They wouldn’t call her “girlfriend”.
A while back, my sweetie was dating a woman – we’ll call her “A” – and they were serious enough that my sweetie had a picture of the two of them on her desk at work.
While they were dating, “A” had some medical issues. Bad enough medical issues that they required emergency hospitalization, and some frequent medical visits afterward. Because of the medical visits and the hospitalization, the folks at her office were aware that “A” was ill.
They would ask after “A”. They’d ask how she was doing. They’d wish her well. And as far as my sweetie could tell, they were genuinely concerned.
But they would not call her “girlfriend”.
“Is your friend doing any better?”
“Is your friend out of the hospital? Is she doing well?”
It seems like a small thing, but it’s an important bit of bigotry to dig out.
I’ve taken to asking clients if their “family member” is waiting out in our lobby. The reason isn’t anything to do with queer folks; it’s because I’ve had too many people get upset that I didn’t call their girlfriend their fiance, their fiance their wife, and so on.
These titles are a measure of respect and an acknowledgement of the importance of the relationship.
They might be okay with the cute picture of the two women on my sweetie’s desk.
But it’s still tainted with the stain of bigotry.
Check out her post about queer erasure; she hits the same topic from a different angle.