I like it when people ask me questions and are genuinely interested in what I have to say.
When I was in middle school, classmates would often ask me “are you gay?” in between periods, during lunch, on the school bus, really anywhere time would allow. Though I don’t believe they meant harm, it often felt like they just wanted to confirm their rumors and suspicions of me and my non-heterosexuality based on my less than masculine qualities.
I hated it every time.
I realize that adults are not always as inquisitive as my middle school classmates were. Not only do they not ask, but they just act like they know. Some people assume that they know with certainty without having ever spoken a word to me.
The most extreme cases have been when people make statements and decisions based on their assumptions in my presence. I’ve had folks tell me to my face that I was wrong, as if they knew more about me than I know about me. I’ve been told, “Jesse, you’ve just not met the right guy yet,” as well as “I think you’ve always been heterosexual, it’s just hard to notice.” I’ve gotten all kinds of audacious assumptions placed on me, and I just shake my head every time.
People can be bold y’all. Bold.
Now, let’s be clear. I get how I can be perceived, so I’m not really bothered by the idea that I’m regularly seen as gay. I also understand that we all make assumptions about things; that’s just the way it is. And I know that there are countless understandable reasons why someone would not ask such a personal question; you can come up with the excuses yourself.
With experiences like mine though, I wish more people would just use their energy to ask rather than to act like they know, particularly for personal matters like my gender and my sexuality.
Being misperceived as regularly as I am has proven to me several things about my own approach to asking and assuming. Here are three.
First, I have to consider more than my first impressions of people. I have to be humble and allow space to be corrected when I casually make an assumption. I said this once before and I’ll say it again; I know that I don’t know it all. I can easily do myself and others a disservice when I don’t take the limits of my knowledge into greater account.
Second, if I want to know something about someone, it’s probably better for me to ask the person and to do so genuinely. Of course, people can plead the fifth and keep it moving without responding to a personal question, but I think people tend to respond more favorably to me if I am legitimately and sincerely interested, when they know that I care.
I tend to care enough to answer a question genuinely if someone cares enough to ask a question genuinely. There are exceptions to this, particularly when I just feel it better to not respond. Usually though, I’ll answer.
Third, if I forego asking, I am simultaneously forfeiting my opportunity to learn more, find out something new, and really get to know someone. In the more extreme cases, if I’m being bold as people can be, I am also deciding to increase the likelihood that I will say or do something that is not only incredibly wrong but certainly humbling.
Please note that these approaches are all particularly relevant for the related aforementioned topics of gender and sexuality but can be applied to other topics accordingly.
Taken together, I know that some people will just not ask, so that leaves me with fewer chances to tell. Consequently, I am no longer waiting to be asked. Sure, I want people to ask and to read these posts and to reply, but even if people don’t, I will continue telling more and more.
People may not care enough to ask, but I will tell all the more because I know it’s better than not telling and sitting in my own fearful and shameful silence. Yes, people may judge me and misunderstand me. And yes, it might make me unpopular and sound crazy. Still, I simply refuse to not testify to the good things that God has been doing in my life.
That is no longer an option.
So special thanks to those who are interested and ask. Everyone else, I encourage you to get ready because there’s plenty more to tell.
Love Love Love,