Recognizing, avoiding LGBTQIA+ microaggressions in the PH

Recognizing, avoiding LGBTQIA+ microaggressions in the PH

Imagine you’re at a family gathering somewhere, and your cousin, who recently came out as non-binary, is nervously sharing their experiences.

Amid the warm atmosphere, a well-meaning tita unintentionally asks, “So, are you a boy or a girl now?” The room falls silent, the air thick with discomfort. This scene, though common, highlights a subtle yet pervasive issue: microaggressions.

Defining microaggressions

Microaggressions are subtle, often unintentional, comments or actions that convey prejudice or discrimination towards marginalized groups. For individuals in the LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning, asexual) community, these microaggressions can be particularly insidious, as they often stem from ingrained societal biases rather than overt hostility.

Understanding what constitutes a microaggression and how to avoid it is essential in fostering a supportive and inclusive environment for LGBTQIA+ friends and community members, most especially in a society where tolerance often overshadows true acceptance.

Common LGBTQIA+ microaggressions

Assuming heteronormativity: Asking someone about their “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” without considering that they might not be attracted to the opposite sex assumes that heterosexuality is the norm.

Invalidating identity: Saying things like “You don’t look gay” or “I would never have guessed you’re trans” can be dismissive of a person’s identity.

Tokenism: Expecting your LGBTQIA+ friend to represent or explain the entire community’s experiences is unfair and places an undue burden on them.

Deadnaming: Using a transgender person’s birth name instead of their chosen name is deeply disrespectful.

Outing: Discussing someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity without their consent is a severe violation of privacy.

Avoiding these mistakes

While microaggressions might seem minor, their cumulative effect can be deeply harmful, leading to feelings of isolation, stress and invalidation for LGBTQIA+ individuals. Recognizing and addressing these behaviors can significantly impact the mental and emotional well-being of your friends and contribute to a more inclusive society. There are ways to avoid making these mistakes.

Educate yourself: The first step in avoiding microaggressions is to educate yourself about the LGBTQIA+ community and their experiences. Understanding the nuances of gender identity, sexual orientation and the specific challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ individuals in the Philippines is essential. There are numerous resources available, from books and articles to documentaries and online courses.

Use inclusive language: Language is powerful. Make an effort to use terms and pronouns that affirm people’s identities. If you’re unsure, politely ask your friend what pronouns they prefer and respect their choices.

Listen and validate: Listen actively to your LGBTQIA+ friends’ experiences without interrupting or dismissing their feelings. Validate their experiences by acknowledging their feelings and offering support. Simple phrases like “I hear you” or “That sounds tough” can go a long way.

Challenge stereotypes: Avoid making assumptions based on stereotypes. Understand that each person’s experience and identity is unique. Challenging your own biases and stereotypes is a critical step toward being a better ally.

Apologize and learn: If you realize that you’ve committed a microaggression, apologize sincerely without making excuses. Use it as a learning opportunity to do better in the future.

Understanding and avoiding microaggressions is not just about being polite. It’s about recognizing and affirming the dignity and humanity of every individual. By committing to these practices, we can all contribute to a society where everyone, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, feels seen, respected and valued.

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