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Is it rude to ask an individual if their chosen hair style…

Is it rude to ask...
Is it rude to ask an individual if their chosen hair style is meant to communicate their sexual orientation and if so, what is that orientation? Some orientations do gravitate to certain hair styles but it is not always clear when that person wears a particular hair style if they are trying to communicate their sexual orientation because there is not any universally accepted or official registry of hairstyles specifically defining which hair styles should be worn by which orientations, nor are their rules as to how people (in a free society or system) are supposed to wear their hair, based on sexual orientation. So there is a lot of guessing going on when trying to associate hair styles with sexual orientation but some individuals DO want to communicate that orientation with the hair style they choose. If that communication is not clear, is it rude, then to simply ask the person in a nice way if their hair is styled to communicate that they are gay, straight, bisexual, or other? Some people get offended if you ask them what their sexual orientation is so would asking about what they are trying to communicate, orientation-wise, with their particular hair style be any less offensive?
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Answered in 56 minutes by:
3/11/2018
Rev Dr August Abbott
Rev Dr August Abbott, Adult Etiquette Pro
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I am August Abbott, formally trained x12 yrs private school:international protocols, etiquette. Please allow a few mins. to compose your response.

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Well then, this is certainly a comment on the socio-political climate today isn't it? Fortunately, rules of etiquette transcend all of that and give us a safe, secure and timeless guideline to follow and keep us out of trouble.

Let me address first any concept that hair styles indicate anything beyond personal choice. I personally know females from one age spectrum to the other (one in her 30's, the other in her 70's) and with different sexual orientations, yet both wear the same, modern, neon blue hairstyle. Both do it solely for the 'fun' of it, the shock value and to be different, although as usual in society, the more different we try to be, the more we seem to be the same.

Now, if a 30-something year old were to approach the 30-something year old with the 'statement hair do' and ask if she's gay or bi, chances are the young woman would be open and unoffended. If that same 30-something year old approached the 70-something year old who has the same style with the same question, this older woman would be both offended at the invasion of privacy and stunned at the lack of etiquette shown by the questioner.

Also, given that I'm an old hippie and have seen my share of long haired men in my life, still seeing many so-called 'hair bands' (musicians), artists and others simply choosing to wear their hair long; seeing women with close cropped cuts and even shaved heads and every combination you can imagine, I can attest to the fact that hair styles have never been a good indication of one's sexual orientation. No matter how 'obvious' it may seem

Finally, there isn't a 'nice' way to ask someone's sexual orientation. Should someone come up to you and ask if you're into 'missionary position' because you dress conservatively, I suspect you'd be taken aback and then in no uncertain terms be offended for the intrusive and offensive question, no matter how nicely it might have been asked.

To ask any question of someone that simply isn't any of our business is offensive, rude and inappropriate. If it were not, I suspect many more people would be asking the well dressed how much $ they make in a year, how do they make it, what their budget is, etc.. Or ask a couple who has 5 kids whether or not they use birth control.

As for what anyone is trying to communicate - just listen to them ... or read their t-shirt

Right?

