Stop Referring to Same-Sex Marriage as Same-Gender Marriage


Dear allies,

I’m really not sure why people do it. Maybe they think it’s the politically correct thing to do. I really don’t know. To be honest, I’m probably just too afraid to ask, “Why are you referring to same-sex marriage as ‘same-gender marriage?’” “Same-gender marriage” is a term I see people who are in favour of same-sex marriage use, multiple times throughout the week.

There is a lot of discussion, even within the trans* community about when it is valid to use the terms “sex” vs “gender,” whether or not they are different, in regards to personal preferences, and so much more. It is so extremely confusing, to say the least. While I will respect the right of a trans* individual to insist they are referred to as “male” or “female” (sex marker), instead of only “masculine” or “feminine”/”man” or “woman” (gender terms), even if they haven’t gone through some sort of sex-reassignment therapies, there are times where I think it is completely inappropriate. Same-sex marriage debates and discussions are one of those times.

Before you get angry with me, trans* and cis people alike, please let me explain.

For me, the reasoning is pretty simple. I’m a gay trans man. If you are unsure what that means, it means I was born into a female body, I’m sexually attracted to men only, but my gender identity is man/masculine. I’ve transitioned as much as I’m able. I’ve legally changed my name to a masculine name. I present the best I can as masculine. I am open about being transgender. That is as far as I’ll ever be able to go in my transition because of certain medical issues. As a result, unless Manitoba—my province of birth—changes their laws to something similar to Ontario’s law where you don’t need to undergo hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery in order to change your sex marker on your birth certificate, my sex marker on all of my government issued ID will read: Sex/Sexe: F.

That means, I will never have to fight for the right to marry a man, because, regardless of where I go, from a legal marriage standpoint, they recognize me as female only, not a man.

Because I am married to a man and I am a trans man, I have a same-gender marriage. I didn’t have to fight for that right. Because of biology, I was born with that right. I know plenty of other couples where one person is trans*, they have a same-gender marriage, but because of the sex marker on their birth certificate, marrying the person whom they love was not something they had to fight for.

People who don’t know me, who are looking my marriage, will see a marriage between a man and a woman. It is because of this, that when it comes to equal marriage laws, it is very important to not swap the terms “sex” and “gender.”

If Manitoba ever changes their laws regarding sex markers and I can easily switch it to male, I’m lucky that I’ll never have to fight for my right to marry, because I’m Canadian. If I moved to the United States, or many other countries around the world, then I would have to fight because at that point, it would be a same-sex marriage.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m extra-sensitive to this particular issue in the whole “sex” vs “gender” debate.

The first reason, and in my mind the biggest, is that I never had to fight for my right to marry a man I love. As a trans person, there are many other things I have to fight for. Who I love isn’t one of them. And I can’t pretend that I am because I feel that I’m taking away from the LGB people around the world who really are fighting to marry the person they love, all because they share the same genitals.

The second reason is that when the proverbial you use the term “same-gender marriage,” right or wrong, I feel as if you are not recognizing my same-gender marriage. My fight to see me and my partner as two men in a relationship/marriage is different than that of two men who were born biologically male. In some ways, I have it much easier than two men who were born male. In other areas, not so much.

So, while I understand you are trying to be supportive and inclusive, I ask that you recognize that when I see you say “same-gender marriages” I can’t help but to think you don’t understand my struggles versus those who are LGB. And by versus, I don’t mean it in the “it’s us against them” sort of way, but rather, “In this situation, and for this trans person, it isn’t the same thing,” sort of way.

Confusing, I know.

I hope we can still be allies. Your support is appreciated. I just felt the need to state how you can better support me and some others like me.

7 Responses to Stop Referring to Same-Sex Marriage as Same-Gender Marriage

  1. Similar difficulties are experienced by trans folks in hetero or mixed-orientation relationships, with differently-gendered but same-sex partners. My spouse and I look like a happy little straight couple, but legal marriage is unavailable to us in our state. Again, the attempt to use the two terms synonymously is fail, and Canada is win.

    • You make a very valid point. I didn’t intentionally mean to leave differently-gendered but same-sex partners out of the equation.

      Originally, I had planned a paragraph to include that configuration, but I was hoping my language was inclusive enough to include all configurations.

      I will try to do better next time 🙂

  2. Based on my discussions with many people in MA (a state which was first to recognize same-sex marriages) it mostly comes down to wordplay. In the US “Sex” is a dirty term.. so people don’t want to use it. So they tend to use “gender” since it’s “nicer” and more “acceptable” by the.. er.. well, to be polite, “stubbornly uncaring and uninformed”

    I’m not apologizing for it- but in many cases, this seems to be the actual explanation of it- Gender sounds nicer, so it’s used more.

  3. […] Your gay family member walks down the street holding the hand of their partner, and people say, “There is a gay couple.” I walk down the street holding the hand of my partner, and people say, “There is a straight couple.” (Reminder: Do not refer to same-sex marrige as “same-gender marriage.”) […]

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