International day against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia takes place this Wednesday, May 17th. Let's explore a few ways you can stand up for yourself, your community or as an ally to LGBTQ+ folks.
Questioning: In response to someone who said something homophobic, transphobic or biphobic you can say, "Did you really mean to say that?" or "What?" This questioning can provide an opportunity for the person to backtrack and correct themselves. It can act as a moment for gentle education and a reminder about the way language can harm people. If you believe the person you were talking with was coming from a place of ignorance, pulling them to the side and providing some 1:1 education or feedback about improving their language could be useful. Sometimes people are trying their best but failing to understand, have generational attitudes or have a lack of exposure to queer, trans or non-binary people. If you have the emotional energy for it, you might try adopting a non-confrontational stance and explore why the person is using a particular term or saying something that is offensive. You can then offer suggestions or ideas if they are open to feedback. If they get flustered or upset when they are called out, remind them that this is an opportunity for them to learn something that could help other people feel more comfortable around them in the future.
Naming feelings and calling homophobia what it is: In response to perceived prejudice the Anti-Racism Response Training Program recommends saying things like, "I can't believe you are saying this," "I'm surprised to hear you saying such a thing," "That's discriminatory," "I don't think that's true" or "I disagree with what you just said." These can be quick and assertive responses to call somebody out in the moment of homophobia as well. It can be validating and helpful to a victim of homophobia to hear you name the feelings and call it out.
Assertive requests or boundaries: If you feel like you could have a discussion with this person, using the following sentence structure can be a way of addressing hurt and allowing someone else to see how they have affected you. "I feel ____ when you _____. Please don't _____." For example: "I felt really angry when you referred to the gay community as "f-----s". Please don't use that language around me." Set boundaries stating that the language they used makes you feel hurt. Let them know that if derogatory language about queer or trans people continues, you will discontinue the conversation. As a side note, these responses can only happen in situations where you feel safe to address these concerns. If you or anyone else feels unsafe, the best approach can be to remove oneself or any victims from the circumstances, check in with each other and get anyone the support or help they need.
Melissa Lee Nilles, LMHC is a licensed mental health counselor and expressive arts therapist with a Master's degree from Lesley University’s Mental Health Counseling and Expressive Arts Therapy program. She is deeply passionate about self-exploration through the arts, mindfulness practices and therapy. She seeks to collaborate with her clients using the tools of person-centered therapy, mindfulness, meditation, trauma-informed body-oriented psychotherapy and expressive arts therapy (through music therapy, art therapy, and poetry/writing therapy). Melissa also employs CBT and motivational interviewing to help you transform your life. She prefers a holistic, eclectic and interdisciplinary approach to addressing client concerns.
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