Homophobia

person in the street holding trans symbol

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Homophobia is the negative attitudes, feelings, irrational aversion to, fear or hatred of lesbians, gays, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, two-spirit, intersex, asexual, pansexual, genderqueer, etc. (LGBTQ2S+) people, communities and behavior stereotyped as "homosexual".  This way of thinking can lead to discrimination, harassment or violence against LGBTQ2S+ people.  Homophobia can be found in the home, workplace or anywhere in the community.

What can homophobia look like?

  • Homophobic slurs
  • Physical violence
  • Rejection
  • Exclusion
  • Suppression
  • Homophobic cyber bullying or "outing"
  • Homophobic websites that attack others

Why is homophobia a problem?

Homophobia is learned and it hurts people - heterosexual and LGBTQ2S+ people alike. It locks us into strict gender roles and makes it unsafe for individuals to be themselves. It leads to discrimination, which is against the law.

Homophobia is harmful to people who are LGBTQ2S+ identified. It can put LGBTQ2S+ people at risk for:

  • Homelessness - because they are not welcome at home or choose to leave abusive situations
  • Depression and suicide - because they grow tired of being discriminated against
  • Higher rates of alcohol and drug consumption - as a means of coping with stress
  • HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections - because they have not had extensive sexual health education about their same sex needs
  • Poor overall health - because when poverty, homelessness, isolation, depression, and homophobia overlap, it makes healthy living very difficult

Where do we find homophobia?

Cisnormativity

Cisgender is a term used to describe individuals who experience alignment between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity. Cisnormativity is the assumption that everyone you come into contact with is cisgender. These assumptions mean that we don't have to worry about being respectful or providing positive environments for transgendered people. Cisnormativity also refers to discrimination or prejudice against transgendered people on the assumption that cisgender is the norm. 

Heterosexism

Heterosexism is the assumption and belief that everyone is heterosexual ('straight' or attracted to the opposite sex) and that heterosexuality is better and preferable. This kind of discrimination may not be as open and may be less obvious to or be unintentional by the person or organization responsible for it. It involves assumptions about whether someone is straight or gay; or that a person's biology corresponds with their gender identity. For example, when you ask if a man has a girlfriend/wife or when you ask a woman what her husband does for a living, you are making an assumption about their sexual orientation.

Homonegativity

Homonegativity is negative behaviours, attitudes, or expressions toward LGBTQ2S+ people. Internalized homonegativity is a form that is often found in gender and sexually diverse people or people who are questioning their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. It prevents the person(s) experiencing it from fully developing and realizing their potential and can lead to various forms of mental and physical illness, substance abuse, and even suicide. It is not uncommon for a person suffering from internalized homonegativity to turn that feeling outward. 

Institutional/Organizational

Institutional/organizational homophobia is discrimination by systems such as government, business, employers, and public services. This can take the form of active policies or laws that exclude or limit the rights or access of LGBTQ2S+ people, the physical environment, cultural norms or unwritten rules that are based on the attitudes and actions towards LGBTQ2S+ people by staff. Examples of institutional/organizational homophobia include:

  • When a company invites an employee and their husband or wife to an event, excluding same sex relationships
  • When the family membership to a fitness club only mentions opposite sex partners
  • When sex health education classes in schools focus on heterosexuality as the only accepted norm for all students. This exclusion is not necessarily deliberate, but it means that same sex partners are not seen as an option
  • Schools that are silent about gender diversity and sexual orientation in their policies, curriculum and culture

Internalized Homophobia

Internalized homophobia happens when someone turns homophobia against her/himself or against the LGBTQ2S+ community. They hate themselves for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. They make themselves feel better if they reject everything LGBTQ2S+.

Societal/Cultural Homophobia

Societal/cultural homophobia is all around us. It is when social standards and customs give preferred treatment to heterosexuals (marriage, for example). It also supports the belief that heterosexuals are morally superior to LGBTQ2S+ people. It's the way that society promotes heterosexuality and discriminates against LGBTQ2S+ people. Homosexuality is always shown as "different", so it is often shown as something to be tolerated or despised. Media, film, TV, books, holiday brochures, insurance companies, religious institutions and schools often do this by not including information geared to LGBTQ2S+ individuals.

Am I encouraging homophobia?

Encouraging homophobia can happen in many forms, including (but not limited to):

  • laughing at jokes about LGBTQ2S+ people
  • not standing up to comments or language that demean LGBTQ2S+ people
  • rejecting family members who come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer or two-spirit
  • avoiding active participation in the lives of LGBTQ2S+ family members or friends
  • refusing to include gay partners and friends at family events
  • denying basic rights, such as employment or housing, to LGBTQ2S+ people
  • harassing or attacking people because you think they are LGBTQ2S+
  • assuming that only heterosexuals have families
  • reinforcing heterosexuality as the only social norm by talking about boys only having girlfriends and girls only having boyfriends, instead of referring to "friends" or "partners"

How can I be an ally?

An ally is a person who works to end a form of oppression that gives them privilege(s). Allies listen to, and are guided by, communities and individuals affected by oppression. An ally can include people within the LGBTQ2S+ community who support each other (e.g. a lesbian who is an ally to the transgendered community) and non-LGBTQ2S+ allies. View our Being an Ally page for more information.

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