The Problem with Homophobia and Transphobia

There are many problems with both, but I want to focus solely on the problems that arise due to homophobic and transphobic speech. The other day we were talking to a man who felt utterly worthless because his culture holds homophobic beliefs and he happens to be gay. His whole life he has heard people use homophobic slurs and dismiss others as nothing more than “that faggot.” Hearing these things, hearing people dismiss him when they don’t even know that they are making these claims about him, has led him to feel as though he is a failure for being born gay. This man is not a failure, nor is he worthless, but he has been made to feel as though he is. Because of words. Because of the words that people say when they think that there are no queer people around. The words that we say can hurt and we must be careful when we speak. This is why gossip and rumors are frowned upon, and why the “sticks and stones” rhyme is wrong. Words can and often do hurt more than any physical pain. Therefore, words that are homophobic and transphobic should be avoided. Even if you do not believe that there is a queer person around to hear you. If you do say something that is potentially hurtful, even if you don’t understand why it would be considered hurtful, then you must be prepared to accept the consequences of your actions. If you say homophobic/transphobic things, then you are responsible for causing people to hate themselves. You are responsible for causing people to become suicidal, and killing themselves. Maybe you are not the sole contributor, but you were a contributor nonetheless. Maybe you didn’t want to hurt anybody, but you were, and are, complacent to their pain. If you do not want to hold that responsibility, if you do not want to take part in the guilt, then you must speak out against the hate. You must warn others when they use the hateful language. You must be part of the solution.

4 responses to “The Problem with Homophobia and Transphobia

  • pyjamaslug

    What really hurts is exclusion. It is possible to say the most insulting, offensive things as long as the object of the invective is included. (I was going to say included in the joke but it does not need to be a joke, much truth and understanding is arrived at through serious insultingness)

    If you want to look for examples of how this works, look no further than the term nigger, which is taboo for me to use in almost any circumstance but is a term of solidarity among blacks. Why? because in that community it is a source of unity and affirmation. The in group and the out group.

    Why do I raise this? It’s because at some point we will need to move on (I hope that time will be soon) on to a time when our gay friends are firmly part of the in group. At which point strictures against language will be obsolete. Then I can go back to insulting my most beloved friends with a clear conscience!


  • Many Moons Under the Sun

    I agree. We should be sensitive to all people. I like what you said about words hurting more than physical pain. That is the truth. 🙂


  • Bobby Wren

    I think you also need to address the steps to take to actually be able to effectively not to offend others… you need to actually attempt to learn WHAT offends others and/or what could be triggering first. There have been so many situations where someone has said something sexist/trans*/homophobic, and perhaps it would have been obvious to you or me, but it had to be explained and pretty much spelled out for them to get it. You can’t avoid harmful language if you don’t first know what is harmful. (Yes, there are some things that are pretty intuitive, but a lot of it isn’t because it is shaped by the unique experiences of others.)


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