I’m not talking about the southern “Howdy Partner” partner, but the “This is my partner” (as in life partner) partner.
In Australia, regardless of sexuality, it is more common to hear boyfriends and girlfriends, wives and husbands referred to as “Partner”. In my experience in the US, using the word “partner” has always been a flashing red light above my head saying, “I’M GAY!” Yes, there are those few straight couples in the states that refer to their other half as their partner, but it is rare, often slightly awkward, and often times the person using it is old or trying to be classy.
Now I am not secretive about being a lesbian or about having a great girlfriend, but sometimes I don’t feel like bringing my sexuality into the conversation with the person I am just meeting. The fact that I am in a relationship with a female tends to overshadow the half interested conversation. It’s refreshing to be able to refer to Alissa as my partner out here and not have anyone bat an eyelash. Sure maybe they think I am talking about my boyfriend, and indeed some say things like “Oh, and what does he do?” and in that case I correct them. But sometimes I can say, “I am traveling with my partner” and that can be the end of it! It is amazing! Unfortunately there are still circumstances in the United States where I feel like I have to come out right then to every person who asks anything about my personal life. For all the times I get a normal response, I also get the same amount of uncomfortable silences from the person trying to decide how to best act like they are comfortable with it. It can be exhausting.