May 27, 2020
Students walk through the Free Speech Area in front of The Bucket Grill & Pub in between classes on Aug. 21, 2014. (Darlene Wendels/The Collegian)

Recognizing your sexual stereotyping

Most of us go about our daily lives living in a microcosm.

We feel the way we feel and think the way we think. Most of our thoughts go unexpressed all the while making hundreds of assumptions about people without even realizing it.

It’s not necessarily our fault; it stems from how we were raised or even from the circle of friends we’ve chosen to surround ourselves with. Most assumptions are rooted in pure ignorance. Ignorance isn’t a bad word; it literally means unaware of or unfamiliar with.

Even having a blind faith in something may cause ignorance.

For example, I have this innate belief that people are good, that no one would try to mislead you, lie or even steal.

I am incorrect in my belief and am therefore ignorant about how some people are. I have realized my flaw and now have an opportunity to correct it if I wish.

If we don’t realize that we need to alter our thinking, we can’t begin to effect positive change in ourselves.

The biggest stereotypes are, of course, related to race and gender.

We assume things about people that are generally untrue because we feel the same way we always have and haven’t been able to make the conscious decision to change our way of thinking.

Labelling someone as “gay” is incredibly common, even though it’s a thought that shouldn’t even enter our minds. When you do that, what you’re actually spelling out in your mind is “that guy doesn’t have sex with women.”

What is the purpose of that? Why do we bother involving ourselves with the private lives of others?

We do it because we’ve spent so much of our lives labeling people that we’ve become too comfortable doing so.

Not only do you not really know the truth about the person, assuming one way or another lessens you as a person and stifles your growth as a member of society.

The reverse is also true. The fact that I’m asked regularly if I have a girlfriend has become mind-numbingly tedious.

When it happens, I just want to scream or be rude to the person asking the question.

I’d like to respond with something like, “Since you already don’t know me well enough that you labeled me as ‘straight’ based on how I look or act, why would I even want to bother telling you about my personal life in the first place?”

To get around dealing with someone asking this small-talk question, I simply say “no.” It’s an accurate answer but deceptive by omission.

Either way, it’s the quickest way to bring the topic to an end.

People that know me wouldn’t ask such a question. They’ve figured it out within themselves to ask less assuming questions like “Are you seeing someone?” or “Are you dating anybody?”

The simple shift in pronoun makes a world of difference to people who are used to being labeled incorrectly.

Additionally, if you ask personal questions in this manner, it remains accurate and true to your intended purpose if the person is indeed straight, and it also makes people feel more comfortable with you in the event that the person wasn’t comfortable revealing his or her sexual orientation to you.

We can’t all say the right thing all the time, nor would I ever advocate for political correctness.

Being assumed to be something you aren’t is simply annoying, no matter what your situation.

When you’re gay, it’s very common to be asked if you’re dating someone of the opposite sex.

It’s frustrating, but it happens so often that people become used to the labels and assumptions of heterosexuality.

We’re a long way away from eliminating labels, but we can at least make an effort to not verbalize them unintentionally.

We’ve subconsciously labeled people into groups that we’re more comfortable distinguishing.

We can’t begin to break down the social barriers we’ve built over time and step out of our cliques we’ve become accustomed to until we realize that we’re even doing it.

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