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The Effects of Microaggression on Bisexual Women

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Everyday, minorities are faced with discrimination and prejudice that deteriorates their mental health. Certain groups such as bisexual women are especially vulnerable to these confrontations known as microaggressions, which are characterized as verbal attacks and harassment. Whether it be implicit or explicit, these comments have catastrophic effects on the victim’s level of depression and suicidality. The term microaggression itself, was first used to explain the impact of derogatory racist actions that black people experienced on a regular basis. Today, microaggression has expanded to include acute and chronic effects of oppressing racial and social groups from various contexts (Constantine and Sue 2007).


Research from Sue et al (2007) has further established the concept of microaggression by separating it into three forms; microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations. To begin, microassaults are characterized as “racially instigated” oral and non-oral attacks made to purposely antagonize the victim. The recent popularization of using of racial slurs on social media has effectively deemed microassaults normal behaviour.

Moving forward, the next form of microaggression is microinvalidation. This behaviour is characterized as the conscious and unconscious modes of ostracizing or denying the setbacks the victim is regularly exposed to. Examples of microinvalidation are present in conversations involving color-blind statements which nullify the receiver’s existence as a racial or ethnic minority. The person who dominates the conversation may also try to negate blame by attempting to downplay the victim’s situation by using statements such as “I didn’t mean it like that” to further renounce the minority.

Lastly, the third element known as microinvalidation, involves the use of verbal and nonverbal actions to subtly cover up the actual demeaning messages towards the victim. A common use of microinvalidation include assuming minority groups such as African Canadians, are receiving athletic scholarships in order to attend prestigious post-secondary institutions. This message devalues the African Canadian’s academic ability all the while places an emphasis on their athleticism. These comments may be perceived as a compliment from the instigator, but the hidden meaning is degrading and invalidating. These three situations in total fall under the category of ambiguous nature of microaggression. Their comments all involve a degree of alienation of not being “African Canadian” enough because they do not fit into the characteristics of the national character.

An experimental study on microaggression ambiguity by Tao et al used four varying levels of ambiguity; control (no microaggression), very ambiguous microaggression, ambiguous microaggression, and overt microaggression to examine how certain forms of racial microaggressions, microinvalidation, is perceived by whites and ethnic participants. Results concluded that both groups can equally detect microaggressions, supporting the theory that the “onus of bringing these cultural ruptures” to light does not burden the victim of microaggressions. (Tao, 2014) The study from Tao proves both parties in the conversation are aware of even the most ambiguous commentary from the dominant.


The current research project done by Miami University, Dalhousie University, and Mount Holyoke College explains women’s experiences with microaggressions, micro affirmations, and how these two experiences correlate with intense feelings of depression and suicidal thoughts. (Schwarx, 2007). Accompanying this, the research methodology (a system of methods a researcher may use to collect data to answer a question) used a significant amount of data which was collected from diary entries from participants. By using this method the study, correlations between mental health and bisexual microaffirmations and microaggressions were evidently shown. Still, it is important to note due to the subjectivity of mental health, as well as various other factors such as community influences and internalized stigmas may explain different outcomes between individuals. The hypothesis of the research project predicted daily exposure to microaggressions, (the dependent variable), will increase levels of depression and suicidal thoughts (the independent variable), which subsequently decreases levels of happiness. (Salim, Robinson, & Flanders, 2019) In contrast, the study also hypothesized frequent experiences with microaffirmations will result in decreased levels of depression and suicidal thoughts which in turn elevates levels of happiness. The project theorized factors such as general social support, sense of belonging to the LGBT community and a degree of self-esteem negatively correlating with depressive and suicidal thoughts and positively correlating with intense emotions of happiness.

Day One Calculations

To begin the study, participants were asked to identify their sexual identity, and their “race”, ethnicity, or cultural identity for a demographic form. In addition to this, five tests including the Rosenberg Self-Esteem scale, the Medical Outcome Study Social Support Scale, the Connectedness to the LGBT Community scale and other boards were used to collect different data to support the study as well as provide sufficient evidence to pass ethical boundaries. Arguably, practicing proper research ethics may be the most important step in the process. This comprises of establishing respect for researchers and researchees, specifically regarding privacy rights, understanding of the study and their ability to withdraw from the research.

