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Homophobia is prejudice against people perceived as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT).  This prejudice includes the belief that all LGBT people fit the socially accepted stereotypes.  It can also refer to name-calling with intent to hurt someone.  It sometimes leads to violence.  Everyone has homophobic beliefs or thoughts.  It has been internalized because we all have been raised in a heterosexual society.  Even LGBT people experience internalized homophobia.

A related concept, Heterosexism, is the belief that heterosexuality is better than other sexualities.  It refers to the active promotion of heterosexuality as the only desirable way of life.  It also refers to the subtle, yet pervasive way in which heterosexuality is assumed in this society.

What it means to…Combat Homophobia (and heterosexism)

  • Do not assume heterosexuality. Be inclusive in the language that you use, thereby avoiding marginalizing lesbian, gay or bisexual young people and adults.
  • Create a safe environment. Let people know you are an ally to the LGBT community. If an inappropriate comment is made, confront it.
  • Be a role model. Actions speak louder than words. By adopting a consistently respectful behavior towards others’ difference, we ourselves, foster this in others.
  • Be supportive. If someone chooses you to discuss any issues about their gender or sexuality it’s because they respect you. Respect them for doing so and don’t judge them.

How Homophobia Hurts Us All
At the same time the victims (or targets) of prejudice are oppressed, the perpetrators (or agents) and other members of the dominant group are hurt in some way as well. Although the effects of oppression differ for specific target and agent groups, in the end everyone loses.

  • Homophobia locks all people into rigid gender roles that inhibit creativity and self-expression.
  • Homophobia compromises the integrity of heterosexual people by pressuring them to treat others badly, actions that go against our basic humanity.
  • Homophobia limits our ability to form close, intimate relationships with members of one’s own sex.
  • Homophobia generally limits communications with a significant portion of the population and, more specifically, limits family relationships.
  • Homophobia prevents some lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people from developing an honest self-identity, and adds to the pressure to marry and/or have children, which places undue stress on themselves and their families.
  • Homophobia is one cause of premature sexual activity, which increases the chances of pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Young people, of all sexual identities, are often pressured to become heterosexually active to prove that they are “normal.”
  • Homophobia results in the elimination of any discussion of the lives and sexuality of LGBT people in the curriculum, keeping important information from all students.
  • Homophobia can be used to stigmatize, silence, and, on occasion, target people who are perceived or defined by others as lesbian or gay, but who are, in actuality, heterosexual.
  • Homophobia prevents heterosexuals from accepting the benefits and gifts offered by LGBT people: theoretical insights, social and spiritual visions, contributions in the arts and culture, to religion, to family life, indeed, to all parts of society.
  • Homophobia (along with racism, sexism, classism, etc.) inhibits a unified and effective governmental and societal response to AIDS.
  • Homophobia takes energy away from more positive activities.
  • Homophobia inhibits appreciation of other types of diversity, making it unsafe for everyone because each person has unique traits not considered mainstream or dominant. Therefore, we are all hurt when any one of us is disrespected.

Adapted from Warren J. Blumenfeld, ed. Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price

Useful Links for
Combating Homophobia