In 2010, Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s video message for the United Nations panel on decriminalizing homosexuality was loud and clear: “Whenever one group of human beings is treated as inferior to another, hatred and intolerance will triumph.” A decade later, his precious message remains as powerful and relevant as ever.
Every day, in every country, individuals are persecuted, violently assaulted, and sometimes killed, because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. In more than 70 countries, individuals are still facing criminal sanctions on the basis of their sexual orientation or their appearance and way of expressing themselves… In at least five countries, they face the death penalty.
People such as politicians, teachers, and journalists - those who should be using their power and influence to promote tolerance, respect, and equal rights for all - are sometimes reinforcing popular prejudice. Homophobia and transphobia lurk in places we’re not even aware of. How come that it’s more difficult to donate blood as a gay man in Florida than to buy an assault rifle?
Although in many other countries it’s already against the law to discriminate on the basis of sexuality and gender identity, there are countless victims of attacks that when seeking protection, are frequently subjected to intimidation and abuse, including from police officers and justice officials.
Ironically, as stated in an article from The New York Times, people who study hate crimes say part of the reason for violence against LGBTQIA+ people might have to do with a more accepting attitude toward gays and lesbians in recent decades. The same article reported that the rate of hate crimes against this community has surpassed that of crimes against any other minority group.
We need to change people’s minds and conquer hate and prejudice.
This important discussion is taking place all over the world. Some countries are taking steps to increase their political and legal commitment to gender equality, but we need more. We need to change people’s minds and conquer hate and prejudice. These are the emotions at the core of killing and violence against the LGBTQIA+ community. Who we are or we love shouldn’t matter. We are the same… we are all human beings, and we all deserve protection, love, respect, and dignity.
To help end homophobia and transphobia we don’t need new international human rights standards. Those are well established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, all people - regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity - have the right to life, security of person and privacy, the right to be free from torture, arbitrary arrest, and detention, the right to be free from discrimination and the right to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.
What we need is to turn words into action. If we want to live in a truly just society, we all need to support each other in the fight for equality. Here are 10 ways to help end homophobia and transphobia on a daily basis:
1. Use neutral labels like “partner” or “significant other”
Our language options for labeling our relationships exclude a lot of people among the LGBTQIA+ community. Girlfriend and boyfriend are not very inclusive, so why not start using neutral labels like “partner” or “significant other”? Use language that acknowledges that there are diverse relationships.
2. Bring up current LGBTQIA+ issues in conversations
When engaging with your friends or family members, ask open-ended questions, and listen. Bring up current LGBTQIA+ issues in conversations and use language and terms that are easily understood. For instance, most people don’t know that in 29 US states, LGBTQIA+ people are not fully protected from discrimination in all areas of life, such as employment, housing, and public spaces. Share stories about someone’s journey to become more supportive - this may allow other people to see themselves taking steps toward supporting nondiscrimination.
3. Interrupt homophobic and transphobic jokes and similar behavior
Actively intervene when you witness homophobic comments or jokes. Interrupt the person, express your upset feeling, call it for what it is: “That’s homophobic”. Question the validity of the comment and point out how it offends and hurts people.
4. Educate people around you on the problem of homophobia and transphobia
There’s a lack of education across the words on the problem of homophobia and transphobia. Did you know that suicide attempts are 3 times more common among bisexual individuals? Try to learn and share more facts, statistics, and real-life stories in order to educate people around you on the problem of homophobia and transphobia. On April 23, a paramedic died after he was doused in petrol and set on fire in a homophobic attack. These attacks are still happening and people should be aware of them.
5. Don’t overlook restrictive gender norms and gender policing
Children who step outside gender lines, especially transgender are often bullied and harassed by their peers and “corrected” by their parents in shaming ways. “You can’t be a princess. Only girls can be princesses!” they say. No one should have to pick and choose what they do just because they are a boy or a girl. Regardless of who enforces gender roles, the impact can be psychologically damaging.
A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests that real talk about relationships, identity, and sexuality should start even earlier to minimize the negative impacts of gender roles.
6. Proactively engage children in conversations about homophobic language
Whether it’s a first-grader or a sixth-grader that’s just trying to sound cool or teasing a friend, homophobic language creates an unsafe and toxic environment at schools and it follows children wherever they go.
Make sure children know what “gay” means and why it’s hurtful to use it in a negative way. Educate them, keeping it simple for younger kids and providing more explanation and information as they get older. Be clear that using homophobic language is hurtful to other kids who may even know people or have family members who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
7. Don’t ask intrusive questions about a person’s sexuality or gender identity
We all have a right to privacy. So, try not to ask intrusive questions about a person’s sexuality or gender identity. People should be able to talk about such matters in their own time and on their own terms. For instance, asking a transgender person about any physical changes they may have made to their body or asking a homosexual couple about their sex life can constitute harassment.
First of all, ask yourself how you’d feel if someone asked you that question. Also, bear in mind that we are all different. While some people may feel totally comfortable discussing and sharing personal details, others don’t and that’s ok.
8. Support and share famous LGBTQIA+ role models on your social media
A study conducted by two women from the Department of Psychology at the Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas, examined the influence of media role models on gay, lesbian, and bisexual identity, and revealed that media role models serve as sources of pride, inspiration, and comfort.
Share famous LGBTQIA+ role models on your social media and help someone who may be needing this kind of inspiration, especially adolescents. It’s important for young people to see other people like them in society so that they feel represented, inspired, and motivated to be their best selves.
9. Don’t make assumptions about a trans person’s sexual orientation
Just like you shouldn’t assume that "feminine-acting men" and "masculine-acting women" are transgender or not heterosexual, you shouldn't make assumptions about a trans person’s sexual orientation.
Gender identity is different from sexual orientation. Transgender people can be gay, straight, pansexual, queer, asexual, or any other sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is about who we’re attracted to, while gender identity is about how we see ourselves.
10. Stand up for people who are suffering from homophobic and transphobic bullying
According to Stonewall UK, a charity that campaigns for the rights of LGBT people, nearly half (45 percent) of LGBT pupils - including 64 percent of trans pupils - are bullied in Britain's schools. The same happens in the workplace: almost one in five LGBT staff have been the target of negative comments or conduct from work colleagues.
If you feel unsafe addressing the offender, support the victim and encourage other witnesses to support the victim. It can be as important and effective as intervening with the offender directly.
Instead of black and white thinking, we’ll all be warmly welcoming the rainbow.
We hope the day will come when there’s no need to talk about speaking up, standing up, and helping end this prejudice - simply because homophobia and transphobia will no longer exist. Instead of black and white thinking, we’ll all be warmly welcoming the rainbow. We’ll know nothing more than to accept the difference.
But until that day comes, we must continue this fight. Detach yourself from the colorless worldview we live in and start painting everything you find in your way with vibrant rainbow-like colors. Follow these 10 ways to help end homophobia and transphobia and continue spreading love.