Day Two – Five Calculations

From the second day onwards, two scales were used to identify microaggression as well as micro affirmation. The first evaluation, known as the Bisexual Microaggression Scale for Women, which involved 38 comments to measure threats toward a woman’s bisexual identity and other negative affirmations toward their sexuality. Items on the scale ranged from “Someone said they don’t understand bisexuals,” to “Someone made sexual advances toward me when I told them I’m bi.” (Flanders, LeBerton, & Robinson, 2018) Applicants were later asked to rank the items from one to five to indicate the comment’s applicability. The second examination was the Bisexual Microaffirmation Scale for Women, which assessed certain events that declared the women’s bisexual identity. Similar to the first test, the scale consisted of 16 entries oscillating from “someone understood bisexuality easily” to “someone challenged biphobia when they saw it” which also had corresponding 5-point scales to reply to each question. Furthermore, three questionnaires were used from days two to five to evaluate depression (same test was used from Day One), suicidality and happiness to add the statistical analysis.


Results from the Bisexual Microaggression Scale concluded the average microaggressions score for the research project was 1.26 out of 5 while the Bisexual Microaffirmation Scale scored 1.88 amongst the participants. It was noted the most regularly informed microaggressions being “A bisexual character on a show was not labeled as bisexual” whereas the most commonly experienced microaffirmation was “someone provided emotional social support”. (Salim, Robinson, & Flanders, 2019)

The first model the researchers examined was the association concerning the study predictors with the thoughts of depression. A Two-Level predictor was used throughout the resulting data to identify the degree of depression levels amongst the bisexual women. The first level being daily experiences with microaggressions and microaffirmations and the second level using “self-esteem, social support, connectedness to LGT community, internalized binegativity,” (Salim, Robinson, & Flanders, 2019) as well as depression scores from Day One. The findings suggested that at Level One, only microaggressions were linked with depression, implying microaffirmations had little effect on the outcome of depression. At Level Two, self-esteem and Day One depression outcomes was found to be an important indicator of depression. This implies that low levels of self-esteem and predetermined depression attributed to grim feelings from the individuals of the study.

Moving forward, feelings of suicidality was examined to determine correlation between the study predictors and suicidality while using the same two-level predictors as the depression model. The scores concluded that at Level One, only microaggressions were found to be interrelated with suicidality while Level Two suggested Day One depression, transgender status and racialized identity were noteworthy to predict degree of suicidality. This discovery explains those who identified as trans, nonbinary or person of colour may have stark suicidality scores between participants who don’t identify as such. Likewise, there was a minor relationship between the other determining factors such as microaffirmations and connectedness to LGBT community with their correlation to suicidality.

The final model examined in the research project was happiness and without speculation only microaggressions were correlated with the applicants’ level of happiness for Level One but only self-esteem played a factor in affecting happiness scores for Level Two. Analogous to the previous two models, no relationship between microaffirmations or other elements were found to contribute to happiness.


The results from the three models support the study’s hypothesis that “microaggressions are negatively associated with mental health and wellbeing.” Evidence provided from the research methodology suggest regular exposure to microaggression correlates with increased depression and feelings of suicidality scores and a decrease in happiness scores. In addition to this, substantial confirmation from the daily diary studies proves microaggressions are linked to stress, anxiety and the wellbeing of sexual minority groups. Furthermore, the findings from the research explain how both overt and subtle discrimination can adversely impact the mental health of bisexual women. However, microaffirmations were surprisingly not an important indicator for all three models with bisexual women. These findings did not correlate well with the hypothesis that links positive sexual identity experiences will subsequently decrease levels of depression and suicidality while increasing happiness. One possible explanation for this conundrum may be due to the fact that microaffirmations are too subtle and need to be more overt in order to considerably validate bisexuality. (Salim, Robinson, & Flanders, 2019) Additionally, it is possible that microaffirmations are insufficient and possibly overridden in the presence of undesirable identity and its impact on mental health. This further justifies the need for more systematic interventions to reduce antibisexual stigma within society, as robust associations from previous studies have found correlation between increased stigma and deteriorating mental health.


The growing stigmatism with those who identify as bisexual calls for the need for interventions for bisexuality to affirm in order to protect and support the bisexual community. The everlasting effects of microaggression causes major setbacks in the victim’s life trajectory, possibly causing lasting impacts on the victim’s happiness. It is important to note that not all microaggressions are made to intentionally induce harm but may still mask the instigator’s hidden prejudices. Therefore, LGTQ and non-LGBTQ communities alike should raise awareness to the harms microaggressions can bring to individuals who experience their negative associations daily. It is vital to shelter minorities such as bisexual women who are especially vulnerable to these attacks, in order to protect their mental wellbeing. 

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