Who is the man in your relationship?

Seemingly harmless, these thoughts and statements tend to accumulate over time and have harmful consequences on the individuals of the group it’s inflicted on….

One of the most frequent questions to a lesbian couple is “Who is the man between the two of you?”. We have heard our friends asking the question, or we have asked or at least have thought about it. A few more examples:

• “I have a cousin, Just like you !”

• “That’s totally cool with me…as long as I can watch “

• “You just don’t look gay”

Seemingly harmless, these thoughts and statements tend to accumulate over time and have harmful consequences on the individuals of the group it’s inflicted on. These are all examples of everyday micro-aggressions that most LGBTQIA people face in everyday life.

What is this micro-aggression? A micro-aggression is a small remark or statement with harmful or discriminatory implications. It could be intentional or unintentional – verbal, nonverbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative connotations about a particular culture.

In fact, even the very open-minded may have unknowingly made a homophobic faux pas or two. You may have even done it yourself. I know I have.

Micro-aggressions aren’t restricted to LGBT individuals. For Women, they can come in the form of street harassment, slut-shaming, and mansplaining. Some of the common we hear w.r.t women are:

• “Maybe that time of the month..she has gone crazy”

• •“Don’t cry like a girl“

Men aren’t spared either. Often we hear or ask our man-friend who is upset about something in life to “Man Up!” There are advertisements which say “Be a Real Man”

To a Person with Disability, saying things like “I could never deal with that” is a common microaggression. Reducing an individual’s disability to an unfortunate fact is another form of micro-aggression and lumping people with disabilities into one category is one of the worst. Saying seemingly mundane things (listed below), where we are expected to chuckle are common forms of microaggression.

• “I’m really OCD about my files,”

• “Ugh, I can’t read. I’m totally dyslexic today.”

Also, praising persons with disability excessively for actions you wouldn’t praise other/you for has been described by some as being more demeaning than not being praised for achievements at all.

We also knowingly/unknowingly target people from other regions of our own country and use micro-aggressions like

• “This area is full of Chinkies”/em>

• “I won’t rent my house to Punjabis”/em></p

• “My god..these Madrasis.. ..!”

• “Why don’t you all go back to where you came from. Bangalore will be peaceful again”

These small instances of discrimination might not seem like much on their own, but they add up incredibly fast. After all, there are only so many times you can hear “gay” or “Chinki” used as a slur before you start wanting to develop a mute button for real life. Unfortunately, this everyday stream of slights can have serious consequences. They don’t just hurt one’s feelings but, can have serious long-term health implications. Micro-aggressions affect the target’s psyche and physical health. Each slur acts as a minor-trauma. The individual receivers are more likely to have depression symptoms and have a negative view of the world.

We may not be able to fight every single instance — if we did, you would never have time to watch Sacred Games. Or hang out with friends. Or go to work. It may consume all our time and then some more. But, the solution isn’t to just ignore when micro-aggressions happen. We need to speak up. We need to communicate that it is NOT okay. Maybe, we could try coming up with some standard responses to the most common kinds like if someone walked up to us and said “Hey…you don’t look gay” we could respond with a smile saying “ And..you don’t look straight! ..What a coincidence!”



About the author – Shashwati is a Diversity & Inclusion Champion at GiftAbled. She is also an environmental enthusiast and loves her food and water. You can reach her at shashwati.p@giftabled.org