Quite an inspirational evening tonight, with “the usual suspects” from the local interfaith community: The Interfaith Alliance annual awards dinner. My parents were there and I took it as an opportunity to honor them for raising me with justice, respect, and equality in my genes, as my mother more or less put it.

I had to introduce J to folks. And I tripped over it. “And this is my par… wife.” Wife, as in, we are married according to the state of New York. I’m still finding out what that means. And it does not come naturally to my tongue!

Younger GLBTQ people and allies of all ages have been according the honorifics (are they? are they only titles? I’ll have to think about that) “husband” and “wife” to same-sex partners for a while.  But now I wonder: Are we going to have to stop doing that? Are we going to have to reserve “husband” and “wife” for people who have gone through the legal commitment? I think so.

One of the biggest differences in being legally married is that same-sex couples have always stayed together just because we were committed to each other. As we gained recognition and support from our families and communities, that helped make it happen; but it was still a matter of personal commitment. (Except for the two of us; we have a rule that whoever leaves has to take the children. That insures a lasting relationship!!!!)

Now, gay and lesbian couples who are married, legally, cannot just dissolve their relationships by choice. There is an entire legal process that has to be gone through. If our marriage ends, we have to explain it not only to people we know, but strangers. How odd.  How normal.  But how entirely unexpected in my lifetime.

It has never occurred to me to talk to couples about how being married would be different from living together. I didn’t know.  I don’t think I believed it, even though I heard people say it; and maybe that’s because being married, in that sense, was simply not an option for me, and yet I thought of my marriage and my family as as real as any other.  Now, after 13 years during which we have been living together and raising a family, we are married in a new way, and I suspect I will keep being delightfully surprised as I find out what it’s all about.

I’m going to have to practice saying, “And this is my wife.”