Now that marriage equality is the law of the land, some LGBTQ couples who are planning to get married are forced to figure out some of the logistics that were traditionally defined by gender. For example, in opposite-sex couples (which may include people who are bisexual or transgender), traditionally the man is the one who proposes. In same-sex couples it can be more difficult to figure out.
So, who does do the asking in a same-sex couple? The short answer is: whoever wants to. The longer answer looks at many different factors that may influence who does the asking, and how he or she does so.
How Traditional of a Couple Are You?
A big part of figuring out who does the asking, and how, will depend on how traditional you want to be as a couple. Some people really want to have a proposal with a ring and someone getting down on one knee, whether it is you or your sweetheart. If this is the case, then you will have to figure out whether you should ask or leave it to your partner — after all, you know him or her best. Depending on what you decide, you may need to go ring shopping and plan a little something special.
However, be warned some of the LGBTQ couples (and straight couples) with the most traditional marriages that I’ve seen have been the most “nontraditional” couples in other ways, so it is not foolproof! Maybe your liberal punk girlfriend has always dreamed of her future wife asking her father for his permission first. Or, maybe your man feels very strongly that he should be the one to propose to you. If you are close enough to someone to get engaged, you probably already have an idea of what kind of engagement he or she wants, so use your judgment.
What Kind of Personalities Do You and Your Partner Have?
One of my dearest friends is planning to propose to his boyfriend soon, and he is doing that because he knows his boyfriend would want to be the one proposed to— not for any particular reason, but because he just knows his boyfriend well enough to know that this is what he would want. I didn’t have an official proposal with my partner (more on that later), but if we were to do it again, it is clear that I would be the one being proposed to, just because that’s how our personalities work together.
In LGBTQ couples, personality traits may help you figure out who should propose. Often in relationships there is one partner in the couple who shies away from attention, while the other partner having all eyes are on him or her. In this case, it makes sense for the shier one to do the proposing and for the more dramatic part of the couple to be the one proposed to.
Think about it this way: Opposite-sex weddings tend to focus on the bride, right? So, in LGBTQ couples, the person that likes attention may want to take on some of the more traditional bride roles because they are the attention-centered roles, such as walking down the aisle, wearing an engagement ring, etc.
How Does Gender Factor in?
Some people are in relationships where one person is the butch/top and the other person is the femme/bottom. At first blush this may seem like it would make it easier to figure out who does the proposing, but that isn’t always the case. That may work for many LGBTQ couples, but just because one partner in the couple is more typically feminine than the other, does not mean that he or she is automatically the one that should be proposed to. Even though some LGBTQ relationships may look like straight relationships, they are not necessarily similar.
Maybe No One Needs to Propose!
More and more frequently, marriage and engagements are seen as a logistical choice made by a couple rather than a romantic gesture. That is how my proposal happened. My partner got a job with health insurance, and I said “Huh, we should get married.” That was it! I know a lot of straight and LGBTQ couples who got engaged simply because they had a conversation about marriage and just mutually considered that the proposal or moment of engagement.
…Or You Both Can!!!
Conversely, you can both propose to each other! It is a way to make two times the memories and is also useful if it is important to both of you that you each wear a ring picked out by the other one. If you are planning to ask your partner and they ask you first, there is absolutely nothing wrong with going ahead and proposing anyway!
I believe that the best way to find out what someone wants is to ask them. Questions such as “Is it important to you for someone to get on one knee and propose formally?” or “Do you see yourself as the proposer or propose to?” are just the start. Asking these basic questions and other related questions is the only surefire way to know what your partner wants.
As LGBTQ people, we have been making up our own rules for a long time, and there is no reason that engagements should be any different! Because there are no traditions that LGBTQ couples have to abide by, we can do whatever works best for us. Whether that is a femme woman proposing on one knee to her butch partner, or a quick trip to the courthouse when one of you wants/needs spousal benefits. There’s truly no judgement here. Just listen to your heart and your partner’s, and you’ll know what to do.