The Danger of Assuming
Fun fact: I’ve been asked many times if I’m adopted.
Most of those times were in elementary school when my mom would pick me up from aftercare. The kids would see her, then look at me, then look back to her, then back to me.
The next morning in class I could expect a few of them to come up to me and ask, “was that your mom who picked you up?”
“Are you adopted?”
“I don’t think so..”
“But she’s white!”
So on, so forth. Rinse, repeat.
It got to the point where I asked my mom one day, “Am I adopted?” and she’d say, “Nope, you’re all mine. I’ve got the C-section scar to prove it.”
The assumption that my mom is somehow not my mom because she’s white is one that I’ve seen in many different forms.
“Is that your daughter? She looks just like you.”
“Ma’am you need to wait behind this line— oh, wait, you’re the same party?”
These assumptions are microaggressions. As I’ve previously defined microsggressions, they’re those little things people do that inform you that you aren’t normal.
The idea of assuming has become more and more prominent in public discourse as it relates to gender and sexuality. “Don’t assume my gender.” Or, “don’t assume I like men/women/people.”
And you might be thinking, when it comes to sexuality and gender, exactly what Dave Chapelle said in his Netflix special on the topic of transgendered people, “to what extent do I have to participate in your self image?”
I have friends and family who’ll lean in and in a low voice tell me how they don’t understand, “the transgender issue.”
As someone who is cisgendered, I try not to speak over others, or speak for them. But like I said in my discussion on being a biracial ally, I have access to different spheres that might otherwise know nothing about transgendered people. So here we are.
Clarifying for those who don’t know, a cisgendered person is someone who identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth. I’ve known people to say, “Why do I have to say I’m cisgendered? I’m normal, I shouldn’t have to add a label to make others comfortable.” First of all, normal? I don’t think anyone reserves the right to determine what’s “normal.” And second of all, it’s a descriptive term that tells others that you haven’t had to struggle with your gender identity, you just know that you are what you are. And that’s extremely lucky! Others aren’t always that lucky.
So as the conversations about gender assuming become more prominent, I consider Jane’s advice from Breaking Bad.
Understand that when you rudely assume things *with malicious intent* that you are no longer in the right. How many times have I seen people talk about trans people and use harmful rhetoric like “man in a dress.” Or “child molester.” But they forget that trans people are people! Just like me and you, and they deserve basic respect.
Neither I nor my mom have every angrily responded to assumptions, because for the most part people aren't maliciously assuming we aren't related by blood. It's when you're aware of people's truth and still choose to disrespect them where it becomes wrong.
Just a small rant on assumptions to start your week. Let me know if you have any questions or feedback! Again— these are just my thoughts, feel free to disagree.