I know that non-married lovers address each other by saying “This is my girlfriend/boyfriend.” I know that married couples address each other by calling “my wife/husband”.

I also know that gay lovers who are not married (yet?) address each other by saying "my boyfriend" (for gays) and "my girlfriend" (for lesbians).

But if they are married, how do they address each other?

And how do we describe them? I mean if they are gays, are they “husband and husband” or “husband and wife” (one of them acts like the wife)? And if they are lesbians, are they “wife and wife” or “husband and wife” (one of them acts as the husband)?

I know they can be referred to as a gay couple or gay lovers from here, but I couldn't find the answer to address each of the two.

  • 1
    husband/wife/partner, same as everybody else Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 8:03
  • 4
    The ones I know are simply husband and husband or wife and wife.
    – oerkelens
    Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 8:03
  • 2
    You describe them as married and address them according to their preference, same as you do with hetero couples.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 14:42
  • 2
    I assume they address each other by name, just like everyone else.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 18:46
  • 2
    Asking for a generalisation on how every gay couple addresses each other is completely too broad! Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 23:51

7 Answers 7


The word wife means "woman". In the context of a marriage, then whether same-sex or different-sex* it means the woman one is married to, and always has done.

The word husband meant the man who is the master of a household, but this has moved to having less hierarchical implications a long time ago; not just with the rise of the Women's Movement in the last century, though that obviously had massively increased the changes in how we consider the term.† As such, it means the man one is married to.

So, assuming either a cissexual partner, or a partner that identifies as either of the binary of man or woman, then you call them a wife if they are a woman and a husband if they are a man.

Non-binary identifications vary widely, and so can only really be considered on a case-by-case basis. However, spouse covers same-sex, and different-sex marriages of cis, binary trans and non-binary trans people of all sexes, and so can be used as a catch-all.

*Every time you call same-sex marriage "gay marriage" a bisexual loses their wings.

†Calling the woman in a man-woman relationship "his woman" and the man "her master of the household" may seem a bit sexist. In fact it was very sexist indeed. This was a thousand years ago, after all.


I read a quote somewhere a few days ago that it shouldn't be called gay marriage but just marriage as there really is no difference.

They call each other husband and wife depending on the gender. That means a male couple would be husband and husband, a female couple wife and wife. If one of them is transgender or similar it's a bit more complicated and up to the couples preferences.

  • 2
    The objections to "gay marriage" are also due to the fact that non all parties to all same-sex relationships are gay. Nor for that matter, are all parties to all different-sex relationships, straight.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 12:05
  • @JonHanna so is the campaign for "gay rights" misleading? Should we not simply call them "human rights"? Not all homosexuals/lesbians/gays/bisexuals/transgenders/cross-dressers can marry someone of their own sex. When people campaign for equal rights, what are they supposed to say instead? The expression "gay marriage" is a useful umbrella term, isn't it?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 7, 2015 at 8:52
  • @Mari-LouA the campaign for "gay rights" is not misleading if it is talking about gay rights. Same-sex marriage is a gay rights issue, but it's also an LGBTQI issue more broadly. "Gay marriage" is not useful as an umbrella term for same-sex marriage for those who support same-sex marriage, IMO, indeed I feel it's actively harmful.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Jun 7, 2015 at 16:44

"Husband" really just refers to a male parter in a marital relationship, so they would both be husbands (one being a wife would be incorrect because, similar to husband, wife refers to a female partner).


In the news:

The Wall Street Journal reported that Broadwell decided to publish the announcement from a local resident who was united with his partner in a civil-union ceremony in Vermont...

same sex brides and grooms... husband, wife or spouse... (Same-Sex Marriage: The Cultural Politics of Love and Law)

Ontario politicians mourn with George Smitherman after his husband’s death...

Mary Cheney and her wife sharply criticized a comment by Ms. Cheney's sister, Liz Cheney, a candidate for the Senate in Wyoming.

So it really isn't a big deal.


"Spouse" and "partner" are both gender-neutral terms. In formal communication, or in relation to a nonspecific couple, I would say this would be the best option; "husband" and "wife" make assumptions about gender orientation and gender/marriage roles and are best avoided in this context.

It may come to pass that a new term or set of terms emerges, or that "husband" and/or "wife" meanings shift and they become gender neutral, but, for the time being, this is a matter of personal preference and varies widely between couples. If you are addressing a gay couple in person, ask them what terms they, personally, prefer.


95% of the gay married men I know, including me and my husband, refer to each other as "husband" and the rest say "partner" or "spouse." I have never heard a gay man refer to his male spouse as his "wife" except in extreme jest.


There is no way to tell. "Honey", probably. "Sugar", perhaps. "Light of my life" springs to mind for special occasions. "Hey, you" after the honeymoon period, just like the straights do.

How do we describe them (assuming you mean, "How should we describe them")? Well, start with "married couple", or "spouses". If you can't be bothered to think about it, call a man "husband" and a woman "wife". So this means that a married couple can be called husband and husband? Why not? Once you accept (if you really do accept it) that they are not man and woman, why should the departure from the traditional pair labels be such a problem?

  • In the situation of a formal or large wedding party where nobody knows anybody, it is customary to present one's spouse as "This is my husband Bill (or) my wife Rose". This might sound awkward if the gay couple have decided to take on traditional masculine and feminine roles, so the "This is my wife Bill" will sound odd, if not plain nonsensical. I think this is also what the question is asking. Obviously between themselves, and with friends and families they can call each other any way they want.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 7, 2015 at 8:37

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