What is Homophobia?

Homophobia takes many different forms. Sometimes it takes the form of physical acts of hate, violence, verbal assault, vandalism or blatant discrimination such as firing an employee, evicting someone from their housing or denying them access to public accommodations. There are many other kinds of homophobia and heterosexism that happen every day. We often overlook these more subtle actions and exclusions because they seem so insignificant by comparison. They are not.

  • Looking at a lesbian or gay man and automatically thinking of her/his sexuality rather than seeing her/him as a whole, complex person.
  • Failing to be supportive when your gay friend is sad about a quarrel or breakup.
  • Changing your seat in a meeting because a lesbian sat in the chair next to yours.
  • Thinking you can spot one.
  • Using the terms "lesbian" or "gay" as accusatory.
  • Not asking about a woman's female lover or a man's male lover although you regularly ask "How is your husband/wife?" when you run into a heterosexual friend.
  • Thinking that a lesbian (if you are female) or gay man (if you are male) is making sexual advances if she/he touches you.
  • Feeling repulsed by public displays of affection between lesbians and gay men but accepting the same affectionate displays between heterosexuals.
  • Feeling that gays and lesbians are too outspoken about lesbian and gay civil rights.
  • Feeling that discussions about homophobia are not necessary since you are "okay" on these issues.
  • Assuming that everyone you meet is heterosexual.
  • Being outspoken about gay rights, but making sure everyone knows you are straight.
  • Feeling that a lesbian is just a woman who couldn't find a man or that a lesbian is a woman who wants to be a man.
  • Feeling that a gay man is just a man who couldn't find a woman or that a gay man is a man who wants to be a woman.
  • Not confronting a homophobic remark for fear of being identified with lesbians and gays.
  • Worrying about the effect a lesbian or gay volunteer/co-worker will have on your work or your clients.
  • Asking your lesbian or gay colleagues to speak about lesbian or gay issues, but not about other issues about which they may be knowledgeable.
  • Focusing exclusively on someone's sexual orientation and not on other issues of concern.
  • Being afraid to ask questions about lesbian or gay issues when you don't know the answers.