racial, gender, and sexual-orientation microaggressions
(lower or outer limits) of social desirability and consciousness. We may view them in negative ways (undesirable) and/or be oblivious to their existence and their life experiences. Many sociodemographic groups in the United States are defined by sexual orientation (gay/lesbian/bisexual), disability, class (poverty), and religion (Islam and Judaism); are confined to the edge of a system (cultural, social, political, and economic); and may experience exclusion, inequality, and social injustice. When microaggressions make their appearance in interpersonal encounters or environmental symbols, they are reflections of marginality and/or a worldview of inclusion/exclusion, supe- riority/inferiority, desirability/undesirability, or normality/abnormality (Sue, 2003).
Like racial and gender microaggressions, for these groups microaggressions are a common and continuing experience in their lives. Microaggressions against these groups are plentiful as indicated by the examples below.
A lesbian client in therapy reluctantly disclosed her sexual orientation to a straight male therapist by stating that she was “into women.” The ther- apist indicated he was not shocked by this disclosure because he once had a client who was “into dogs.” (Hidden message: Homosexuality is
abnormal and akin to bestiality.)
A gay adolescent was frequently made to feel uncomfortable when fellow classmates would describe silly or stupid behavior by saying “that’s gay.” (Hidden message: Homosexuality is deviant.) A blind man reports that, when people speak to him, they often raise their voices. A well-meaning nurse was actually “yelling at him” when giving him directions on taking his medication. He replied to her: “Please don’t raise your voice, I can hear you perfectly well.” (Hidden message: A person with a disability is defined as lesser in all aspects of functioning.)
During a parent-teacher conference, a teacher suggested to a mother that her son, 16-year-old Jesus Fernandez, had learning problems. He was inattentive in class, unmotivated, late with homework, and frequently napped at his desk. The teacher was unaware that Jesus worked 4 to 5 hours after school to help support the family. (Hidden message: Lack of consciousness about how dealing with poverty can sap the energies of people.) In referring to an outfit worn by a woman on TV, the viewer described it as “trashy” and “classless.” (Hidden message: Lower class is associated with being lesser and undesirable.)