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
If an LGBT individual goes to the length to get an unusual hair style commonly associated with a particular sexual orientation, then they are somewhat advertising that orientation and I believe should not be offended if someone asks them to confirm it. But if they are NOT LGBT, they might be offended by the question but I think would benefit from the knowledge that their hair style is causing confusion with some people as to their sexual orientation. So who is in the wrong, i.e. the person who asked the question or the person who wore a hair style commonly associated with a different sexual orientation but might have known better given these modern times? And yes, age of the individual and from which generation they spring from is a helpful gauge as to potential offense at such a question (Thank you for that value-added distinction.) But in these times with so many more people identifying as LGBT (in or out of the closet), isn't it time that all individuals update their sensibilities so as to not be offended if someone asks what their basic sexual orientation is (versus something more private like preferred sexual position as your response suggests)? Having lived in a large city where there were many LGBT individuals, I often found it helpful when making my own introduction to state my basic sexual orientation upfront so as to eliminate any potential confusion. No-one objected and I later came to appreciate how this should be more of a standard practice, just as some when introducing themselves may identify where they are from, their age range, their marital status, or other optional identifiers not immediately apparent from their appearance alone. Might that be a better practice going forward towards modern etiquette?
You have some interesting suggestions and I really wish I could tell you that in any society it would be appropriate to ask someone's sexual orientation, but it's not. It doesn't matter what hairstyle they're wearing what clothes they're wearing or anything else about them. If you were to go up to someone and they were to immediately volunteer that they were gay or bi or anything else that's one thing but I'm afraid that modern etiquette or old-fashioned etiquette dictates you cannot ask that question.
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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
OK I accept your ruling that it would be rude to ask this question. But if it is a social setting and not a business encounter where possible charges of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation might be levied for asking the question, I may ask the person something polite such as, "You have such a nice hair style. You don't have to answer and I would not be offended if you didn't but, do you happen to be a member of the LGBT community?" And then if they showed offense I would apologize but at least they would know it was their chosen hairstyle that inspired the question and they should have suspected someone would ask. Anytime you style yourself in a provocative way, you can expect it may draw attention and even inquiries by some. But all can be polite about confirming what information you are trying to convey with provocative styling. It's a gamble to ask, but sometimes better to confirm upfront versus making bigger mistake later based on incorrect assumptions. Thanks for the helpful guidance.
Why would you risk hurting someone's feelings or ruining their day like that? If they are not gay, now they'll know at least one person thinks so because of a hairstyle. And it's not like they can make it grow out immediately - so every day, every night that poor person who just thought they looked nice, will now be worried and stressed and hating how they look.
I'm sure that's not what you want to do, is it? And all the apologies in the world wouldn't take it back.
Honestly there is just no way to ask someone what they do in the privacy of their own bedroom.
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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
Let me qualify the situation in which I would ask for further clarification -- that would be if I might be physically attracted to that individual and they had expressed some level of interest in me, if even just platonic. I would ask for clarification so as to not waste their time or mine towards developing relations on a romantic level but of course platonic would still be open if our sexual orientation did not coincide. I've had negative experiences in the past where not clarifying early on what the sexual orientation was ended up in a misunderstanding so I think clarifying this would be a valid thing to do where the possibility of romance was there -- but not necessarily otherwise if my interest in the other person would only be platonic. But even in friendship, it is helpful to know the other person's sexual orientation so as to understand better how they may relate to others we would encounter in a setting beyond just the two of us, so if friendship were in the making, I think asking about the other person's sexual orientation would also be acceptable.

I see, thank you for the further clarification. In just about 100% of encounters where one person is interested and hopeful that the other person is equally so, the simple, polite statement would go something like this: "In case you aren't aware, I'm gay. Have you had a lot of experience with this?' .... or other, simple, to the point statements that 'out' you and gives the other person the opportunity to either 'out' themselves or keep it to themselves, which is their right.

Not all LGBT members are 'out and proud' and that's their right. By opening yourself up first you are giving them a comfortable and relatively safe environment in which to open up to you as well.

You need to keep in mind that whenever we approach another person with an intrusive question such as yours about hairstyles, the other person will immediately go on the defensive. They'll wonder why you're so intrusive, what are your motivations, do you want to hurt them or judge them and what, if anything, are you hearing about them from other sources.

By offering a deeply personal truth about yourself first and then letting them decide whether or not to be as forthright with you - you are non offensive, kind and polite.

This makes sense right? And it gives a much better first impression of you.

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
Having lived in a predominantly LGBT community at one time where some could be absolutely predatory in seeking out a new partner, I became accustomed in social situations to introducing myself with a note about my own orientation so there would be no confusion, and that worked to avoid any confusion before it could start. Outside such communities, however, it is less common for one to include their sexual orientation as a standard part of their own introduction but in these modern times, I think it would be less questionable and may become a growing trend, at least in some areas. Thank you again for sensitizing me to the potential offense that an honest question, however carefully worded, could still cause to those not expecting it.
Customer reply replied 4 months ago
Having lived in a predominantly LGBT community at one time where some could be absolutely predatory in seeking out a new partner, I became accustomed in social situations to introducing myself with a note about my own orientation so there would be no confusion, and that worked to manage expectations more effectively. Outside such communities, however, it is less common for one to include their sexual orientation as a standard part of their own introduction but in these modern times, I think it would be less questionable and may become a growing trend, at least in some areas. Thank you again for sensitizing me to the potential offense that an honest question, however carefully worded, could still cause to those not expecting it.

Throughout your question my heart went out to you. I had a brother in law who had the same dilemma when he was out of his usual circles. He wore his orientation on his sleeve (so to speak) and rarely did anyone have to question him about it. This isn't to say that HE wasn't often left to wonder. With his amazing attitude and sense of humor, he would announce his sexuality with a flare only he could pull off and in the same breath let the other person know his intentions.

I don't remember anyone, even the most straight of straights, being offended or angered and once I heard a fellow reply, without skipping a beat, "... well, I'm not, but if I were to ever be so inclined, you'd be the first I'd call". They went on to become good friends right up to my brother in law's passing a few years ago. Loved by everyone who ever met him.

Keep your sense of humor and kind heart -- it makes you who you are

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