What Does the World Get Wrong About Your Demographic?

When it comes to your gender, ethnicity, race, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, age, appearance, or anything else—is there something about the way well-meaning people in society view you or treat you that you wish would change? Most of us would agree that hateful people should be less hateful, so that’s not what this question is about—it’s about what open-minded, well-intentioned people could do better in the way they understand your demographic and how they interact with you about who you are.

For example, this question arose when a lesbian friend of mine said that people tend to be kind of timid to ask if she has a partner or to bring up her partner in conversation. She thinks it’s more awkward for people than asking a straight woman about her husband, and she thinks part of the reason is that they’re not sure what term they should use—”partner” or “wife.” (She is fine with either, but normally defaults to “partner.” She also said that someone recently asked her, while mumbling over their words, about her “lover,” which she found hilarious and assured me is not the preferred term.)

Society has the propensity to botch stuff like this, sometimes because we’re being inadvertently insensitive and hurtful, and other times because we’re being over-the-top PC for no reason and unnecessarily tiptoeing around. My lesbian friend said it seems silly to her how nervous people get about talking to her about being a lesbian, as if it’s a delicate topic—she says that she doesn’t think it’s weird that people have questions and that people should just ask instead of worrying that asking will come off as offensive or ignorant.

Society is like a couple who doesn’t communicate—most of us mean well, and it’s often just a lack of dialogue that’s at the root of many of our problems. So let’s discuss. If there’s something the world is messing up about who you are—in the way they think about it, talk about it, or interact with you about it—tell us about it.

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