Word Search: He/She/Ze, Boyfriend/Girlfriend/???

One of my friends, Lo, is dating someone who prefers gender neutral pronouns. That is simple enough. She will say, “Ze called me this morning” or “I need to call zir back.”

Lo was talking about her relationship and I noted that she kept using the term “my boyfriend.” I asked her why, and she admitted that she didn’t know what else to use.

We discovered a language problem.

In a relationship where one person identifies as something other than male or female, “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” do not work. We decided that the terms “partner” and “significant other” seem too formal and imply a degree of longevity or commitment that might not be there. Omitting the gender and simply referring to them as “friend” denies the shared relationship. “Special friend” sounds ridiculous.

And so, we are posing a question. What terminology exists to acknowledge a relationship with someone who identifies as genderqueer or otherwise outside of the binary? Is there a good word to say “Ze is my ____”? If not, let’s make one up. What would you suggest?

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    • katie
    • September 8th, 2010

    Ze is my zirfriend?

  1. Could Lo use the gender the person identifies as in place of boy/girl? I think there are plenty of things if you want to come up with one- but it’s a personal thing. If either of them speak another language, maybe try mining that for something that fits as well.

    • nome
    • September 9th, 2010

    It’s a little bulky but I know people who just say “I’m in a relationship with zir.”

    “Lover” is a title that works for some.

  2. What about pet-names like honey/sweetie/darling?

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