Dakota Student

Making assumptions of sexuality

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So, let’s get this straight — I like guys. I’ve had moments of questioning, and have kissed a couple of girls (no cherry chapstick involved) but at the end of the day, my preferred partner is a dude.

I’m verifying how I identify because the next part is a bit odd. I get very grumpy with casual acquaintances and strangers who assume I’m straight. They are right, but it really rubs me wrong. In a way, it points out my privilege as a straight person — I am the “norm” in our culture. I don’t have to worry about correcting them when they automatically assume “boyfriend” instead of “girlfriend.”

Maybe it’s because I know so many people who do not identify as cisgendered (a term referring to someone whose gender identity corresponds with their sexual identity). Maybe it’s because I’ve heard so many stories of how oppressed those who identify as anything other than cis are.

We always hear about not assuming someone is gay — you know the spiel, I’m sure. Effeminate does not equal homosexual. Thank goodness I can now say that, culturally, assuming someone is not cis because of varying levels of masculinity is frowned upon.

However, assuming someone is cis, as has been happening to me, is just as oppressive.

Let me be very clear — I am not the one being oppressed by this. If anything, this is just furthering my privilege in our heteronormative society. It is however oppressing every other gender identity out there.

It is still automatic to assume that the person you are talking to is cis. Boys are boys and like girls. Girls are girls and like boys. Done. That’s it. The end. It makes it so much easier on the person who is doing the assuming.

But what about the transgendered people out there? What about those who are bi, gay, lesbian or pan? What about asexuals and all the people who identify on that spectrum? They are automatically left out of the equation thanks to these assumptions.

We need to change this. I’m guilty of it, too, as much as I hate to admit it. We as a culture are finally accepting sexuality as a huge spectrum and not just a binary, but we haven’t gotten used to this on an individual level yet.

Stop assuming his significant other is a girl. Stop assuming her crush is a boy. Stop assuming he is a he and she is a she. Heck, stop assuming period. Usually, when in a place that an assumption is made, it’s not any of your business. If it is, for some reason, your business, then better to ask than to just jump in.

Part of the reason this is so hard is because we still view heterosexuality as the norm (as I mentioned above). Being called anything other than straight can still be viewed as an insult. As stupid as that is — no gender is better than the others — it still happens everyday in Youtube comments around the web. “That’s so gay” is a phrase I hear daily on campus. I’ve had the word lesbian applied to me as an insult and have seen it done to other women. This isn’t helping anyone except those of us who are already privileged.

We should be past this, but we aren’t. It’s time to stop assuming and start respecting. If, for whatever reason, sexuality comes into play with a casual stranger, I recommend the route of “significant other.” It’s gender neutral and doesn’t make as many assumptions of the other person. Better yet, don’t assume at all. We’re supposed to be polite up here in the Midwest — is assuming something — especially sexuality-wise — downright rude?

Kjerstine Trooien is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].

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Making assumptions of sexuality