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FAQ: Homophobia

What is homophobia?

What does GLBTIQ stand for?

Could you give some examples of homophobia?

How do Homophobia and Heterosexism hurt the McGill Community?

What are some resources I can go to to learn more about homophobia?

What is homophobia?

Homophobia is the fear or hatred of those assumed to be GLBTIQ and anything connected to GLBTIQ culture. It is a fear or dislike of homosexuality, either in other people or within themselves; homophobia can be attitudes or behaviours that range from mild discomfort (like telling “jokes” or avoiding contact with GLBTIQ people) to verbal abuse or physical violence

Heterosexism is a bias towards heterosexuality, or the assumption that heterosexuality is the only normal and accepted sexual orientation.

What does GLBTIQ stand for?

GLBTIQ These letters are often used in combination to refer to the various groups and identities that are most impacted by homophobia and heterosexism: gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender/ transsexual/ two-spirit, intersex, queer/questioning.

Gay A person who has sexual and emotional relationships with persons of the same gender. May refer to both men and women.

Lesbian A woman who has sexual and emotional relationships with other women.

Bisexual A person who forms sexual and emotional relationships with both men and women.

Two-Spirit Native people, prior to colonization and contact with European cultures, believed in the existence of three genders: the male, the female and the male-female gender. The term Twospirited, though relatively new, was derived from interpretations of Native languages used to describe people who displayed both characteristics of male and female.

Transgender A term to describe anyone whose gender identity or expression blurs the lines of traditional gender norms. May include transsexuals, cross dressers, as well as many emerging trans–identities.

Transsexual Someone whose gender identity does not correspond with their sex assigned at birth and may undergo physical transformation such as drug therapy or surgery to express their gender in a way that reflects their identity.

Intersex A person who is born with genitalia and/or secondary sex characteristics determined as neither exclusively male nor female, or which combine features of the male and female sexes. The term hermaphrodite, introduced in the 19th century, is now considered antiquated, misleading and stigmatizing, and patient advocates call for this term to be abandoned. The phrase "ambiguous genitalia" refers specifically to genital appearance, but not all intersex conditions result in atypical genital appearance.

Queer a once derogatory term for homosexual that has been reclaimed and redefined to refer to individuals whose gender identity or expression and/or sexual orientation blurs the boundaries of heterosexuality, masculinity, and femininity. It is intended to be a term of pride and solidarity, but still can be used to hurt and offend based on speakers’ intent.

Can you give some examples of homophobia?

Here are some examples of homophobic behaviour:

  • A office social director who constantly forgets to send invitations to two gay colleagues
  • A professor who refers in class to GLBTIQ people as individuals who choose “this alternate lifestyle” as a way of challenging societal norms
  • A student who questions her TA’s intelligence and ability to lead a tutorial on human physiology because the TA identifies as being transgender
  • A visibly uncomfortable professor who avoids investigating a student’s complaint that the members of his workgroup have been excluding him because they think he is gay
  • An athletic team whose initiation involves activities that mock, ridicule, and insult gay men
  • A building director who allows Queer McGill posters defaced with homophobic graffiti to remain on the bulletin board
  • A worker who sends anonymous e-mails to the office e-mail list making links between homosexuality and pedophilia.
  • A supervisor who ignores snickers and whispering during a staff meeting when a lesbian employee announces that she will be taking a parental leave
  • A student who is told that “at least you don’t look gay” when she comes out to some of her residence roommates
  • A worker who overhears a colleague complaining about how gay people always have to flaunt their sexuality for the world to see
  • A student who feels unable to mention the name of her partner because her employer has made several inappropriate comments about the queer community
  • A worker who refuses to use the preferred name of a transgender colleague

How do Homophobia and Heterosexism hurt the McGill Community?

Homophobia & Heterosexism:

  • May cause GLBTIQ individuals to disengage and limit their active involvement in the community by: skipping classes, avoiding meetings, limiting contact with co-workers and not develop relationships with colleagues due to actual or perceived homophobia in a department or faculty.
  • Cause students to be ostracized, bullied, or harassed and think of school as a hostile environment to be avoided as much as possible.
  • Prevent some GLBTIQ people from developing an authentic self identity.
  • Inhibit appreciation of other types of diversity, which puts everyone at risk because each person has unique traits not considered mainstream or dominant. We are all diminished when any one of us is demeaned.
  • Lock people into rigid genderbased roles that inhibit creativity and self expression.
  • Compromise human integrity by pressuring people to treat others badly, actions that are contrary to their basic humanity.
  • Inhibit the ability of heterosexuals to form close, intimate relationships with members of their own sex, for fear of being perceived as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
  • Can stigmatize those heterosexuals perceived or labeled by others to be GLBTIQ.
  • Add to the pressure to marry someone of the opposite sex, which in turn places undue stress and often times trauma on themselves as well as their heterosexual spouses, and their children.

By challenging homophobia, people are not only fighting oppression for specific groups of people, but are striving for a society that accepts and celebrates the difference in all of us.

What are some resources I can go to to learn more about homophobia?

McGill Policy on Harassment, Sexual Harassment, and Discrimination Prohibited by Law

McGill Safe Space Program:
A 2-hour workshop for faculty, staff, and student leaders with the goal of reducing homophobia and heterosexism on campus.

Queer McGill:
A SSMU service that runs social, activist, and support activities for the queer community at McGill.

Union for Gender Empowerment (UGE):
A SSMU service that aims to provide services to any person who identifies with our antioppressive and trans-inclusive principles, regardless of gender identity. Phone: 398-6823.

Project Interaction:
An initiative in the McGill School of Social Work that offers face-toface counseling and support for the GLBTIQ community.

McGill Equity Subcommittee on Queer People:
Reports to the Joint Senate Board Committee on Equity on issues of representation and inclusion of GLBTIQ people at McGill.

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