My girlfriend has gathered up all of her inspiration. We always discuss issues like these in our day to day, but she finally sat down to write it all up in a coherent, full blown post. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I enjoy bouncing off ideas with her.
The 1,2,3 of being the Significant Other of a Neutrois Person
Perspectives of a Cisgendered Partner
Who am I?
I am the so called “wonderful significant other” often referred to throughout this blog!
I am a queer cisgender female. I am the significant other of an asexual neutrois person.
Being with someone who everyday questions something you never thought about questioning is for sure challenging. But altogether it is a wonderful challenge.
One: The “weird” questions
Oh yes, the weird questions. I don’t mean weird in a bad way, I mean weird as in something strange, something no one has asked me before. After a few years I am now pretty much used to being asked “Honey, do you like having boobs?” or “Honey, do you mind being a girl?” Even though I am used to these questions, I still hesitate every single time; sometimes I can’t even anwser. It is pretty much the same feeling that parents get when their little kid asks “Why is the sky blue?” They know that it’s always been blue and they try to remember what the real reason for that is, so they hesitate. Similarly, I know I don’t mind being a girl, and I know that it’s always been that way, but I keep trying to put into words what that really means.
Two: The dysphoria
Really? Do Significant Others experience dysphoria? Yes, we do.
When I talk about my Honey I have to make a conscious choice of what gender to use. Am I talking about my boyfriend? My girlfriend? My itfriend? (Yeah, that is not going to go well). In Enlgish I am pretty much used to talking about my “significant other” and/or my “girlfriend” (I’ll explain later why girlfriend is ok). Overall it is acceptable and somewhat natural in English to refer to them that way.
But (there is always a but) my first language is not English, it happens to be Spanish, a gendered language. The other day I was talking to a co-worker, who also happens to be from a Spanish speaking country. The following conversation happened in Spanish. He asked, “what does your NOVIO (boyfriend) do?” My brain literally had a severe short circuit. I was thinking, “Boyfriend? I don’t have a NOVIO, but they are not a NOVIA…aaaaah….aaaaah…..” I didn’t correct him. I couldn’t. But I couldn’t refer to my Honey as either Novio or Novia. I ended up speaking in a very broken Spanish to avoid pronouns and felt extremely uncomfortable. When I told my Honey what happened, the answer was simple: I had experienced “Significant Other dysphoria.”
So why is it still OK in my brain to use girlfriend? In Spanish, my cognitive schemas were defined during first years of life. Therefore, Novia = a girl, with all or some of the girly attributes. My Honey is not a girl, therefore not a Novia. Moreover, growing up in a heteronormative environment, it is awkward for me to say I have a Novia, at least in public. Novio is not any better, because my Honey is not a man. However, I learned the basics of an English at an early age in school, but didn’t really master the language until 4 years ago, right around the time when I met my Honey Bunches. So even if it sounds funny to others, girlfriend = whatever meaning I have given to the word. To me, girlfriend is simply my partner, my significant other, My Honey. That it happens to be a gendered word is an unfortunate side effect of the English language.
Three: Exploring yourself
Mix in all the “weird” questions, being aware of gendered languages and pronouns, and as a result you start exploring yourself. Even if you’ve always identified with your birth gender, you start questioning “how comfortable am I with my gender?” or “was I ever uncomfortable in a gendered situation?” A great example of this is in elementary school, when the boys were playing soccer in PE, the girls were taking ballet – for sure I did not want to be in that leotard! It has made me think of gendered situations and admit that yes, I’ve been uncomfortable, even though I’ve always identified as a girl. All those questions have made me realize that you don’t need to be transgender to be aware of gender, to be uncomfortable with the gender binary, or to challenge gender.
All along I’ve learned to be more aware of the posibilites in life. Aware of others, of myself, of gender, of sexuality, of language. I started seeing more colors in the light spectrum, and I started questioning things I never thought I would question.
11 thoughts on “Guest Post: The 1,2,3 of being the Significant Other”
Thank you, “wonderful significant other,” for giving us insight into your life and relationship. And if you had not said that English was not your native language, I would never have known it from your writing.
But I do have to give credit to maddox for the editing and getting rid of grammatical mistakes.
Wow, I LOVED your discussion of how meanings work differently when speaking in a second language. I thought a lot about it when “trying on” different gender words (man, hombre, muchacho, boy, chico, homme) and came to a similar conclusion: words in my mother tongue have a heavier baggage.
Awesome – thanks for the post and the food for thought – these are questions I’d like to consider but since they’re not always right in front of me I don’t take the opportunity as often as I could.
Thanks, maybe this will encourage my significant other to write more!
I would love more!
A fascinating and thought provoking post. I’ve only begun exploring this blog, but I’m finding it full of insightful and provocative material. I’m transitioning, MtF, after trying to hold my ground for a couple of years as genderqueer. When I realized I hated the thought of people talking about me using male pronouns, I realized I needed to live as a woman in order to feel free to be myself, which may in fact be something other than male or female. I’m pleased to see your discussions of the complications of gendered languages. A native English speaker, I am fluent in Catalan to the point of being able to think and dream in that gendered language (and Spanish, as a by-product of living in Barcelona). I have had great difficulty explaining to my English speaking trans* friends why I feel neutral pronouns wouldn’t work for me. I enjoy the mental gymnastics required to talk to my Catalan and Spanish friends about myself while being vigilant that I don’t fall into the deeply ingrained habits of using masculine forms of adjectives (and in Catalan, many adverbs as well) when referring to myself.
I am struck by your mentioning partner dysphoria, it brings to mind a phenomenon I have noticed with my children, who are young adults. They have learned to refer to me as she, but of course, I am not their mother. So they end up in conversational tangles, such as “What does your dad do?” “My dad? She is …”
Thanks for your insights and candour.
Glad you popped in, welcome! Gendered languages certainly make it more interesting. There are many adults who transition and keep their gendered parental “titles” like mom and dad for their kids. Usually the thinking is that these words have such a charged emotional meaning for kids and parents, it’s hard to change, and in the end who cares that other people think it’s odd?