by Shanna Katz
I know I’m not the only one who has gone through this. I know this. And it’s not the first time I’ve been through it either, and it certainly won’t be the last.
I am sick of people assuming, and then saying out loud, that my partner is my roommate. It’s been happening for years, regardless of the length of time we’ve been together, their gender presentation, whether or not we’re holding hands or kissing in public. It’s inevitable; someone is going to make a remark about my “roommate” or introduce to me to someone as Partner’s Name’s roommate.
This makes me angry. It totally invalidates our relationship. And that? That is not ok.
To compare, it would be like if I introduced a couple, who I know to be married, to someone as “this is Jane, and her special friend Bob.” Or as Jane’s roommate. Or as Jane’s friend who lives with her, shares a life with her, has sex with her on a regular basis, and is totally committed to her, but we don’t want to talk about or acknowledge any of that.
Back in college, I remember the quizzes your friends would give you after you hooked up with someone (in my case, usually a guy). “Are you dating now?” “So, what exactly ‘are’ you?” “How would you define your current relationships status?” After every hook up, make out, Friday night movie, these questions would be asked. Why? Because they did not know what type of relationship/connection we had (if any, besides a one night stand), and they wanted to know.
Now, I’m not sure if I don’t get these questions anymore because I’m not in college, or because I’m queer, as both identities (queer and non-college person) happened pretty much at the same time. I have no empirical evidence. However, I cannot remember the last time someone asked me about my relationship, other than “are you really engaged?” (yes, I am, thank you).
Why is ok to make assumptions about peoples’ relationship statuses, either direction. I have many friends, of all orientations, who have people who are just friends in their lives, yet people always assume that they’re dating, or ask rude questions about when is the wedding. I find this happen to more straight couples, because of the societal notion that a man and a woman cannot be “just friends,” that there must be something more.
For us queers, we’re on the other end of the spectrum. Two women hanging out together must be friends, right? And two guys chilling at the bar, goddess forbid they actually be together. Don’t even get into the conversation about those with genderqueer/ambiguous gender identities – often times people can’t event wrap their head around gender, none the less think of them as someone to date.
I propose that we learn to communicate more, to hear what people have to say about their own relationships. Instead of introducing my partner to people as Shanna’s roommate, it’s ok to have the awkward pause and say “this is Shanna’s…um…what term do you prefer?” At the very least, use a more generic term like friend. Because then one can say “yes, my friend with benefits” or “yes, my special friend” or “actually, she’s my girlfriend/partner.” When people say things like roommate, either because of assumptions, or because they’re uncomfortable with the queer community, they invalidate relationships, and that really really hurts, to be honest.