An incident which occurred late year gave me a brilliant idea on nomenclature which I chose, out of modesty I suppose, to keep to myself until now. Let me remind you of the incident. It occurred on December 22 last year in the good old USA.
“My husband is chasing them down to harass them,” tweeted academic Matthew Lasner, on board the same domestic flight as Ivanka Trump, who was travelling coach with her three young children. The husband, Brooklyn lawyer Dan Goldstein proceeded to do the hassling. “Your father is ruining the country,” he reportedly exclaimed (though, go figure, her father was then still a month away from taking office). He went on to demand to know why Ivanka had the hide to travel on a commercial flight and not a private plane. Whether he was yelling or just a bit agitated at the time seemed to be in dispute. It doesn’t matter. We should all agree that he was extremely rude; and at Christmas time to boot.
These two wedded husbands (are you following) were, it was explained by the airline, ‘de-planed’ — a delightfully economical and self-explanatory addition to our English vocabulary in an era when numbers of words have lost their old utility. I admit, to my shame, to being an old-fashioned kinda guy, though I try to crawl with the times. I only slightly regret the loss of the words ‘gay’ and ‘queer’ (there are plenty of synonyms) and have no problem with gay and lesbian couples openly partnering.
I object to same-sex marriage, it is true. But my children do not and I fervently hope that their opinion will outlast mine — if you understand my meaning. However, if and when same-sex marriage becomes commonplace, wouldn’t it be advisable for the wedded partners to arrive at a more suitable word for their other halves. Just on its face it would be less confusing than a husband introducing his husband and a wife her wife.
Maybe a competition should be held among queer folk to choose a suitable appellation for same-sex wedded partners. I have no skin in the game, but how about: Will you Jim take Jack to be your lawfully wedded ‘swain’? That has a ring to it, I think, and would be just as suitable for Jill and Janet.
To save you going to the dictionary, my OED tells me that the poetic/literary definition of swain is a young lover or suitor. That’s kinda cool as it stands. It seems not much of a stretch to add a variant definition: to wit, to mean a spouse in a same-sex marriage.
Now you will spot that I haven’t covered the field of LGBTQs. Well, the way I see it, if a man or woman dresses and acts contrary to the gender on their birth certificate, they should be accorded the courtesy of the presumption that they are as they dress and act. In other words, man and wife would come back into play. And, yes, they should use the bathrooms of their chosen gender. It would be damn disconcerting as aman to have skirted, lip-sticked creature sharing one’s ablutions.
Here Trump has it right again. Don’t make a fuss about it. We simply don’t need special laws. No-one wants women’s bathroom facilities invaded by strange men. But a transgender or transsexual person effectively has the gender they openly display and should be treated as such. Keep on arresting sleazy chaps — those looking like chaps or patently feigning womanhood — lurking around women’s bathrooms and leave it at that. Of course, anyone acting inappropriately inside a bathroom would need to be dealt with as is done now under existing laws, but we simply can’t go looking up skirts on entry, in situ, or on exit to ensure they fit the bill. Nor, even if it is a tad less intrusive, can we demand people carry around documented proof of their gender or gender reassignment ready to display to bathroom police.
I have jumped from nomenclature to social policy. It is jump that must be made in this day and age. This brave new world has led to an explicit explosion of people types. They were always around but kept under wraps. The trick now, it seems to me, is to embrace les difference without throwing away the ancient capacity people have for applying commonsense.
Arthur is Martha if she convincingly deports herself as Martha and vice versa. No-one expects Aunty Martha to use men’s ablutions or Uncle Arthur not to. No need to get knickers or underpants in a knot. People on the whole are kind and generous and take it all in their stride, if they are just let alone.