When we hear random strangers sharing homophobic opinions, not only does it disgust us, but we often also get immensely angry. At times, we even get into heated arguments as our way of protesting against the wrong.
But, when the homophobic words come out of the mouth of someone we truly care for, it is more likely to make us sad rather than angry. It is because we care for them and do not want our loved ones to possess wrong ideas about any gender or sexual orientation.
These wrong ideas can often get into the heads of our elders due to large generation gaps, and trying to reason with them is often seen as talking back. Also, when it comes to our peers, a lack of proper knowledge can lead them to believe in wrong information that spreads homophobia. In such cases, our first instinct is often to call them out for their misinformed bigotry. And while they should indeed be checked on their bigotry, doing so can lead to arguments or awkwardness without actually convincing them to change their views.
So how do you communicate clearly and effectively to help reduce the casual homophobia that is still prevalent in our society?
- Keeping calm
As mentioned before, it is only natural to feel a fit of burning anger and feel the need to “set them straight” when we hear them talking rubbish about a person for their choice of gender or sexuality. But you have to ask yourself if you will achieve your desired outcome by pointing fingers and creating heated debates.
Instead of giving into the anger, you can try reasoning with them logically. Often, anything said in a tone of rage will make them want to defend their false ideas even more, and your points may fall on deaf ears.
Hence, rather than beginning by saying, “You are homophobic and it is disgusting,” consider the fact that they may not be educated enough, and that you may need to help them learn more about the LGBTQ+ community.
- Demanding explanations
If you are shocked by what you perceive to be homophobic comments, it can be worth getting them to articulate their perspective. This prevents misunderstanding and miscommunications. Once they begin explaining themselves, they might realise the flaws of the hegemonic ideas they blindly believe in.
This technique will not only keep away heated arguments, but might also create meaningful conversations between you and your close ones.
- Letting them walk in others’ shoes
Rather than immediately throwing facts and figures to back up your point, try asking them to imagine what things are like for certain groups who constantly face hate and backlash just for being themselves. Ask them, “If this was happening to you, what would you do?”
When the activity of contemplation becomes too abstract, give them books and documentaries that capture the hardships of the LGBTQ+ community. Immersing your loved ones in different literary content can also give them a hint of what it is like for this misunderstood community. It will definitely help you to get your point across.
Some of such incredible books that might help are:
- Boy Erased: A Memoir of Identity, Faith, and Family by Garrard Conley
- Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
- Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman
- Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride
- Remembering they are a mess, but they are still YOUR mess
When you have successfully made them change their views and reshaped their understanding, initially, they might go through immense guilt. Because knowing that they led some portion of their lives acting upon false beliefs might throw them into a spiral of self-loathing and anguish.
When this happens, be their shoulder of support and tell them that it’s better late than never. Tell them that you are happy to share this beautiful faith of equality with them. Try not to say anything like, “I told you so,” as it might upset them even more. It is important to remember that proper knowledge has the potential to change people, and not everyone is born with the privilege of having access to that knowledge.
It does not need to be said that queer people (or anyone, for that matter) are not responsible for educating random strangers about their own life choices. In a world where members of the LGBTQ+ community have to go through the constant struggle of trying to justify their lives to the whole world, following the above mentioned steps can help us act as better allies. It can help them get their voices heard without having to go through the burn-out of explaining their choices and existence repeatedly.
Remember, your voice is your most powerful weapon, and if used for the right contexts, it can make the world a wiser place.
Tasnia is a proud Slytherin who loves bingeing on poetry and graphic novels in her free time.