Language can be a tricky thing. When I came out to my great-aunt several years ago, I could see her struggling to find the right words throughout our conversation. She was an extremely progressive woman, but she wasn’t equipped with the resources that we who have an internet connection have so readily available. I realized that I’d taken for granted the access to a LGBT-centric vocabulary that I’ve found on the internet.
Now, when I came out to my aunt she didn’t seem to get it at first. I kept saying “my girlfriend” but she definitely thought I was referring to a girl who was also my friend. Which is sort of funny in a strange way, because now that she knows I’m a lesbian with a girlfriend, she constantly asks how my ‘friend’ is doing.
This is the same aunt that I had nightmares of her chasing me around the house with holy water. So I see it as a victory that she actually asks how my girlfriend is doing. Of course it would be nice if she actually referred to my girlfriend as ‘my girlfriend’, but I think there is a language barrier stopping her. I don’t know for sure, but this might be the first time that she had to talk about a non-heterosexual relationship.
I’ve had many opportunities to correct her, but honestly, sometimes I just don’t have the energy. I don’t want to be the walking encyclopedia of queer language, especially for my family. Is it terrible that I want people to just get it? Or if not get it automatically, teach themselves?
I just had Uber driver who had only known me for 10 minutes refer to a possible romantic partner as a ‘significant other’, because he didn’t want to assume either way. If this random guy can take a couple of extra steps to be inclusive without knowing my sexual orientation why can’t a family member who knows that I’m a lesbian put forth the same effort?
Really I just want straight people to try. You aren’t going to get it right all of the time. And for me, that’s okay. Because I would rather see you struggle to find the right word than stay comfortably ignorant.