When I talk about Patrick or introduce him to new friends, I call him my partner.
I love everything about the term. Weightier than "boyfriend", it connotes a subtle seriousness that implies dependability and security. There is intimacy in "partner" for me, a powerful recognition of the investment to each other we've committed to. A partner has to know your weak spots so they can support you. They genuinely care about your insecurities because they'll be the ones to tell you where you're strong. A partner pushes you, challenges you, comes up with wild schemes with you, and gets you out of the most impossible scrapes.
Long before we were partners, we took ourselves out to fancy restaurants and hidden bars, ran weekly Costco runs and grocery shopping trips. We backpacked in the desert and and stargazed among the redwoods. We'd study together until dawn and take long drives at midnight to nowhere, sharing secrets and worries and shaky dreams (I was going to move to Sri Lanka to work with elephants, he wanted to switch up and study computer science). We'd do movie nights on his bedroom floor, emergency room visits, and secret handshakes. And then, in a teary-eyed phone conversation a year and a half ago - he in California, I on a hotel room floor in Denver - we finally blurted out what had been a reality for months and months; "You're my partner in crime....I love you". And it stuck. Partners.
I also feel privileged to be able to choose to use "partner". "Boyfriend" or "girlfriend" can be riddled with stigma or judgement for many same-sex couples and so "partner" is a safe, vague alternative. As a straight woman, no one questions my sexual orientation or morality if I say "boyfriend". However, my lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender friends can't always say the same thing and that's a reality I'm very aware of. And so, I like being able to challenge a system of defined gender roles and social norms by using "partner" to describe my heterosexual relationship. I feel using "partner" allows me to challenge the stereotypes and easy assumptions that ascribe narratives to individuals without allowing them the space to define themselves.
As queer writer Lindsay King-Miller wrote: "If your relationship doesn't depend on a fundamental disparity between the roles of "male spouse" and "female spouse", but on the two (or more) of you approaching each other as individuals and equals, I think you should have access to terminology that reflects that equality. As same-sex couples continue to love, commit, and build families and lives together, regardless of gender, we create space for straight people to do the same....When I hear someone I don't know refer to their 'partner', I no longer assume that means they're a same-sex couple. I don't assume it means they're unmarried. I don't assume anything except that they are sharing their lives and creating relationship models that work for them."
I love it. I love knowing Patrick is my partner through thick and thin, that I can lean on him and we'll be an anchor for each other. I also love the conversations about equality, gendered norms and societal labels that tend to arise whenever I use the term. Partnering in partners.