I don’t take language lightly. For all its flaws and limitations, the ways that we describe and name the things that matter to us is important. We will always miss the mark, at least a little. What you hear and what I say are not always the same thing. It’s the risk we take with a form of communication that is so vastly abstract and subjective, and yet we do it anyway.
Anyone who knows me fairly well has heard me go on rampages about the casual use of the term partner (hell, even if you don’t know me well, I’ve written about it here). I still have pretty strong feelings about the co-opting of queer language for the benefit and simplicity of heteronormative dynamics when so much other language exists. It’s still one of the only terms we have to designate…I want to say “commitment,” and that’s part of it for many people, but what that means in every relationship is different.
I have three people that I claim as “partners”: RazorBladeKase, to whom I am married and have a series of complicated, multifaceted dynamics that are always shifting and changing; Blissom, with whom I cohabitate and coparent and provide/receive mutual support in a variety of ways- and plan to continue doing so for the foreseeable future; and Immoral_Vixen, for whom we anchor into one another, keep one another balanced, stable, and accountable. Two of these partnerships are entirely platonic, with no intention of changing.
The point of this is, “partner”- for all of my feelings for the importance of using words, and that word in particular with intention-is still a varying and subjective term. It means something of importance, a means of designating those relationships that have some level of significance in my life- but what that means, what that looks like, how that manifests is still defined within the relationship. A recognition of what we have built, a desire to continue building, an agreement that we will do it together- even when shit gets tough. An agreement not to walk away from each other, but to support and strengthen and challenge one another.
I still have no desire to be blasé about the term. For me to claim someone as a partner, it means a commitment on my part- one where I am willing to be a whole person, a messy person, a person willing to share in my thoughts and experiences and desires. Partner still means something to me, but I am recognizing that that “something” is perhaps less rigid than I thought. It’s not less important, but it’s certainly more open to interpretation.
Because my relationships don’t look a damn thing alike. They are varied and complex and multifaceted and nuanced and reach different points and places in me. My core people, the relationships that feel integrated into my life are vastly different. I cannot hold them all to the same standard of partner when that’s not something that’s even present in my life right now.
I continue to hold that platonic partnerships are not less valuable than sexual ones. I recognize that I have a harder time claiming sexual relationships as partnerships. I still don’t use the term lightly, and have no intention of beginning to do so. But I do recognize that my iron grip on objective definitions for this one word- when I do this with nothing else- is absurd. There is a difference, I believe, in using language with intention and assuming certain language will never be applicable because a relationship doesn’t look a specific way.
Partner is still a term of intention, but I am allowing those intentions to look…vastly different than I ever thought they would. Claiming “partner” is still something that matters deeply to me, hits deeply into the fabric of my history and beliefs and who I am. It’s not something I do casually, or lightly, or without a conversation. But conceptually, I think I can allow the term “partner” more space than I have been able to before- not because it means less, but because I can finally shift my focus to allow it to be the kind of vast, nuanced, subjective term that is at the heart of what I love about language in the first place.