What It’s Like To Be Black And Queer In A Microaggressive Society

What It’s Like To Be Black And Queer In A Microaggressive Society

Aliyah Moore
Certified Sex Therapist, Sex Expert, Writer

Picture the perfect date. She takes me to one of her favorite spots and we spend hours flirting and talking about our lives over margaritas and a gargantuan plate of nachos. It feels like a genuine special human connection.

We split the bill, and I invite her over for a drink. As we awkwardly start to cuddle on my couch, she runs the back of her hand gently down my cheek and smiles.

“You know… I’ve never been with a black girl before,” she says with a naughty grin, like being with me was some kind of exotic sin.

I could feel my heart sink. Everything that had seemed special about that night felt pointless now. Whether she meant to or not, she’d made me feel like my body, affections, and personality were just a novelty to her.

Microaggressions like this are tiny words or behaviors that are caused by unseen prejudices. They’re often unintentional, but the pain they cause is real.

Microaggressions and My Own Black Queerness

Growing up in a traditional Christian family, it wasn’t easy to come out as bisexual. At least with my family, though, we shared the same racial identity. We could talk - and often argue - about my sexuality. It was painful, but it was overt.

Dealing with racial or queer biases in public isn’t the same. It’s hard to call out a job interviewer for saying, “you didn’t sound black over the phone.” It’s hard when new friends say, “you must have a pretty high body count,” after you come out to them as bi.

Of queer black youths, 90% have dealt with racial discrimination and 67% have been at least verbally insulted for being queer. I was part of those statistics. As a kid, microaggressions were a constant reminder that I didn’t fit in anywhere.

It took me a long time to own my identity and learn how to handle the biases of others, especially when certain microaggressions happened over and over again.

Common Microaggressions Against the LGBTQ+ Community

While there are thousands of different microaggressions, certain types are far more common. Here are a few examples.

  • “So who’s the man and who’s the woman in your relationship?”
  • “You don’t look gay/lesbian/trans/nonbinary”
  • “So… how do you have sex?”
  • “You just haven’t found the right man/woman yet.”
  • “Why can’t you just use normal pronouns?”
  • “Are you going to have the surgery?” (asking a trans person personal questions about their transition)
  • “You’re my gay best friend!”
  • “What’s your real name?”
  • “You don’t act like a normal gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans/queer person.”

Those are some common phrases we hate to hear, but microaggressions can do more than just hurt your feelings.

They can affect your ability to get hired for a job or make friends. Even worse, people of color consistently experience microaggressions in healthcare that affect their access to pain relief, and queer men are still discriminated against when donating blood.

Impact of Microaggressions on the LGBTQ+ Community

Microaggressions can seem like no big deal, especially to people who never have to deal with them. For queer people, however, they can have a terrible effect on self-esteem and mental health.

Comments and actions based on prejudice can make you feel devalued, as if all someone sees when they look at you is your sexuality or gender identity. Even if they aren’t malicious, they can make you feel as if people see one part of your human identity as a novelty.

This only gets worse for queer people of color who can face racial microaggressions from outside their ethnic community and gender or sexuality-based microaggressions from within.

After dealing with all of this, it’s no surprise that people in the LGTBQ+ community are at higher risk for depression, anxiety, and suicide. So what can we do?

How Queer Black Women Can Handle Microaggressions

The first step is to be aware of innate biases and prejudices that cause microaggressions. We never want to accidentally subject others to the same pain and discomfort we face on the regular. Plus, knowing where microaggressions come from makes them easier to deal with.

It’s also important to pick your battles. We shouldn’t have to fight to exist without discrimination, but oftentimes we do. However, no one can fight forever. Don’t burn yourself out trying to educate everyone - it isn’t always worth it.

Some people are maliciously microaggressive, but others are simply ignorant of their actions or doing what society has conditioned them to do. Does this person care about other people? Do you care about them? Would they listen if you brought up their microaggression?

It’s often not worth it to get emotionally invested in the opinions of someone who isn’t going to listen to you. But for family and close friends, you may have to educate them on your perspective.

If you want to have the conversation, it helps to have resources like blogs or studies readily available. Many queer women of color have already spoken out against prejudice, so using their knowledge and experiences can help your friends and family understand what you’re going through.

“What do you mean by that?” is a great way to approach microaggressions in the moment. It allows the aggressor to explain the intention behind their comment before you explain how it actually made you feel. This can halt their defensiveness and make them more receptive to your words.

Own Your Black Queerness

No matter what, the most important thing is to be yourself. The longer you are who you are, the more people around you will separate your identity from the stereotypes and prejudices society has tried to force on you.

It won’t be easy, but every day prejudice gets a little quieter as our voices get louder.

Aliyah Moore
Certified Sex Therapist, Sex Expert, Writer