Is it acceptable to ask one's sexual orientation on the boards?

Assume that there is a situation (for example, referring to someone’s significant other) where it would be relevant to know a person’s preferred sexual orientation. When outside the confines of the SDMB, I’m going to assume that a person is heterosexual, unless they make it clear (read: explicitly tell me that they are not heterosexual) that they are not. I do occasionally find myself concerned that I might offend a non-heterosexual person in this way, but it’s just not really considered “acceptable” to ask someone if they prefer men or women IRL.

However, on these boards, there seems to be a different culture. I don’t want to offend anyone here by simply assuming they are heterosexual, especially when there’s a larger number of persons here who are openly non-heterosexual than I run across in day-to-day life. I try to keep up with the board enough to use proper pronouns, but I can’t always remember exactly who has what sexual preference.

Non-heterosexual people, assuming it were relevant to the topic at hand, would you be offended if someone on the boards just assumed you were heterosexual, or would you prefer to be asked?

Conversely, I ask of heterosexual people: Would you be offended if someone on the boards asked your sexual orientation instead of assuming you were heterosexual, or do you think it is acceptable around the boards to ask someone what their sexual orientation is, if it is relevant?

I wouldn’t care if anyone asked my sexual orientation, tho they’d have no reason to, really. (FTR, I am heterosexual.)

As long as it is a relevant question, I don’t see the problem in asking anything.

I think it’s fine to ask. I love women. :wink:

Really, because that is something about a person that makes them them, it should be fair game for a question. Otherwise, how would you know to whom you are talking?

More intrusive questions have been posed…

Sepaking as a fully formed flamer here, I think it’s OK to ask - as long as the question isn’t put in such a way that it would belong in The Pit.

I do think that assuming that someone is a breeder, however, may be a tad presumptuous - especially in 2002 and particularly here. Since most people are het, however, I’ve become used to people making the assumption. IRL, I simply correct them gently - for instance:

New Friend: “So, are you married”
Me: “I’m not allowed to get married, except in Vermont.”
New Friend: “Huh? What do you mean?”
Me: “Sorry, I was being obtuse - I prefer the company of men.”

If the person sticks around after that and doesn’t slink away in disgust, we’re usually OK.

Honestly, however, in 99% of the cases that I can think about, it just plain doesn’t matter. When one speaks of one’s SO, I personally find that I simply accept that this person is the SO - I don’t really think about whether the two persons are gay, straight, bi, etc. etc. etc.

Maybe that’s just me.

I’m hetero and it wouldn’t offend me to be asked. In fact, it wouldn’t offend me if you assumed I was gay - I’d just let you know otherwise.

In general, I think the anonymity of the message board makes people more comfortable to reveal things like their sexual orientation. I think that’s one reason that most people don’t reveal their real name.

Of course, people could also choose not to answer. And still not be offended.

IMO, it’s perfectly ok to ask as long as it’s not being done for the purpose of being rude. Do not be surprised when the answer is “I’d rather not say” or when the question goes unanswered, though.

I have quite often been assumed to be a lesbian, which is only offensive when it’s based on some stupid stereotype – like the fact that I’m not wearing makeup, or because I do a lot of home repairs myself, or because I have lesbian friends .:rolleyes:

In general, however, I don’t mind being asked under most circumstances, even if the reason is simply, “I was just curious.” I believe strongly in the old adage about assuming, and I think the potential for making an ass of you and me is greater where sex and sexuality are concerned.:slight_smile:


[anecdote]I took part in a grad student’s project at college, which involved filling out a questionnaire and an interview, answering questions on sexuality and prejudice. One of the questions was “Would you feel differently about a person if you found out they were were Gay/Bi/Lesbian?” Although I thought the question was fairly clumsy, it made me think, and I eventually had to be honest and answer “Yes”. I knew I wouldn’t like the person any more or less, I know better than to make assumptions on someone’s personality based purely on sexuality, but there would be that added spark of interest, just as if I’d found out they came from my hometown/had a shared favourite author with me etc.[/anecdote]

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t really get the “Sexual orientation is completely unimportant” ideaology. Yes, I believe it is when it becomes an issue dealing in prejudice or biogtry, but I think it’s a shame that it’s often considered impolite or uncalled for to assume that sexuality is not an area of interest when getting to know someone. Sexuality is as much (I would say more) of an integral part of someone’s personality as the group they identified with most during high school, where they originate from, or the music they listened to growing up. If I am getting to know someone that I think I might like, I want to know stuff; I want to know what I have in common with them, what I don’t, perhaps what I can learn from them. Their first crush, kiss, or relationship is interesting to me, as it tells me more about them, just as much as the first book they loved, or their favourite subject at school.

