Sticks and stones aside, labels keep gays separated

Recently, a friend of mine shocked me when she showed little tolerance and open-mindedness for same-sex couples who use the same terminology as heterosexual couples when describing their relationships.

Oh, this friend of mine believes in same-sex marriages; she’s a supposed strong supporter of the rights of all gay, lesbian, transsexual and bisexual people. I’ve never heard her utter a single homophobic comment in all the time I’ve known her.

That is, until last month, when she said it made her feel “uncomfortable” to hear people in same-sex marriages refer to their significant other as their “husband” or “wife.” As I blankly looked her in the face, waiting for her to declare it as a joke, it quickly became an awkward staring contest. My friend legitimately felt uncomfortable about this.

I’m not a certified “heterosexual ambassador to the gay community” but I would assume that the idea of having a specific set of terms, like some “gay-to-straight dictionary,” would probably insult the majority of same-sex couples, not to mention rational people everywhere. Why does a “wife” need to be called a “partner”? Is a “marriage” really any different than a “union”? I cannot understand why people think that employing segregating terms for homosexual and heterosexual couples will ever do anything to work towards equality for all people.

Canada is the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, and Ontario was the first province to legally recognize it. In a 2006 census, there were a total of 7,465 same-sex married couples recorded in Canada. And yet, there is still something awkward or “uncomfortable” about discussing homosexual relationships for many people? I’m not demanding that every single citizen in Canada agree with same-sex marriages (trust me, that would take more than a 500-word article), but instead all I ask is that once a marriage is legally recognized, the proper terms are then applied. Just because there are two women in a marriage does not make either of the women any less of a “wife.”

I’ve been raised to try to see every viewpoint possible, especially if the issue at hand is as contentious as this one. I was not told to necessarily respect or agree with the opinions I didn’t like but instead was told that, as a human being, the very least I could do was try to understand the situation from different angles. But try as I might, I cannot wrap my head around the idea that same-sex couples should have their own set of terms, especially when it provides yet another reason to separate people for being different from one another. This sort of absurd discrimination and fear of difference belongs in the distant past and not our so-called “progressive” times.

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