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Handling Homophobic Reactions & Harassment

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Homophobia is a fear of or hostility towards gay people or homosexuality.

People who object to or protest against gay people are called homophobic. Homophobia is expressed in various degrees and sometimes violently.

Unfortunately there’s no definite way to predict how well your friends, family or colleagues will accept your sexual orientation.

Some might surprise you by being very supportive, while others might have trouble accepting that you’re gay or bisexual.

Dealing with Homophobic Reactions

From Your Family

Be patient

Over time your parents and siblings will come to accept or even embrace your sexual orientation. Give them time to adjust and don’t insist that they understand right way.

Acknowledge their anger, fear and confusion

Acknowledge that your parents and siblings will go through their own “coming out” process. At first they might be angry and upset and might even make hurtful or spiteful comments. These might be hard for you to hear, but it’s better for them to say their feelings out loud than to keep them bottled up.

They also might worry about what their friends or members of your extended family will say. Your parents might agonize over not having grandchildren, or that you might be victimized because of your sexual orientation.

Remember: your family members care about what's going on in your life because they love you. They might not express their concerns well at first, but they're telling you how they feel because they care about you. Give them time and stick close to the family members that treat you no differently than before you came out.

Help them learn by your experience

Chances are that before you came out you experienced many of the same feelings (isolation, fear of rejection, hurt, confusion, fear of the future, etc.) that your loved ones are feeling now.

Help your parents learn from your experience; don’t expect them to understand right away. Remember that your loved ones need to adjust to this new situation. Just as you did, they need time to acknowledge and accept your homosexuality.

From Friends

Your friends - especially old friends - might need some time to accept your sexual orientation. Sadly, some may never accept it at all.

Remember: you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends. And your real friends are the ones who accept you no matter what. Tell them that you know they’re having trouble understanding or even agreeing with you right now, but you still need their love and support.

From Strangers

It's never easy to deal with homophobic people, but focus on your principles, not theirs.

Don't be afraid to hold your partner’s hand in case someone makes a rude comment. If someone says something rude ignore it. Don’t retaliate or lose your temper.

If homosexuality is a problem to them, let it be their problem. Remember that being homosexual or bisexual doesn’t entitle anyone to make you feel sad or ashamed.

Sources: Whosoever; Avert

Dealing with Workplace Harassment

Many homosexual and bisexual workers suffer harassment at work in the form of anti-gay comments or homophobic behaviour.

Sexual orientation harassment or discrimination in the workplace can take place in many forms. Some of the most common include:

  • “Jokes” that reinforce the false lesbian, gay, transgendered or bisexual stereotypes.
  • Signs or posters that belittle homosexual or bisexual people.
  • Email, interoffice mail, or telephone messages or conversations meant to harass a person because of his or her sexual orientation.
  • Rude or vulgar language or physical violence that’s meant to intimidate, ridicule or hurt someone because of their sexual orientation.

If you feel you are being harassed due to your sexual orientation:

  • Realize that Ontario law protects gay, lesbian and bisexual people through the Ontario Human Rights code.
  • Talk to someone about what’s happening. Visit your Human Resources department or with a manager or supervisor with whom you feel comfortable.

If a colleague is being harassed because of his or her sexual orientation:

  • Don't accept stereotypical characterizations and beliefs about homosexual or bisexual people.
  • Respect him or her and be supportive. Offer to accompany the person to file a complaint.
  • Challenge your colleagues’ homophobic behaviour and attitudes. Don't participate in inappropriate joking or conversation. Speak up about your views on accepting others regardless of their sexual preferences.

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