last April, I enthusiastically embraced the term “husband,” after all, that was now a legal and lived fact. But lately, I have noticed myself weighing between using “partner” or “husband” when referring to my spouse. Often, my mouth would start to form a huh … but end up with a capitulated puh…rtner.

I would rationalize to myself that I was generously accommodating other people’s sensitivities. As my colleague points out, “husband” carries a lot of baggage especially when used by gay men like me.

Yet a clear small voice challenges – is that really all it is? Or do I carry the same baggage most in society still do? We’re just getting used to “partner” for heaven’s sake … can you gays please give us more time?

So when I was asked about my wife, I put down my fork, smiled and said, “husband.”

Surprisingly, the conversation didn’t turn awkward and I actually got to tell my dinner companions about my family just as they have been for the past hour. At the end of the evening the women hugged me and the men shook my hand. “This has been enlightening Erwin,” one man confessed.

“Husband” does carry some baggage but I believe that if it is used more often by married gay men, then the load would lessen.

You can follow me on Twitter @ErwindeLeon.

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