Assuming Assumers

So, I was at a housing fair today, collecting leaflets, free pens and chocolate.
It’s November, but apparently house-hunting season is already on for next July.

As I went round the stalls, I was talking to a number of different people about the options they might have for couples.

Specifically, I told them that “my partner will hopefully be coming to live with me”.

And they all, to a person, responded by referring to J as “he”.

Some people who read this will know that J – the partner – is indeed male. But I didn’t tell them that. And my hands were covered by the sleeves of my hoodie – no sign of any ring to help them in their assumptions.

It was infuriating me by the time I left the fair – and they weren’t even wrong. I don’t want to begin to think of how angry I’d be if J had been a woman.

Although, I wonder how I would have felt if they’d refered to J as “she” instead. Would it have been better or worse than if they’d called J “he”, and if J had been a woman?

They would have still assumed my sexual orientation, or the gender of my partner, or both, and they would still have got it wrong.

I don’t know. I just know that having J’s gender assumed so constantly in conversation made me very uncomfortable. Why couldn’t they have just referred to him, like I did, by saying “your partner”?

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3 Comments on “Assuming Assumers”

  1. butterflywings says:

    Yes, I completely agree.
    To assume your partner is a man is just lazy and heteronormative.
    Assuming they are a woman because you looked like some stereotype of a lesbian would be as bad.
    I had a thing where I was really not sure if a colleage (male) was gay or straight. Soon enough the answer revealed itself in the pub – by which I mean he talked about the guy he was seeing. I didn’t feel it was polite to ask which gender he liked (or of course, if he liked both) but why not? Why isn’t that OK?
    Although in the context of finding a house, it doesn’t matter – as you say, ‘they’ or ‘your partner’ etc. would suffice. Why is it so hard?

  2. R. says:

    Yeah, I’m almost surprised that because you said “partner” that they didn’t assume that you meant another woman. I mostly only hear “partner” used by LGBTQ people who want to make a (good) point about how heteronormative our words for that are, or because the other terms don’t fit their relationship. I’ve only rarely heard it from a straight person.

  3. Rachel says:

    … because the other terms don’t fit their relationship…

    As it happens, this is exactly why I use the word. To call him my “boyfriend” feels childish, but anything else is inaccurate. Of course, I’m not actually straight, so that might influence my decisions!


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