The Heterosexual Assumption

cartoon-donkey-04The brilliant writer and poet Oscar Wilde has been quoted saying the following about making assumptions.

“When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me.”

A few days ago, as I sat writing in my living room, my TV, which was playing in the background while I worked, caught my attention. A local news station was on and a male newscaster was interviewing a young boy who looked to be about 10 years old. The boy was being questioned about a large, local party he had recently attended. Most of the male newscaster’s questions were typical, boring fluff.

Yet, one particular question caught my ear. Referencing the large party, the newscaster asked the boy, “Did you meet any cute girls at the party?” I became immediately annoyed. Let me rephrase that, I was instantly offended and infuriated. To most heterosexual, Western Pennsylvanian viewers of this program I’m sure this question appeared to be a completely harmless and simple inquiry. But in rebuttal I wanted to scream, “Why don’t you ask him if he met any cute boys at the party?”

Simply put, society needs to stop assuming that everyone is straight.

Is it any wonder that LGBT individuals feel that they are different and that their feelings are abnormal from a very young age? Our society pushes an unrealistic, heterosexual ideal as the norm in almost every sentence out of its mouth.

Normal is for that little boy to be lusting after little girls. Normal is for little girls to make him blush. Normal is for little girls to make his stomach flip and his heart to beat faster. If he is not experiencing exactly these things, then guess what, he is different and strange and abnormal. Something is wrong with him.

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There must be something wrong with him. With causal questions and assumptions, that lump him into this heterosexual bubble, being thrown around by everyone in his life from his teachers to his family members to the god damned newscasters on TV, there must be something atypical about him if his feelings don’t coincide with this accepted norm which seems to come so naturally to everyone else.

We cannot presume to know someone’s sexuality simply by looking at him or her. I look forward to the day where people who make such assumptions, who box us all into tight, little, unfair expectations, are the ones who are outside of the norm. I am not being overly dramatic in my opinion that the newscaster I mentioned was being rude and ignorant.

On the flip side of this issue, I have witnessed people who are doing their best to redefine what is normal in our society. A close, straight, female friend of mine, who has recently gotten married, has a one-year-old little boy named Henry. I always hear her affectionately gushing over him. She believes in never assuming who Henry will become. She constantly says to him,

“Mommy loves you, Henry. Mommy loves you so much. And Mommy doesn’t care who you love when you grow up. You can love a man, a woman or whomever and I will be very proud of you and love you just the same. And Mommy doesn’t care if you decide later that you should have been born a girl instead of a boy. I love you unconditionally no matter who life calls you to be.”

This is not an exaggeration. She literally says these things to him all the time. I listen to this friend’s utter lack of assumption and realize that the world is changing. I know that if Henry ever grows up to become a newscaster he would ask a little boy, “Did you meet anyone cute at the party?” A simple altering of a few words in a sentence and suddenly all of us are included in what is normal. And suddenly no one is making an ass out of you, me or themselves.

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10 thoughts on “The Heterosexual Assumption

  1. Awesome point. Wish all people would change their assumptions even about what kids should play with. What if girls want to play with trucks? Would it be the end of the world if a boy asked for a doll for his birthday? It would show the parents did not teach assumptions, just like your friend.

    • As always, I love your feedback! When I have children, they can chose what toys they want to play with. No judgment. I agree with you, it starts with the parents. A better world is on the horizon!

  2. I’ve been working very hard personally on not unconsciously making that assumption in my own language. That and not saying anything that supports the patriarchal oppression of women. We are so indoctrinated though. The second one is extra hard.

    • I completely agree! I even find myself correcting my speech and thoughts all the time. We all have negative learnings which we must break away from and rewrite. I just want us all to feel included and safe to be ourselves, whomever that may be. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  3. I agree that heteronormativity is such a drag. We should all strive to stop using stereotypes – whether they’re stereotypes about sexuality, race, gender, or any other construct. Glad that Henry’s mother is raising her child in an all-encompassing unconditional love kind of way, and it’s people like her that provide paragons of hope for others to follow in the future. Wonderful post, and I hope to read more of your writing soon!

    • Thomas, thank you for your encouraging and meaningful comment! I love everything you said here. I especially love your quote …’heteronormativity is such a drag’! That would have been a great title for this piece! It has so many layers of special meaning. Awesome! You raise a valid point. There are so many types of stereotypes that include harmful and hurtful assumptions which we all encounter on a daily basis. I am striving to be better at all the ones you mention. I hope the rest of the world will as well.

  4. Most of us don’t really think of this as an issue. I don’t mean to demean your post in any way. I have a few gay friends and I’m all for equality on every issue but I didn’t notice anything wrong with what the reporter asked. To me it would be a perfect world if the kid (who in this hypothetical scenario is gay) could correct someone without them batting an eye or looking down on them. By making the assumption they are assuming but gay people are in the minority so it’s not horrible for him to make the assumption. True saying “anybody” instead of “girls” is more inclusive, but I don’t think the new caster meant any harm.

    I can’t relate with your perspective, so I may be misspeaking here. However as a straight person I can say when most of us speak this way we don’t intend to be excluding gay people.

    • I truly appreciate your perspective and thoughts here. I in no way feel that you were trying to demean my post. I thank you for your cautious response and respectful wording.

      Based on recent polls I have seen on America’s ever changing stances on gay rights, I think that your comments here would aline with the vast majority of heterosexual men (and perhaps women). I also completely agree with your comment, “Most of us don’t really think of this as an issue”. I think awareness on all fronts is important and vital. That is why I wrote this post. Most heterosexual people, a.k.a. the majority, do not think before they say certain things. If having read this post makes you think differently about your wording even .00005% of the time, then I am thankful I wrote it.

      I would also agree with you that the newscaster meant no harm. But I disagree with your thought, “gay people are in the minority so it’s not horrible for him to make this assumption.” Is that not horrible? I agree that you and I have different perspectives here and I think that is understandable. We have had different life experiences due to our sexualities (and heck due to lots of things that I’m sure were different about our lives outside of who we are attracted to). It may seem to you that I am splitting hairs on this issue, and I can see where you are coming from, but to me it feels more important than simply splitting a hair. It’s about feel validated and acknowledged.

      In my opinion, this type of discussion between people of different backgrounds is a great step in the right direction. It’s one of the reasons that blogging is so freakin’ cool. I appreciate you taking the time to speak your mind. Gay rights can be a hot button, ‘people flying off of their handle’ issue lately. Never be afraid to share your thoughts with me. We don’t always have to agree. We just have to listen to each other. Knowledge is power. Thank you again. Sincerely.

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