The Marriage/Gender Terminology Problem

The world changes faster than language. We still say we "dial" a phone number and that our phones "ring"-- heck, we still call them "phones" even though the last thing we usually think to do with those things is actually call somebody. But much more importantly are the words that speak to our emotions, and even our sense of identity. After all, it wasn't long ago that words like "colored" and "Indian" and "retarded" were perfectly acceptable to describe certain people, but that just isn't how it is anymore. Now let's take it a step further...

For some things, there is a masculine word, a feminine word, and a neutral word to describe members of that category. For example, husband/wife/spouse. Or brother/sister/sibling. Father/mother/parent. You get the idea. And for other things-- like actor/actress or comedian/comedienne-- separate terms for genders used to be common, but it's now become standard to use just one word for both (i.e., "actor" and "comedian" are used for any gender). But what gender-neutral term do we use for someone who's getting married? Groom/bride/??? As far as I know, there is no such word yet.

For most of English-language history, it's been a moot point, but nowadays... well, it matters.

So when I'm sitting down with a same-sex couple, I'm always catching myself from saying the wrong thing. I don't want to offend anybody, but I'm also a product of my own language-- a language sorely lacking in gender-neutral wedding vocabulary! It would be so much easier if we had one word for both bride and groom. Yeah, it's just a word (or lack thereof), but imagine for a second being a lesbian bride and every vendor you meet with starts off by asking the name of the groom, or "So, how did he propose?" I also doubt two engaged men really want to go to a bridal fair.  And for that matter, transgender and gender-fluid people may not be comfortable with one term, the other or either!

We can be legally inclusive, but we can’t be socially inclusive without also be linguistically inclusive.


Every form you fill out for anybody has a box for "bride" and "groom"-- not to mention "bride's parents" and "groom's parents", etc.-- with no other options. That would get a little old after a while, wouldn't it? We can be legally inclusive, but we can't be socially inclusive without also being linguistically inclusive. After all, language shapes our experiences, and getting married is one of the grandest experiences of our lives. If some people have to go through that experience with an asterisk next to everything they do, is it really the same experience?

So this creates a challenge for wedding vendors not to be insensitive. But how can we not be? Sure, we can say "wedding party" instead of "bridal party", but the big one-- that neutral word for both bride and groom-- hasn't cropped up yet. But no more! It's time for this nonsense to stop, and I'm sending out the call. We need a gender-neutral term for people getting married.

So I put it to you, the esteemed reader: should we just call everyone a groom, or everyone a bride, or some other completely new term? If so, then what? Seriously, what the hell do we do??? Maybe we, the G Sharp blog community, can even coin a term that the world will adopt forever. We'll make history!!! But in all seriousness, people, I'd really like to get this sorted out, so please let me know your thoughts. Comments encouraged, no matter how ridiculous.