Zigging in a World of Zaggers: My Experience With Microaggression

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In my nineteen years being passed around and examined on this planet, I’ve picked up a few things about ignorant human interaction. Without trying to sound vain, probably even more than the average millennial. It tends to naturally happen when you’re the perfect mixture of queer, disabled, sensitive, and essentially just a woman.

Microaggression is one of those topics that’s extremely important to some people, but irrelevant to others. The latter have probably never experienced it, and therefore don’t realize it’s importance. I’ve never been thrown down a staircase or slammed into a locker, or anything else you’d pick out of a early 2000s coming-of-age film. Just because I’ve never been physically assaulted in school doesn’t mean I don’t notice when a class full of people is uncomfortable with my presence. Which, in turn, can make me extremely uncomfortable.

You could argue that microaggression isn’t even a plausible theory. And to an extent, it’s a difficult point to prove, because there really isn’t any physical evidence to prove it. The point of the matter is, it doesn’t matter what you are trying to convey to me with your body language. The point is that I have no control over how I react to your cues, and I may very well take them offensively.

Our upbringing and early family dynamics have a clear impact on how we respond to criticism around us. The girl who grows up in a loving household of constant emotional support and socialization is probably going to have an easier time making friends and handling criticism than the girl who was emotionally abused in her family. I say probably because I believe there are predetermined factors, like anxiety and disabilities, that can diminish your self-esteem in a group setting. In my experience, for example, I received a great deal of emotional support and love from my mother, but criticism and emotional abuse from my father. Combined with my sensory processing sensitivity, anxiety disorder, and nonverbal learning, I spent a great deal of my childhood in a constant state of panic- especially in classroom settings. Feeling like you’re a failure of a human being at six years old is definitely a sting that sticks with you.

I can walk into a room and immediately sense hostile energy. Is it all in my head? Sure, maybe a portion of it is. The point of the matter is, I can tell when people are avoiding sitting next to me, or if their curt whispers and glances are pertaining to my existence. And I don’t care if that sounds vain, because frankly, it’s true.

If you are going to judge somebody promptly on the color of their skin, their gender, their sexuality, or their style, then that is a reflection of nothing more than your ignorance. Your lack of empathy or understanding for an individual who lives a different lifestyle than your own should only be a you problem, so don’t make it mine.

At the root of insensitivity, I think people are distrustful of what they don’t understand. And this is projected by a number of things; media, personal experiences, stereotypes, etc. If you’re zigging while everybody else is zagging, the world will take notice and perhaps even ridicule you for it.

I don’t mean to sound so decidedly pessimistic about the chronicles of the those who zig in a world of zaggers. There are the positives, too, of course. When we all come together as a collection of misfits, the potential for something creative and mighty.

There’s a reason I’m not using any media sources for this article, and that’s because I want everything I say here to be completely my own. These are my opinions, and my experiences, and I want everyone to feel entitled to their own beliefs. Feel free to drop your own thoughts in the comments, because I’d love to see a conversation develop!

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