Tuesday, May 03, 2005

A Modest Proposal: I was thinking the other day about that horrible, awful movie American Beauty. I don't know why, but I started mulling over Chris Cooper's character, who plays that bitter, militaristic, Nazi-obsessed, self-denying, homophobic, closeted homosexual (it's really okay to make the bad guy even a little sympathetic; it makes for a better narrative). Then I remembered that scene where the gay couple welcomes him to the neighborhood, but he gets stuck on the word "partner", asking, "What are you guys selling? ... What's your business?"

That struck me because I have always been a little confused why homosexual couples often call each other their "partner". The term sounds so cold, more like a business deal than a committed loving relationship. This type of thing is really none of my business, which is why I would usually just shut the hell up about such things. But in this case, I think changing the term of the one you love could have an impact on the whole same-sex marriage debate.

For one thing, the term fly over the heads of us heteros who may not catch on right away, a la Colonel Fitts. And the truly homophobic among us may not even take such relationships seriously.

Instead of "partner", saying "boyfriend" works. And if the relationship has moved past the boyfriend point, that would be a perfect time to start saying "husband" ("girlfriend" and "wife" for lesbians, of course). And by using the term regularly, even though most states don't recognize such relationships, people will become more used to the idea of two men being married.

Everyone knows what a husband is. He's the guy you're living with who makes you laugh but can drive you up the wall especially when he forgets to pick up the dry cleaning, again, even though you reminded him at least a million times, but you love him and you still plan to spend the rest of your life with him, despite his faults. Nobody can tell you who that person will be in your life, especially not the government.

Now, people shouldn't use the term arbitrarily, as that would have the opposite effect. But if you've been living with someone for 10 years and plan to spend the rest of your life with him, then no one can question your dedication. You deserve to use the term "husband" and shouldn't be stuck calling the person you love your "partner".

Words are powerful. By adopting the language of those people most protective of traditional marriage, the idea of same-sex marriage will become more accepted in society.


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