Learning to Identify Micro-aggressions

27 Jun

Learning to Identify Micro-aggressions

It’s getting easier to identify blatant homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. A lot of people are familiar with all of the different words and phrases that have been rightly deemed offensive. However, some people might still harbor some of these ideas without really knowing it. These ideas could still come out in their speech without their conscious awareness. This is the nature of micro-aggressions.

Many people probably already know what micro-aggressions are, because they have used them or they have heard them. In order to conquer micro-aggressions, you have to be aware of the bad ideas contained within them. You should not just learn all of the phrases that you should not say. This is not just about changing language, although that helps. This is about changing the bad priors that even some allies can have.

For instance, a lot of people still believe that queer relationships are less valuable than straight relationships. A lot of people tend to sexualize queer love in the case of men. In the case of women, a lot of people de-sexualize it. People often tend to project sexist gender binaries onto LGBT men and women.

It is not funny to ask lesbians ‘which one is the man?’ Neither of them are men. Really, asking a straight couple about who does all of the vacuuming is a sexist question, since plenty of men vacuum and plenty of women do not and the idea that housework is for women is dated and offensive. Asking lesbians or gay couples ‘who does the vacuuming’ adds a layer of homophobia to the whole thing.

These are micro-aggressions that are fairly straight-forward. However, some allies will say things that are supposed to be complimentary but that will ultimately prove to be insulting instead. Trans people do not like to be told that they look ‘cis’ as a compliment, because it still implies that there is something wrong with being trans.

Some straight allies and even some LGBT people will compliment one another for not adhering to LGBT stereotypes. However, queer men who are more feminine in terms of their gender presentation and interests are not doing something wrong. They can experience their own brand of prejudice within the LGBT community. Queer men who are more conventionally masculine are not more virtuous as a result. This is just how they are. Saying otherwise once again implies that conventional masculinity is inherently good and that conventional femininity is bad. It supports the gender binary, leaving out so many people and perpetuating sexism.

Anyone who identifies as a man is a man and anyone who identifies as a woman is a woman. There are people who do not identify with either, and that is also valid. Queer love is equal to straight love. All gender identities are valid. The people who learn to internalize these priors instead of many of the destructive ones that society has handed down to them will have a much easier time when it comes to being effective allies.

It should be noted that LGBT people need to internalize these priors as well, because they can fall victim to bad ideas just like straight people. Some gay people are biphobic and imply that bi people are not queer enough, or that all bi people are ‘wrong’ in some way, or that bi people are just confused. Some cis queer people are transphobic. Some LGBT people are cruel to people outside the gender binary.

All of us were raised in a society where these sorts of prejudices were a problem. This makes it that much more important for all of us to look at the destructive priors that we have inherited in order to be better at living and working with one another. The important thing is to move forward and acknowledge mistakes.