A Lesson in LGBT Etiquette

REPOST from May 13, 2014 by Hayley Miller, Digital Media Associate


In Steve Petrow’s Washington Post column titled, Civilities, Petrow answers questions from across on the country on LGBT etiquette.  In his column Petrow addresses everything from coming out, advice for single and married couples, pronoun and word choice and many other LGBT/straight etiquette dilemmas. 

In this week’s column Petrow answered a popular question: Why do gay couples use the terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife,’ rather than ‘partner’?

Petrow, a respected journalist and etiquette professional, answered, “When two men have married, there are two husbands; for women, there are two wives. The bottom line: Don’t ask a same-sex couple who is the ‘husband’ or the ‘wife.’”

Petrow further explained that this language signals that a couple is legally married. It does not define a specific gendered aspect of their relationship.

Why not use the term ‘partner’? Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami, plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case that overturned Proposition 8 in California, explained, “Once married, we switched from calling each other ‘partner’ to ‘husband.’ We have personally fought so hard to use that word and it DOES matter. Everyone knows what that word means. It has global recognition. And we love saying it, too!”

Last April journalist and author Steven Petrow started this column in the Washington Post. Petrow, the author of “Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners,” will address questions about LGBT and straight etiquette in his new column every other Tuesday.  And on alternative Tuesdays join Steven online for his chat — about everything that’s on your mind.