Sadly, we are all likely to face homophobia in some form during our lives, and we need to be able to deal with it. I have tried to categorise the various types of homophobia you may find below. Please leave a comment if you have experienced homophobia.
Religious homophobia – homophobia due to religion
This is perhaps the hardest form of homophobia to deal with, especially if it is from someone that we deeply care about. This is because the person has a strong religious, value-based belief that it is wrong or sinful to be gay. The thing that hurts me the most is that they truly believe that who I am is wrong.
I think that it would be very hard to convince a religious person that it is okay to be gay… but not impossible. I think the key is to explain what your view on being gay is. Tell them that being gay means that you fall in love with people of the same gender. Tell them that being gay is not about sex, but love. And their religion surely does not go against love? Also tell them that you were made as you were on purpose. I have written more about Religion and Homosexuality here.
Just a warning: don’t assume that all religious people are homophobic! I know many Christian and Muslim guys and girls that are completely gay-friendly, and some who are gay themselves.
Ignorance homophobia – people don’t understand what it means to be gay
This kind of homophobia is mainly due to complete ignorance. People do not understand what homosexuality is about, and they haven’t applied their minds to it. They will tend to think that being gay is a lifestyle choice. And they will focus on the sex and say that a man and woman’s genitals were made to fit together, not a man and a man; or woman and woman.
This type of homophobe tends to become less homophobic when they realise that some of their friends are actually gay, and that there are many public figures that are gay. It may help to point out who they know that is gay. This makes it seem more normal to them due to strength in numbers.
Internal homophobia – I sometimes feel like I hate myself for being gay
This is homophobia that you have inside you. It is either where you judge other gay guys for various reasons, e.g. for being too camp; or where you have a general fear of people knowing that you are gay. You fear talking about the gay part of your life as you think people may judge you.
If people start talking to you in a positive way about being gay, open up to them more. I am starting to overcome my own fear of talking about me being gay, so I know how this feels. When people ask questions, answer them with some interest and detail. Mention the name of the clubs you went to, the name and gender of your friends and partner. For example, you boyfriend is a ‘him’ or has a name. You boyfriend is not a ‘they’, a ‘them’ or a ‘friend’. It may also help to tell them that you are nervous to talk about being gay because of the fear of being judged.
Eventually it will get easier, and you will find it easier to talk about your life and relationships. It will be a huge relief off your shoulders.
Indirect homophobia – people don’t realise they are being homophobic
This type of homophobia is not aimed at anyone specifically. It may come as people making gay jokes to friends, or posting gay jokes or insensitive views on social media platforms. This affects us even though it is not directed as us, as we feel marginalised.
If the homophobia is from friends, tell them that you are gay and that these jokes are hurtful. And tell them why they are hurtful.
If it is on social media platforms, you may be able to report the offending post if it is hate speech. If not, just realise that sometimes people are ignorant and do not realise that they are hurting others.
Societal homophobia – society forgets that gay people exist
This homophobia is when society automatically expects certain social interactions. For example, someone asking a guy if they have a girlfriend rather than asking if they have a partner. This may be an awkward situation. Be honest and say, “no, but I have a boyfriend”, or “no, but if I were in a relationship, it would be with a guy”. They may feel a bit embarrassed, but next time they ask someone, they may be a bit more inclusive.
Dealing with parents
Parents and family may react in various ways when you tell them that you are gay. Often, parents will start reacting in disbelief or anger. They will say that it is just a phase, that you should get over it.
Again, the best way of dealing with this is to use emotion and avoid sex. If they talk about sex, tell them that being gay is about who you love and is not all about sex. It may help if you have a stable relationship, as it shows that you are serious.
Parents need to mourn the loss of the future they may have imagined. They might have dreamed of a husband and wife with two children. Let them mourn. Don’t rush them. Tell them that you love them, and that it is nothing they did wrong, but who you are as a person. You may expect them to support you more, but often they will be so absorbed in denial that they cannot support you. Give it time, and often they will come around and support you.
You may also enjoy reading “Being gay isn’t a choice – a tutorial”.
I hope that this helps you deal with some homophobia that we face. I also hope that it helps you to help others to become less homophobic.