Handling Homophobic, Biphobic and Transphobic Behavior

The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia was established in 2004 and 17th of May was chosen specifically to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1990.  To celebrate this date, numerous small and large projects have been recorded all over the world, even in countries where same-sex activity is illegal – but for many of us, the hardest battles are being fought within our most intimate circles.

While some friends, co-workers and family members are very supportive, some might experience certain challenges in accepting who you are. It’s important to keep in mind that it is not about you – it’s them. Simply put, you are not responsible for what some individuals may think, as this kind of mindset often goes together with a wider pallet of personal values and beliefs which have nothing to do with you, so you cannot just ‘’change their mind’’ overnight. This all being said, of course, is much easier to apply when we’re interacting with people we don’t really know. However, once an emotional or a deeper connection is implied, as it is with our family or friends, how we receive or react can be more challenging.

When it comes to our family members, it’s good to be patient, without insisting to be accepted right away or within a time frame that you think is ok for you. Again, it’s about them. It’s fine to acknowledge their own fear and confusion, even anger, so give it time and sometimes give space too, as family members sometimes do learn their own way on how to accept or even embrace your sexual identity. At times it can be very hurtful, excommunicating even, sometimes this ‘’acceptance’’ comes very silently and sometimes it just doesn’t happen. If you recognize your own family as crucial to your own existence (not everyone does, and that is perfectly fine), maybe to try hanging out more with one or two relatives who seem alright with your choices, or don’t ask you about them, and with whom you can nurture a healthy relationship in the future.

Unlike family, friends are people that we consciously choose to be part of our lives. Some close friends who happen to be on a more intuitive side already knew what was to be known about you, even without a clear demonstration from your side, so you probably don’t have to explain a lot. These friends are to be kept close while others who do manifest some sort of homophobic manners might as well go from friends to acquittances, if anything at all, and you will lose nothing (but they might).

Some people in our environment will continue to make insensitive remarks, or demonstrate certain behavior, completely oblivious to the impact it can have on those around them. If you feel that the environment is safe and you happen to be into smart or funny comebacks, feel free to participate in a discussion, why not? But it would be good for you to avoid placing yourself in a position where you must personally justify or explain yourself.  Instead, recognize the place where the other person is coming from: is it related to religion, or maybe a more conservative community or set of values, is it the type of media they’ve been consuming, so you can tackle on that. However, be sure that you are well informed on the subject and what the other side is saying.

For example, if the other person’s position is based on religious views, you can always rely on the tendency of religious people to selectively use or interpret quotes from the Bible itself: on one side citing against homosexuality, but on the other side ignoring quotes in which adultery, and a woman entering a marriage and not being a virgin is punishable by death. So, focus your arguments on human evolution and the way people think and interact with each other, which makes some religious commands irrelevant or even a bit bizarre for today’s society, like the biblical verses (Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:11) prohibiting wearing wool and linen fabrics in one garment, blending of different species of animals, and the prohibition of planting different kinds of seeds together.

One of the most frequent homophobic arguments is the one claiming that homosexuality is ‘’not natural’’, on which you can reply with a philosophical contra concept – is it possible for something unnatural to exist in nature itself? Or just offer a long list of animals who are known for demonstrating homosexual or bisexual behavior and are found in nature itself.  Let alone the fact that the known history of civilization can be interpreted also through aspects of various sexual preferences (and expressions) of humans through history and you can use this argument especially if someone says that ‘’being gay is a trend’’ or something along those lines.

The need for procreation is another ‘’argument’’ you may hear, but you can remind your conversationalist that procreation is a choice, and that people indeed have the right to choose their own purpose in life, and no, having children doesn’t have to be the only one, even if you identify as heterosexual. You can also ask them, why do they think that everyone’s sole purpose in life should be to procreate? There is also a theory that the role of homosexuality in nature is a signal that we should slow down a bit. Maybe they also need to know that homosexuality does not eradicate heterosexuality, the two can co-exist.

Homosexuals are also a result of heterosexual intercourse and that gives space against the argument that gay couples (if they opt for it) shouldn’t adopt (or have a child via a surrogate) children because these children will ‘’learn’’ to be gay. Ask them, why didn’t a gay person ‘’learn’’ to be straight?

Challenge the way they think by informing them about animals and plants that have both male and female reproductive organs and that they can reproduce asexually by themselves (parthenogenesis). Remind them that things in life aren’t black or white, and as simple as they might think.

If they are having issues understanding what trans means and that people can have a gender identity that differs from the sex that they were assigned at birth. Inform them about ancient Greek and Roman priests named Galli, who wore women’s clothing, heavy jewelry and make up and who had a considerable political influence during this period (some have even engaged in ritual self-castration). Remind them that there are children born with a range of medical issues (that are either life-threating or these issues are making their lives miserable) and that these issues can only be addressed with surgery. In some cases, this happens earlier and in other cases much later in life. This, of course, doesn’t mean that all trans people opt for sex-reassignment surgery. For some it’s more about the freedom to express their identity that doesn’t necessarily fall within the gender roles that society had assigned to them.

You never know, you can end up having a meaningful discussion with some people, with some, on the other hand is better not to engage at all. Evaluate the situation and decide whether it’s worth engaging.

Overall, identifying kind people around you, friends, coworkers or relatives who are there for you and spending more time with them will do you good. Joining a local LGBT+ support group can also be a great idea, as you can find more practical techniques and advises on how to overcome homophobia in your everyday life. But, if you are experiencing harassment which threatens your mental or physical health, seeing a therapist or a counselor can help, or in some cases, visiting the nearest police station.

Image Source: OutRight Action International (outrightinternational.org)

The Daddyhunt Team

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