The other night, I was at my partner’s softball game. I go every week. Do I particularly like softball? No. Do I particularly like my partner? Yes. Ergo, I go, and I cheer for the team, and I support her as much as I can. I am the only partner of someone on the team who comes regularly; in fact, I’m often the only one sitting in the bleachers, for either side.
While there, my partner and I interact like people in a relationship do. Sometimes we kiss and hug a lot, sometimes we don’t. I cheer for her, and make salacious suggestions about what I’d like to do to her wiggling butt when she’s batting. We’re not super into public displays of affection, but we certainly are not one hundred percent chaste in public either. We always refer to each other as partner, we come and go together, we hold hands, and we’ve even mentioned our upcoming wedding in front of the team.
The other day, while at a game, a fellow player needed a pen, and the coach turned to him and said “LP’s roommate has a pen you can use.”
He called me her roommate. He called me the roommate of the person who is not only the person I live with, but the person I love, the person I have sex with, the person who is the reason I moved to Arizona, the person who waited in the lobby throughout my surgery to visit me when I woke up after the anethesia, the person who has driven me to the ER, the person who is the CO-parent of our cats, and so much more.
We don’t often realize how much language, even if not used maliciously, can hurt. By him refusing to validate our relationship, and referencing us as roommate, he told us we weren’t as good as straight people, that our relationship wasn’t enough, that it didn’t count.
People ask me often why pronouns matter, why it’s important to ask people how they identify, if it really is that big of a deal.
It is, because when someone says something that completey invalidates your identity, it just really hurts to the core. Yes, it does matter whether they prefer he, she, zie or something else. Yes, it is important to ask someone if they identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, questioning, heteroflexible or something else. Yes, it is really that big of a deal.
Language has power.