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May 25, 2023Liked by mixed feelings

Bi/pansexual cis people seem to be absent from both the question and response here – they could be in the heterosexual relationships described but also be queer. Could we imagine that they might avoid gendered language not to "camouflage" their identity but find an expression for it instead?

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May 26, 2023·edited May 26, 2023Author

Hi Katie!!! First off, thank you so much for reading. I completely agree! I want to be clear, however, that Claire was exclusively talking about the use of straight people using the term "partner" in her piece. Assumptions are never worth making in casual conversation where so little information can be gleaned, which is why, in the latter part of Claire's piece, she leans into the idea of understanding context as best as possible before forming judgments. She definitely had no intention of diminishing bi and pan people in hetero relationships telegraphing their queerness through the use of the word "partner" in this piece. I love all the conversation this is sparking. This topic and piece gave me so much to think about, too! - MiAnne

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I feel that while it is easy to “talk exclusively about straight people” in theory but in practice, gatekeeping queerness is often at the harm of bisexual people in heterosexual relationships who don’t advertise their sexuality everyday. Suggesting that asking the person ‘enthusiastically’ “are you queer too?” is asking to put someone who is potentially closeted on the spot. They’d have no choice to either out themselves or lie. Of course I hope they’d rather be of the mind to give the only answer I think is appropriate—“that’s none of your business.”

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The first time I heard about heterosexual (possibly passing) couples using the term partner was to help destigmatize queer couples, so like in solidarity and so people can question to themselves if it’s a queer or hetero relationship... they’ll never know! Like a protection thing.

The other take I’ve heard was because as adults it feels juvenile to say “bf/gf” as a straight couple.

So interesting to see the many perspectives the use of “partner” can take! I see how this person can feel frustrated though, as well.

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This sounds like where my logic was when I started using it as hetero in a long term relationship.

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I find this to be a really interesting take, I notice that most of the straight people I know say partner so i’ve never really thought it was out of the ordinary. I would say it’s a non-issue because partner wasn’t necessarily created for just queer people, it’s not a queer term and most people who use it aren’t i’ll intentioned. But I also understand why it comes across that way at times.

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Very interesting points here. I do think it’s important to think about bi/pan people when looking at this too--me and my partner look very cis and straight but both of us are bi and questioning our gender. I’m sure to people who don’t know us, though, we look straight, especially me. It’s an easy, but deeply incorrect, assumption to make.

Also, I’m curious how effective “partner” would be as a protection word if only queer people use it. If it becomes only a word for queer people to use, then anytime someone says it, wouldn’t that make it unambiguous whether or not the relationship is queer? I get the frustration for sure, but I wonder if that’s even a good idea in the first place tbh

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your comment is perfect! it reflects all my issues with gatekeeping the term “partner” and very succinct as well.

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I try really hard not to assume people are straight, and instead that they are using the word intentionally because their relationship is queer, either due to orientation or gender identity or both. Personally I use partner to refer to the cis het man I have been with for fifteen years - many people still assume we are a heterosexual couple and married (hi, I’m queer). It is one of many small things I do because I still often feel very erased/ignored by the community since I am not more visibly queer.

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I use the term partner a lot. Not always. I am a heterosexual female in a 7 year relationship. I am 35, he is 45. It just feels better than boyfriend. I also work as a flight attendant where we have a large queer community so this makes me think differently about using the term. But I also don’t share a lot of my personal life with others so when I say partner I like that one doesn’t know what their gender is.

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thank u for this really thorough and thoughtful exploration on this topic!!

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