I was in Washington D.C. for an LGBT business equality event with so many people that I know and love. Many of these people are dear friends and some I consider family. I spent much of my evening with a select few individuals making my way through the room networking, mingling, catching up with people I haven’t seen in a while, etc. It was shocking to me that on multiple occasions I was mistaken for being in a relationship with both of them (at separate times.) Over and over and over again, while walking into a conversation it was assumed that we were together. I’ve had this happen once or twice before at other events but this night it happened 7 specific times. Four times with one person and three times with the other.
I have no idea what I was saying or doing differently than usual that would prompt so many people to think one of these two people were my wife but it was a noticeable amount, enough for me to pause and ponder. I should note that both of the women this happened with are such dear and close friends that it was quite laughable every time it happened. They are both like family to me.
Since this happened I started talking to other lesbians in networking environments and asked them if they’ve had this happen. It was an across the board yes! Apparently this is quite the phenomenon. If you are a known lesbian, any time you are hanging around one particular person at an event, there’s almost an immediate assumption that the person must be your girlfriend/spouse/partner/wife. Digging deeper and thinking back on so many years of networking I can recall many times where I would have a friend with me (oftentimes a straight woman) and there be an assumption that this friend must be my wife. I never gave it much thought though.
I don’t have any particular input from the gay male community but I can speak of my experience within the lesbian community. I have a thick skin so if an assumption is made that I am with someone, who is not my wife, it’s not the end of the world. But I can see in instances someone who may not be fully out of the closet with everyone they know, or who may not have a rock solid foundation with their spouse, like I have, where this could be or feel more problematic for them.
Making assumptions is one of the 7 Deadly Sins that I speak in great detail about in my book, “No, Wait… You do look gay!” Assuming in general could land you in hot water and even more so within the LGBT community. Prior to this event it hadn’t occurred to me that this is another assumption to throw into the large list of things that can get you in trouble when marketing, selling and/or communicating to the LGBT community. To avoid making the pitfalls of assuming you should check out the book or any of my training courses.
If you are a lesbian and this has happened to you I would love to hear about it in the comments below. Conversely, if this has never happened to you I would love to hear from you as well!