Microinvalidations are what Dr. Derald Wing Sue calls "the most insidious form of microaggression" and is the most subtle form of microaggression Dr. Sue identifies. Microinvalidations are when someone tells or implies to someone that their experiences of discrimination aren't real. These microaggressions aren't just covert, but completely hidden. They often don't even mention the identity they are targeting. The perpetrator almost never realizes they're doing something harmful, doesn't mean to do harm, yet harms none the less.
These are the microaggressions that makes every other microaggression so much more stressful, because they cause you to doubt yourself about whether a microaggression even just happened. They cause thoughts like "Did that person act that way because I'm trans?" "Am I overreacting?" and "Is this my fault?" Dr. Sue believes the paranoia caused by microinvalidations makes them the most harmful and difficult to cope with of all forms of microaggressions.
Examples of microinvalidations:
- When you tell a friend about a microaggression you just experienced, and they tell you that you're imagining things, or just reading into it too much.
- When someone tells you that you're being oversensitive.
- When someone tells you that if you were nicer, more respectable, or more polite, then people wouldn't discriminate against you.
- When a mentally ill person describes microaggressions they've faced, and they are told their perceptions of the microaggression are a symptom of their mental illness. Regardless of if that's actually a part of the specific mental illness that they have. (Given that experiencing oppression puts you at a higher risk of developing mental illness, this is extra insidious.[2-7])
- When a corporation or government claims that the board of executives or officers is all-white and/or all-male not because of discrimination, but because everyone who was most qualified happened to be male and/or white.
- When someone tells a poor person to "pull themselves up from their bootstraps."
- Anything else that implies that the power imbalances in the world are the way they are because those on top deserve to be on top, and those at the bottom deserve to be at the bottom.
The most important coping skill to manage microinvalidations is seeking validation from trusted peers, which has been found time and again to be the most effective coping skill for managing microaggressions. [1,3,8,9-13]
Derald Wing Sue. (2010). Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Burn, S., Kadlec, K., & Rexer, R. (2005). Effects of Subtle Heterosexism on Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals. Journal of Homosexuality, 49(2), 23–38. http://doi.org/10.1300/J082v49n02_02
Donovan, R. A., Galban, D. J., Grace, R. K., Bennett, J. K., & Felicié, S. Z. (2013). Impact of Racial Macro- and Microaggressions in Black Women’s Lives A Preliminary Analysis. Journal of Black Psychology, 39(2), 185–196. http://doi.org/10.1177/0095798412443259
Gómez, J. M. (2015). Microaggressions and the Enduring Mental Health Disparity Black Americans at Risk for Institutional Betrayal. Journal of Black Psychology, 41(2), 121–143. http://doi.org/10.1177/0095798413514608
Mays, V. M., & Cochran, S. D. (2001). Mental Health Correlates of Perceived Discrimination Among Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Adults in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 91(11), 1869–1876.
Meyer, I. H. (1995). Minority Stress and Mental Health in Gay Men. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 36(1), 38–56. http://doi.org/10.2307/2137286
Torres, L., & Taknint, J. T. (2015). Ethnic microaggressions, traumatic stress symptoms, and Latino depression: A moderated mediational model. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 62(3), 393–401. http://doi.org/10.1037/cou0000077
Alejandro L. Andrade Jr. (2013, December). Coping with Racial Microaggressions: The Moderating Effects of Coping Strategies on Microaggression Distress (Dissertation). Roosevelt University, Chicago, Illinois.
Derald Wing Sue (Ed.). (2010). Microaggressions and Marginality: Manifestation, Dynamics, and Impact. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Hernández, P., Carranza, M., & Almeida, R. (2010). Mental health professionals’ adaptive responses to racial microaggressions: An exploratory study. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 41(3), 202–209. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0018445
Nadal, K. L., Davidoff, K. C., Davis, L. S., & Wong, Y. (2014). Emotional, behavioral, and cognitive reactions to microaggressions: Transgender perspectives. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 1(1), 72–81. http://doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000011
Nadal, K. L., Skolnik, A., & Wong, Y. (2012). Interpersonal and Systemic Microaggressions Toward Transgender People: Implications for Counseling. Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, 6(1), 55–82. http://doi.org/10.1080/15538605.2012.648583
Williams, C. D. (2014). African Americans and Racial Microaggressions: Coping, Psychological Well-Being, and Physical Health. COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY. Retrieved from http://academiccommons.columbia.edu/catalog/ac:189295