I wouldn’t mind at all if somebody thought I was straight. However, that’s highly unlikely to ever happen so moving swiftly on… I fully respect other’s wishes if they choose to keep their sexual preferences private. But as long as the question is asked in a friendly spirit, I see no reason at all why it should be an unacceptable one.
A quick whisper in TVGuy’s ear - people have said on this board before that they find the term breeder offensive. We don’t want to start oppressing straight people now, do we? :wink:

Note: Yes, I know that in most cases, sexual orientation doesn’t matter. But for one example, there are cases where I’d like to know if I’m referring to someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend or wife or husband.

TVGuy: While I agree that I am being presumptuous in assuming that people are heterosexual, I’m also looking on the safe side. In other cases, the adage to which brainychick referred seems to hold true, but in this case I worry more that there’s a much bigger danger in asking someone their sexual orientation and running across someone who doesn’t like that question and beats me to a pulp or something.

Thanks for reminding me to keep in mind that many people wouldn’t be comfortable with the question, heresiarch and KellyM. Actually, I’ve declined to answer before (not out of being uncomfortable with the question, however), but I hadn’t previously heard of it being common to be uncomfortable with such a question.

As a very open gay person, I would far rather have someone ask me whether I’m gay than assume that I’m straight. If I feel it’s not relevant to the issue at hand, I’d probably say something to the effect of “I’m gay, but why do you think being gay has anything to do with (x)?”

I’m straight, and I wouldn’t be offended by being asked, if it were relevant to the discussion. One of the things I love about this community is its openness; we have a large proportion of openly gay and bi members, and have had some very enlightening discussions on sexual orientation. This doesn’t happen very often in the outside world.

Hey, look - in a place like this, you can’t even always tell if a poster is M or F… a lot of names don’t reflect gender (including mine). If you’re someone whom I’ve only interacted with a few times on the boards, I’m not going to get upset if you get my gender or orientation wrong. If we’ve interacted several times, I’m just going to figure you find me eminently forgettable. If we’ve met IRL more than once and you can’t remember my gender, I’ll start getting a bit depressed.

Straight, married MALE! Yes MALE! Stop hitting on me guys! The name is misleading, it’s a long story. But I am truly male. or possibly a lesbian stuck in a man’s body

Straight, VERY single female.

I think it matters-depending on the circumstances. Most of the time, no, probably not. But if you get into dating, and romance and such, I think I’d want to know that the guy I like is straight/gay/bi. Because it would kind of suck to fall in love with someone, and realize their orientation precludes them from falling for you.

I perfer that if someone isn’t sure they ask.

People keep thinking I’m gay :frowning:

Usually it’s women I’m interested.

Just because I make eye contact when I talk with people, I don’t check out every hot woman who walks within eye shot. That and I come across as quiet and fairly empathic.

Here’s a tip ladies: If I’m talking to you for longer than it takes to run away screaming, I’m interested! *

  • Yes I have run away literally screaming before.**

** She was scary!***

I think it was a she…*

Lighting was poor and I was kinda drunk.*

Drunk enough visibility was farther reduced.*

******I’m gonna stop now.

i find i don’t have to ask. usually a pronoun will give me a hint. if someone is writing about a date or something their so did, a pronoun will rear it’s ugly head at some point.

of course there was an occasion when i had to take a train and meet someone from another firm, do a “hand off” of some specs at the train station, hop back on the train and return to my office. my co worker was to call ahead to the guy meeting me and tell him i was on my way. i had seen the guy at my office once and figured i would spot him.

somehow my co worker managed to describe me without once refering to gender! when i got back to the office she laughed about how he had called her back and asked if r c was a man or a woman. i asked her how she had managed to describe me without using a pronoun.

r c is wearing an oxford shirt and jeans. r c will have a black knoll bag with the specs in it. r c is about 5’ 2" with a red sox hat, etc. i laughed and said “good grief he must have thought he was meeting pat from saturday night live.”

Heavily closeted gay person here, and I don’t mind when people ask.

Actually, I wish people asked more often. Then maybe I could do something about the “heavily closeted” part. :stuck_out_tongue:

It helps if it’s germane to the topic … if it’s just a “getting to know you” type thing, I usually don’t say anything unless I can gauge what kind of reactions I’m likely to get.

But really, as long as it’s asked in an inoffensive way and I don’t get an “eeeeew” reaction, everything’s cool. Same with further questions about my sexuality, though I think it’s pretty well established that I’m open about it as long as I have a good idea of what the reaction will be.