Everywhere in America, people say strange, stupid, inappropriate, and hurtful things to LGBT people with no thought to another person’s feelings, or in many cases with no idea how their words might sound to another person. People might think their comments are innocent or funny, but those dumb, off-the-cuff comments are anything but harmless.
Inspired by photographer Kiyun’s project documenting racial microaggressions people encounter on a regular basis, over on Buzzfeed professor and author Kevin Nadal has put together a powerful photography project documenting the microaggressions faced by LGBT people every day in the form of bizarre and offensive comments they hear regularly.
Columbia University professor Derald Sue describe a microaggression as, “The everyday encounters of subtle discrimination that people of various marginalized groups experience throughout their lives.” They’re brief, commonplace behaviors that may be intended as innocent or humorous comments, but they drive home the message that the LGBT person is weird, wrong, less than, or somehow “other.”
“Have you ever had REAL sex?” one woman’s sign says. Other comments include: “So … who’s the man in the relationship?” or “That’s totally cool with me as long as I can watch.” (Ew!)
This is a powerful piece because these quotes aren’t isolated instances of big, overt prejudice or discrimination that everyone but the most ardent homophobes would look at and say, “Yeah, that’s wrong.” It’s easy to imagine these things being said by well-meaning people who just didn’t stop to think about how dumb they would sound. But these are not harmless. Nadal has researched the effects of these microaggressions extensively, and he writes:
All of these microaggressions have a significant impact on people’s lives. While some of these experiences may seem brief and harmless, many studies have found that the more that people experience microaggressions, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression, psychological distress, and even physical health issues.
Nadal’s project is useful specifically because it helps remind us to keep an eye on our own mouths and be more aware of the effect our words have on other people. Hopefully instead of getting defensive, people will learn from this project and walk away more mindful of their language and the way their words can hurt other people. After looking at these pictures it’s impossible to deny that these words can hurt, and only an asshole would hurt another person deliberately.
“We need to people to be mindful of their language and the little things they do and say that harm people’s lives,” Nadal said.