Civilities chat: ‘What to expect at my first gay wedding?’ — and more

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[These questions are adapted from a recent online chat. To see the full transcript, please click here. Send new questions to stevenpetrow@earthlink.net]

What to expect at my first gay wedding?

Q: My beloved niece is marrying her partner next month. I’ve met her partner and she seems terrific. But this is the first gay wedding I’ve been to, so I’m looking for any etiquette pointers you might have?

A: First of all congratulations to your niece and her fiancee. Yep, that’s right, gays and lesbians are increasingly using many of the traditional monikers for marriage and married people. And in so many ways, a wedding with two brides or two grooms is very much the same as an opposite-sex one. It’s a ceremony of commitment and love before those whom support you — and your relationship. Still, there are differences — and yours is one of the questions I get asked most frequently. Without any specific queries on your part let me jump in with the role of family. I’ve seen often enough in gay/lesbian weddings that friends may take a more prominent role in the ceremony/reception than some blood family members. This is for a couple of reasons: For now, many same-sex couples who are marrying have been together for a while (sometimes decades) and aren’t looking to their moms, dads, aunts or uncles to pay for the shindig or to give them away. Then, sadly, some don’t have the support of their families.

But this is all changing with younger couples marrying and greater acceptance of LGBT people.

In your case, it sounds like you’ve got a great relationship and if your niece asks you to participate in anyway you should feel honored. And if she doesn’t, don’t take it personally. (Nor should anyone’s parents). In the end, I think you’ll see that it’s all very much the same — except take note — the pronouncement may likely be: I now pronounce you wife and wife!

 


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What’s up with the new gender terms on Facebook?

Q: Facebook now has a choice of dozens of genders. Do you think this is helpful? I think if I said “I’m trans-*” or many of the other choices the response would be “what the heck is that supposed to mean?” or a nod accompanied by a vacant stare.

A: I actually think this was a powerful step for Facebook to acknowledge and allow us to identify in ways other than ‘male’ or ‘female.’ (For those who might have missed the news, Facebook has added more than four-dozen different terms that users can choose from for their gender identity. Some of the new options include: bi-gender, intersex, gender fluid, gender neutral, androgynous, and transgender. Users can also choose from three pronoun options: him, her, or them.)

We don’t all fit into little boxes and the more choices that are given the greater the likelihood that a person will feel their choice reflects who they are. To that point, a Facebook engineer, who is transitioning from male to female told the AP: “There’s going to be a lot of people for whom this is going to mean nothing, but for the few it does impact, it means the world.” She then changed her Facebook identity from “Female” to “TransWoman.”

But, yes, these new options could open you up to some additional questions — or you might just send them to me:)

Agree or disagree with my advice? Let me know below.

Every other week, Steven Petrow, the author of “Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners,” addresses questions about LGBT and straight etiquette in his column, Civilities. E-mail questions to him at stevenpetrow@earthlink.net (unfortunately, not all questions can be answered). You can reach him on Facebook at facebook.com/stevenpetrow and on Twitter @stevenpetrow.

 

Steven Petrow, the author of “Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners,” addresses questions about LGBT and straight etiquette in his column, Civilities.
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