I watched a presentation at BAPCA that consistently talked about ‘gays’; ‘gay rights’, ‘gay pride’ etc. that’s not unusual (although it IS annoying). I spend a lot of my time pointing out to people that ‘it’s not ‘gay pride’, is it?’. But there came a point in the presentation where the presenter said ‘or LGBT, as we have to say now’. I stiffened, and the presenter corrected themself to ‘as we should say now’, and moved on.
Later on I was talking to a lesbian and a heterosexual person about that presentation and I mentioned the incident. I found it had been read very differently by each person. The person not identifying as LGBT hadn’t perceived it as a problem at all, and indeed had felt it was positive – an acknowledgement that there is more to non-normative sexuality than ‘gay’. The person who identifies as a lesbian however, had had much the same response as I had. She had been insulted and felt marginalised by ‘or as we have to say’, as I had.
I am not speaking for what the presenter meant in their statement, but for how it was received. It was received as an injury, that those of us not ‘lucky’ enough to be (just) gay, now were causing extra work to people who otherwise think of themselves as inclusive.
Research demonstrates that most people do not think of themselves as racist, homo/biphobic, transphobic, etc. in fact, they work quite hard *not* to be. But in situations where people don’t have time or capacity to think, ‘slips’ happen. And it’s those ‘slips’ from seemingly otherwise non-discriminatory people that hurt the most. Macro discriminations, we often expect. The overt, easy to spot comments. Those are easy to write off as being ascribable to ‘a bigot’ etc. but the comments from ‘supportive’ people are harder – ‘but they are such a nice person!’ etc. The heterosexual person didn’t really get why it might be a problem, why LGBT people (of all types- including gay men) might have been affected by that.
These are microaggressions. I’ll write more about these I’m sure (and have- people not gendering me correctly is a microaggression), and their effects. But two microaggressions happened in that presentation. First the use of ‘gay’ for all things LGBT and second the attempted correction.