The impact of microaggressions on gender expression
Gender expression is the way an individual chooses to present their gender identity to the world. Typically, this includes physical expression through clothing, hairstyle, body language, and make-up, but also includes behaviors and activities often associated with a particular gender. Microaggressions are subtle, often unconscious forms of discrimination or prejudice directed toward individuals based on protected characteristics, including gender. Unfortunately, microaggressions have a significant negative impact on gender expression and can limit the full expression someone might otherwise choose.
Signs of Microaggressions
Microaggressions can manifest in several different ways, including:
- Verbal comments such as making jokes or remarks that are dismissive, disparaging, and invalidating of individuals based on their gender identity or expression. These verbal messages can be either direct or indirect and can be said out of ignorance or ignorance.
- Nonverbal behaviors such as avoiding eye contact, crossing arms in front of one’s body, or staring that are meant to express disapproval or dismissal of an individual’s chosen gender expression.
- Implicit biases such as assuming that someone is a certain gender based on clothing, hairstyle, or behaviors.
Impact of Microaggressions
Gender microaggressions can negatively impact an individual’s sense of safety, belonging, and self-esteem. When an individual is denied the freedom to express their gender, not only are they robbed of the opportunity to fully express who they are, but they may also be at risk for various physical, psychological, and emotional harms. Some of the potential harms of microaggressions are:
- Low self-esteem. Individuals who experience gender microaggressions often report feeling devalued, disrespected, and invisible.
- Feeling isolated. Being exposed to microaggressions can lead to feelings of isolation, fear, and alienation from one’s peers and community.
- Anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns. Microaggressions can have a major negative impact on mental health, leading to feelings of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress.
- Physical health problems. Chronic exposure to microaggressions can affect physical health, leading to headaches, digestive issues, and other physical ailments.
Gender expression is important for individuals to be able to fully embrace their identity and live life on their own terms. Unfortunately, gender microaggressions are all too common and can have significant negative impacts on an individual’s well-being. It is important to be aware of microaggressions and work to create a more inclusive, supportive environment for those who identify outside of traditional gender norms.