ASSUMPTIONS. WE ALL make them on some level. We usually don’t do it maliciously and sometimes, we turn out to be right. This does not, however, mean we are right in making them.
There are a number of things that go into the assumptions we make about people. Usually, it’s past experience. Sometimes it is the mood we are in at any given moment. Whatever it is, assumptions can come from places of negativity, ignorance or fear.
Recently, I received an email at my day job that was addressed to "Mrs. Ernest." Some people may find it extreme that a salutation in an email, a common courtesy, would evoke a level of frustration high enough to lead me to devote this month’s column to it. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that the sender was being courteous. It’s the fact that he made the assumption that I am married that speaks to a larger issue.
The problem is that the sender made the leap from "woman of a certain age to be in a professional position" to "married woman." To some, this may seem to be solely a feminist issue. I would argue that this thought process is detrimental to many segments of our society—especially queer people.
Do I want to be married? Absolutely. My partner and I are engaged; we just haven’t figured out the way that’s best for us to make everything official. Do I consider myself to be in a committed relationship that is equivalent to or better than many legal marriages that I know? Without a doubt.
The recent comings out of Ellen Page and Michael Sam are perfect examples of the varying levels of assumptions that people regularly deal with. There has been talk for years that Page is a lesbian. I’m not sure whether that was wishful thinking or based on solid information, but once it was out there, many people jumped on the bandwagon. Some people were so comfortable with their thoughts about her life that all they could muster was an “it’s about time” and gave a negative reaction to an empowering situation – like they knew better than she did and were more upset about the fact that it "took her so long" than the fact that she was being honest and was now comfortable enough to live her truth.
Michael Sam may have a harder road to travel. Why does society assume that just because a man is gay he can’t be in the presence of any other men without allowing his "lustful cockmonster" (thank you Chris Kluwe for that little gem of a phrase) to come out? Some people think that just because Sam prefers the company of men, he won’t be able to get ready for a game without obsessing over his naked teammates in the shower. Oh, my god, what if he turns all his teammates gay just by being gay in the locker room? Seriously, what is that about?
There are so many ways that we make assumptions every day, whether it’s making fun of the obese person who is actually doing everything they can to lose weight, or worrying about that 5-year-old boy who plays with Barbie dolls because he’s obviously going to grow up and become a little fairy who can’t take care of himself.
Maybe we should step outside ourselves and our fears and open our minds to the fact that we don’t actually know everything about everyone else’s life. How about we give others the benefit of the doubt every now and again? We might find that the world is a much more pleasant place when we do.