That’s So Gay! Microaggressions and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community

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thats so gay bookreviewThat’s So Gay!
Microaggressions and the
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community

Kevin L. Nadal
American Psychological Association, 2013
220 pages

By Jami Jones

 

“Faggot!” “What a lez-bo!” “That’s so gay!” These words are bandied about so frequently in school hallways and on social media and television, it is easy to become immune to their affects — especially on people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT). Kevin L. Nadal’s book “That’s So Gay!” shows through personal experiences, vignettes and first-person accounts how these sometimes overt, but oftentimes subtle victimizations that occur too frequently go unchallenged. For instance, even after one gay teen opened up to his friend about being gay, he remembers times “we were talking about other people and he would describe them as like ‘faggot,’ and it would get to me.”  In another instance, dodgeball, a favorite elementary school game, was renamed “smear the queer.”

Nadal received his doctorate in counseling psychology from Columbia University’s Teachers College. His mentor, Derald Wing Sue, who wrote “Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender and Sexual Orientation” (2010), is credited with reintroducing and extending the 1970s concept of racial microaggressions, which are slights, put downs, and insults to members of marginalized groups. Sue, along with Nadal and other doctoral students, developed a theoretical taxonomy that highlighted the different types of microaggressions, such as ethnicity-specific assumption of criminality whereby people of color who are shopping are scrutinized and followed by store security. Nadal moves the microaggressions discussion to the LGBT community.

In this informative book, Nadal applies the conceptual and empirical framework of microaggression research to the LGBT population.  “That’s So Gay!” should be required reading for classroom teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, nurses, doctors and parents—anyone who is concerned about the well-being of LGBT youth or seeks a greater understanding of the history, literature and research pertaining to this population.

Likewise, it is a purposeful text that nudges the reader to examine his or her worldview, which is defined in the book as “the collection of beliefs and perspectives from which one sees and interprets the world, based on one’s cultural identifies and life experiences.” Lacking this examination, moral folks who don’t mean harm may say things and act in ways that could be classified as microaggressions. For example, Nadal describes the experience of one transgender individual who was verbally assaulted on the street. A close friend told her to try to forget the event and not feel so badly. Although the friend intended to be helpful, her comment is a microaggression that “invalidates the transgender person, who simply wants a friend to comfort her and to authenticate that she has a right to feel the way she does.”

“That’s so Gay!” has three audiences. It is written for members of the LGBT community to understand and respond to microaggressions. It is written for people who are not LGBT to understand the language and culture of that community. This book is written for anyone who wants to ensure that what they say or how they act not be interpreted a microaggression.

The book is organized into seven chapters, each containing a glossary of key terms and discussion questions for general readers as well as for psychologists, educators and other experts. In chapter six, Nadal presents three lengthy vignettes and suggests ways to negotiate specific microaggressions. In chapter seven, he responds to his question “What can you do?” by making specific recommendations for families, schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, communities and government. He concludes the book with a personal message to the LGBT community.

“That’s So Gay!” provides insight into a community that may be challenging for nonmembers to understand and is worthy of a prominent place on desks and in reading nooks.