I recently attended a workshop about concepts underlying LGBT identities. Representatives from One Iowa used this simple yet powerful exercise to help people understand how cultural context influences our perceptions of identity and reactions to others.
Keenan Crow said that George W was his favorite president, and asked us to picture in our head what he wore to his presidential inauguration. [You can do that now.] Most said things like a tie, suit, flag lapel pin, coat, etc.
Then he showed the picture below. [Scroll down]
George W stood for George Washington, not George W. Bush as most people assumed. And on George Washington's inauguration, he wore a powered wig, ruffled shirt, high heeled shoes and tights. If someone wore that today, inferences would be made about their identity or sexual orientation, but in the culture of the time what Washington wore was perfectly acceptable. Both men, at the same function, being inaugurated to the same office -- all the same parameters except for time -- and that made all the difference.
The next time you are tempted to jump to conclusions or make inferences about a person or an idea, remember George W. You need to first understand the context before you can understand anything at all.
-- beth triplett
Keenan Crow, One Iowa Outreach Coordinator at the Iowa School Public Relations Association Fall Conference, October 20, 2016, West Des Moines