Microaggressions in the LGTBIQIA+ Community

July 5, 2022

“In a society that teaches us shame, pride is a political response.”

Carlos Jáuregui

Pride month is a time to celebrate, commemorate, and recognize the uniqueness, diversity, and voice of every single person as well as the history of the community. For Globant, it is the culmination of an all-year-round commitment because we want to ensure every single person feels heard and acknowledged. We know how important it is to bring awareness to the LGTBIQIA+ community by listening to their stories and needs and empowering them and their work through visibility.  At Globant, we aim to be allies daily, inside and outside the office. 

To shed light on issues and topics that are important to the community, raise awareness, and invite everyone to reflect on how each of us can provide support, Globant launched several global initiatives, sessions, and discussions during June. One of the sessions, titled “Microaggressions towards people from the LGTBIQIA+ community as the baseline for other forms of discrimination,” focused on defining and explaining how important it is to identify how we play a role in microaggressions and how we can change this. Here are some of the learnings gathered from the session led by Arturo Mercado Gurrola and Anush Grati from the consultancy agency Nodos. This platform seeks to address organizations to live diversity as a value and promote a more inclusive world. 

What are microaggressions?

They are hostile, derogatory, harmful insults, comments, or remarks, made intentionally or unintentionally against members of a marginalized group. They can be disguised as opinions, jokes, or compliments. They can also be transmitted as someone’s beliefs that are explained condescendingly to others. Furthermore, they make LGTBIQIA+ people feel unseen, diminished, unwelcomed, and rejected. In their work and book title, Tiffany Jana and Michael Baran define microaggressions as “Subtle Acts of Exclusion.” 

Here are some examples of microaggressions:

  • “This is just a phase. You’ll get over it.”
  • “You are very pretty; you don’t look transgender.” 
  • “Who’s the woman in the relationship?”
  • “You are very manly. You don’t seem gay.”
  • “Trans people are not ‘natural.”

Many of us are still learning what microaggressions are, and we are just starting to identify them, becoming aware of how we may be performing them. The truth is, in one way or another, we all have generated microaggressions towards LGTBIQIA+ people.

How culture plays a role in microaggressions 

Arturo Mercado Gurrola shared that the culture, at a socio-historic time, is the one dictating “what is bad, dirty, dangerous, improper, unhealthy, sinful, criminal….” In this sense, the things that are out of the norm must be excluded, corrected, punished, or mocked.

Raewyn Connell, a renowned author who has explored the concept of hegemonic masculinity in her work, explains that hegemony is something no one questions and that all society accepts as truth. So, that which is outside that hegemony must be wrong and has to be pointed out, resulting in constructions that lead to sexism, male chauvinism, misogyny, Eurocentrism, racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, classism, hate, or phobia towards the LGTBIQIA+ community, among many others. 

Stereotypes of the LGTBIQIA+ community indicate a separation from the cisgender heterosexual and sexist hegemony and give way to a taxonomy of subtle acts of exclusion from which microaggressions build. These include: 

  • You are invisible
  • You are inadequate
  • You don’t belong
  • You are not normal
  • You are a threat
  • You are a burden

The damage microaggressions can do

Rita Segato​, writer, anthropologist, and feminist activist, says, “The repetition of violence produces an effect of normalization of a landscape of cruelty and, with this, promotes in people the low thresholds of empathy indispensable for the predatory enterprise.” 

At their “lowest impact,” microaggressions are biased attitudes and discriminatory actions that stereotype people. However, at their highest impact, these can lead to discrimination, violence motivated by prejudice, and even genocide. 

Take a piece of paper, start wrinkling it, and tossing it around on the floor. Even though the piece of paper didn’t break, it will never be the same. The same happens when you verbally insult and abuse someone; that person may survive, but they will never be the same. The damage is done. 

For a person, microaggressions have a substantial impact, physically, psychologically, and emotionally, which can even result in depression, anxiety, stress, low self-esteem, and even lead to more complex wounds, such as self discrimination and minority stress, and learned helplessness

Microaggressions can impact work or school environments, even families and social bonds, turning them into hostile places and experiences that cause people to alienate and isolate themselves from certain circles and circumstances to avoid bullying. 

Mercado shared the results of a poll responding to the following question: Have you experienced harassment, violence, and discrimination for being  LGTBIQIA+ in your workplace in the last year?

The answer was yes:

52% from LGTBIQIA+ with disabilities

47% from those who are part or descended from an indigenous or native culture, and

47% from Afro-descendants.

What you can do to avoid performing microaggressions 

  1. Ask for pronouns.
  2. Be aware of your joking and mocking.
  3. If someone shares something about their sexual orientation or gender identity with you, don’t share it; that person trusted you alone.
  4. If you are uncomfortable, ask yourself why.
  5. Check out your prejudices about LGTBIQIA+ people.
  6. Learn about these topics.
  7. Share experiences with LGTBIQIA+ people.
  8. If you generate a microaggression, acknowledge the impact, try to fix the situation, and apologize.
  9. Raise your hand when witnessing microaggressions against LGTBIQIA+ people.
  10.  Express empathy and compassion.

In the frame of Pride month, Globant’s message is clear throughout each of the efforts, sessions, and initiatives: Let your pride be an inspiration, and let’s continue building a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive place for everyone. We invite each Glober to join this effort and raise awareness.

Check out our infographic to learn more about microaggressions.

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