Allies & Advocates

Suggestions for Combating Heterosexism and Homophobia

  • Assume that wherever you go, gay and lesbian persons are present and wondering how safe the environment is for them. Do not assume that everyone you meet is heterosexual. Provide safety by making clear your support of gay and lesbian identity.
  • Realize that the cultural oppression of gay and lesbian persons is perpetuated in social situations where display of physical affection is exclusively heterosexual. In consideration of this, where it is appropriate and mutually consensual, feel free to be physically affectionate with someone of the same sex.
  • Challenge homophobia and heterosexism whether or not gay and lesbian persons are present. Do not always leave it to gays and lesbians to do it.
  • Remembering that silence is complicity, challenge and confront anti-gay and lesbian statements and structures as well as the assumptions behind them. Do not promote the institutionalized invisibility of lesbians and gays.
  • When speaking of your romantic partner or spouse, point out that he or she is of the opposite sex, implying that he or she may not have to be.
  • Confront your own fears, negative memories, and bad feelings about gay and lesbian persons. Recall, work through, and release those feelings, thereby diminishing their hold on you.
  • Do not assume that a gay and lesbian person of the same gender is automatically attracted to you. Do you assume that all straight people of the opposite gender are interested in you? If a gay or lesbian is attracted to you, try to be flattered, not offended. If it still bothers you, talk about it.
  • Change your use of language to be more inclusive. Instead of "do you have a girl/boy friend", you might say "are you seeing anyone." Heterosexism is promoted and maintained powerfully through language.
  • If people jump to the conclusion that you are gay or lesbian because of your friendships, because you are reading a gay or lesbian publication, or because you are being affectionate with someone of the same gender, resist you impulse to deny it. Challenge yourself to experience gay/lesbian oppression rather than taking advantage of heterosexual privilege.
  • Respect the profound uniqueness and delicacy of the coming out process for each individual.
  • Challenge the widespread, destructive misinformation about gay and lesbian persons by educating yourself so that you can respond to misinformation and untruth with correct information and truthfulness.

Source: 365-Day Odyssey through Sexual Orientation handbook.

Page last modified December 22, 2010