I wrote the following in response to Sinclair’s post defining identity alignment assumptions, basically “the assumption that one’s identity categories align with what is either a stereotype or a dominant compulsory cultural norm.” I ended up writing more than I thought I would, and I have more to add so I thought I’d just convert it into a post on here.
There are many identity alignment assumptions that I struggle with, including the assumption that I’m straight because I’m with a cis-man, the assumption that I’m straight because my primary gender identity is femme, the assumption that my gender expression is traditionally feminine instead of femme, and the assumption that I’m unhealthy or somehow immoral because I’m fat. I’m sure there are more, of course, if I started really thinking about them, but these are the biggest that have been impacting my life lately, especially the first.
I’ve always embraced my difference, and not being visibly different (even moreso recently since I dyed my hair a normal color) is difficult for me in general. I find myself having a difficult time embracing the queer community in general because even though I’ve never been straight and never will be straight I am perceived as straight by many, including many within the queer community. Most people want others to be monosexual, it seems, it’s easier to quantify people that way.
I know that I have some assumptions I make as well, though I’ve noticed that my assumptions are different depending on my location. In Utah I tend to assume most people are mormons and straight, but elsewhere I don’t actually think about what religion or spiritual affiliation people might have, and I tend to assume more people I come across are queer. I do often link gender and sexuality assumptions together, such as assuming masculine females and feminine males are queer, but I also tend to assume general queerness rather than gay/straight binary assumptions.
Occasionally I will try to spend a day purposefully assuming the world is the inverse of what society tells us, that queers are the majority (or total) population, that assumed gender expression doesn’t actually denote the sex of the person, that everyone is polyamorous, and that people won’t automatically judge me by my size. It’s a refreshing and sometimes humbling exercise, though it’s often shattered quite quickly.
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I actively work on my own assumptions, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have them, though it’s hard for me to pinpoint them. I try to not make the same assumptions about others that I feel others make about me, but I know I do it, like assuming straightness instead of queerness.
These assumptions extend beyond people as well, to places. I find myself making assumptions about Seattle and others make assumptions about Salt Lake City due to the identity associations there. I’ve had people mention being surprised that there is a kink community here, a queer community, pagan and occult communities. People assume that SLC is just a mormon hub that doesn’t have any kind of diversity within it, though they’ve obviously not seen SLC Punk. People are surprised when they find out I live in Salt Lake City, though I don’t wholly blame them because I’m surprised that I live here.
I’m finding myself making the opposite assumptions about Seattle. I know a fair amount about the city itself, and have been reading up on it even more since we decided to move there. I’m excited about the communities there. I assume that it is going to be easier for me to find people I click with there. I assume that because it is more liberal that I won’t feel as shut-in as I do here. I don’t know if these assumptions are in any way correct, however, because I’m not counting on that other factor: me.