Microaggression and Mosquito Bites

A friend of mine sent me this video, and I think it’s so brilliant that I just had to share it. This is a perfect way to describe microaggression or, “subtle-discrimination,” as I like to call it.

Microaggression is a theory created by psychiatrist and Harvard University professor Chester M. Pierce, in 1970 to describe insults and dismissals he regularly witnessed non-black Americans inflict on African Americans.

In 1973, MIT ombudsman Mary Rowe expanded the term to include similar aggressions directed at women, and those of different abilities, religions, and other socially marginalized groups. Further, she named this concept “micro-inequities,” to define aggressions experienced by people who are nontraditional in any context.  Rowe’s work led to MIT’s having one of the nation’s first harassment policies.

Eventually, the term “microaggression” came to the American lexicon as a catch-all term that encompasses the casual degradation of any socially marginalized group, such as the poor, the disabled, or the LGBTQ+ community.

Raising a gender creative child has taught me so much. First, having to endure microagressions every single day gets really old, really fast. I now can say with certainty that I finally understand what it must feel like for anyone who isn’t white. Or male. Or straight. Or cisgender.

In the past, with regards to actively supporting a gender creative boy, I’ve had people tell me or my family that we are “over-reacting,” “making something out of nothing,” “making a mountain out of a molehill,” “creating a problem when there isn’t one,” “making a minor issue into a major issue,” etc.

To use the symbolism of this video, think of it this way: while most people may get bitten occasionally by “mosquitoes” if they forget to wear bug repellent, or only during certain times of the year, my gender creative boy receives so many “mosquito bites” in one single day that by day’s end, he’s covered, blistered, and exhausted from all the “scratching.” He’s also in terrible pain from the lingering after-effects. Then he crashes in bed, utterly exhausted, conks out asleep, and gets up the next day to enter the jungle and do it all over again.

So to recap, every day for a gender expansive or transgender person looks like this: 1.) Get attacked all day with microagressions (in tiny ways that most people will not even notice), 2.) itch and scratch constantly to try to relieve the discomfort (a.k.a. “insert any defense mechanism or self-soothing mechanism here”), then 3.) come indoors to the safe haven of their home to recuperate, and finally, 4.) feel the burn and linger in it until the next day.

Watch this little video, and see if it makes the picture a bit more clear. Then remind yourself that if you aren’t aware of microaggressions, or subtle discrimination, or if you’re saying, “that doesn’t really happen because I never see it…,” then consider yourself lucky; you’re a human being with privilege.

*I would rate this video PG-13, for language.

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