How to Talk to Me
I was recently sitting with a group of Quakers when one of the questions that came up repeatedly is, “How do you talk with LGBTQ+ folk?” On one hand, I was surprised at this for everyone is simply human and I am human. You just talk with me. On the other hand, I was deeply touched for it showed respect and a desire to treat others how they want to be treated. Given the context of our meeting, which I’ll write about in different posts, it meant a lot to me they were asking this question and I feel compelled, at least for myself, to answer it.
I imagine one of the main components to their question is wanting to use the same terms I use to refer to myself and the person I’m dating. Some LGBTQ+ folk and some straight folk will tell you right away what they prefer. Two people at the meeting expressed their preference to be referred to as “he” and “him” when we introduced ourselves. Awesome. I am a woman and I like “she” and “her.” There are people across the spectrum of gender and sexuality and if you want to know what they prefer, you are free to ask.
For the One I’m Dating
The other big piece to this is how we refer to those we are dating. There is a wide array of terms I’ve heard used for different reasons. Some people don’t like to use gender-defined terms, others have found ways to describe their relationship during a time when marriage was not legal. This is another case where it’s best just to make a polite inquiry or pick up what terms they use in their conversation.
For myself, my Love and I refer to each other as “girlfriend.” We are comfortable with the term and use it often. Do not refer to her as “my friend.” She is not just my friend. Sometimes people use this term when they’re not sure what to say, but most of the time they say it to hide who she really is or who I really am. If you say it in front of me, I will correct you as I really don’t like it. You or someone you may run into may not be comfortable with our love but at least have the respect to acknowledge it. The only time I am okay with the term is if we agree between ourselves to use it because we’re in a place that’s not safe, or it has something to do with her work. And I don’t particularly like it even then. In fact, I greatly dislike it, but sometimes it’s for our safety or our jobs. If we were to get married, we would refer to each other as wife. Though different people use different terms, wife works for us and I like it.
If I’m going to insist on being myself, then I must also respect and honor you being yourself. It’s completely okay if you think you say “the wrong thing.” There are times I’m sure I have done the same and will do in the future. So, please, be honest and open. I want you to be free with me as I want to be free with you. A true relationship is when you’re free with each other. That you are even asking these questions shows you are respectful and caring and that is all I ask. And thank you for that.