Advancing Research on Discrimination: Gender-Based, Homonegative, and Transnegative Microaggressions

Friday, January 16, 2015: 2:30 PM-4:15 PM
Balconies L, Fourth Floor (New Orleans Marriott)
Cluster: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Michael R. Woodford, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Paul Sterzing, PhD, University of California, Berkeley, Colleen M. Fisher, PhD, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and Rachel Gartner, MSW, University of California, Berkeley
Microaggressions are “everyday” forms of discrimination that intentionally or unintentionally communicate negative messages to members of marginalized groups (Sue, 2010b). Homonegative microaggressions, for example, are common experiences in schools with 85% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) adolescents frequently hearing “that’s so gay” and 91% feeling distressed by this language (Kosciw et al, 2012). Although overt forms of discrimination (e.g., physical assaults, hate speech) are still common, contemporary discrimination tends to be more covert, subtle, and unconsciously perpetrated (Hebl & Dovidio, 2005; Sue, 2010a). The term microaggression originated from studies of racism (Pierce et al., 1977) and has been typified into three categories: microinsults (slights without recognizable negative attitudes or ill intent), microinvalidations (expressions that diminish one’s identity and/or experiences), and microassaults (targeted and intentional, but mundane discrimination; Sue, 2010b).

Social stress theories posit that discrimination contributes to increased levels of stress, which in turn can increase one’s risk for physical and mental health problems (Monroe, 2008; Williams & Mohammed, 2009). Stigmatized minority groups face stress that is both chronic and cumulative because it is tied to enduring and oppressive social structures (Hatzenbuehler, McLaughlin, Keyes, & Hasin, 2010; Meyer, 2003). At present, minority stress research has given little attention to microaggressions and their possible role in explaining health disparities between minority and non-minority group members (Nadal et al., 2011; Sue & Capodilupo, 2008; Meyer et al., 2011).  Further, despite growing awareness of young adults’ experiences of gender-based, homonegative, and transnegative microaggressions (Platt & Lenzen, 2013), little quantitative research exists to assess the prevalence and consequences of various types of microaggressions. To be most effective, such measures must be age-appropriate and context-specific.  This roundtable will begin to address these gaps by forging a critical dialogue on the importance of investigating gender-based, homonegative, and transnegative microaggressions in youth’s lives in various contexts.

This roundtable session proposes to develop a social work research agenda to advance the study of gender-based, homonegative, and transnegative microaggressions among adolescent and young adult populations.  First, presenters will provide a conceptual and historical overview of microaggressions and identify the key issues in studying these subtle forms of discrimination.  Next, drawing on their current research, each of the four presenters will discuss the gaps they are addressing in their current research projects: (1) the impact of family-level homonegative microaggression on extrafamilial forms of victimization for sexual minority adolescents, (2) the role of gender-based microaggression in teen dating violence, (3) mixed-method assessment of sexual minority microaggressions in high school settings, and (4) the nature of transnegative microaggressions and a new instrument to measure its prevalence among transgender college students.  Finally, presenters will address implications for future social work research with a particular focus on microaggressions’ impact on adolescent and youth development and the cumulative impact of stress.  The session will conclude with audience questions and general discussion.  Through these discussions, this roundtable session will help increase awareness of this emerging field of study and advance an agenda for future social work research addressing gender-based, homonegative, and transnegative microaggressions.

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