If you identify as LGBT+ you might have experienced homophobia or transphobia in one form or another.
Dealing with homophobes can be difficult, especially when experiencing it from people that you have known for most if not all of your life. You probably have a deep love and care for these people that may not want to associate themselves with you due to something that you cannot change. Your friends and family should love you no matter what but that is not always case.
We asked a few people from the LGBT+ community for their opinions on dealing with homophobic loved ones. I hope the advice given is helpful and please note that there is no wrong or right answer.
Should people stay in the closet if they are scared?
It’s so easy to say “Live your life, it’s too short to worry about others reactions!” Some of us are free and fearless enough to do as such. What is true is that when you eventually come out, there’s such a weight lifted off your shoulders!
Quite honestly, in an ideal world no one should ever have to come out as it’s really no ones business. If you’re scared take your time, only come out when you’re ready and feel comfortable. Don’t feel pressured into it or do it for someone else, do it for you and on your own terms.
Having ‘come out’ to a religious family, I can completely empathise with people who are scared of the reactions they will endure when others are faced with the truth about them. The decision to stop caring about this is an extremely difficult one to make. For some, it can mean an option between living life in the shadows but surrounded by people you love, or potentially sacrificing everything you previously knew. That being said, whilst coming out of the closet is a scary notion, it is also liberating. It’s the time when you’re finally able to face who you really are and figure out who you are without having to hide behind the costume you put on for others. Timing is important for this. For some, the right time comes at a very young age and for others it doesn’t come until later on in life. Nobody has the right to say when the right time is. But in order to be free…the struggle is worth it.
What should you do if you come out and important people in your life stop speaking to you?
Do not waste your time or energy on them, leave them to sort out their emotions and continue to look after and love yourself. Some people will realise how irrational it was for them to stop talking to you and will make an effort to rebuild your relationship. The others will stay ignorant, let them remain there.
Mr Black Branson
It is important to get support from friends or extended family members because you’re going to need a plan b if you get kicked out or if there is some sort of altercation. Going to a LGBT charity is also very important as they can provide you with support.
Transitioning is a very selfish process and your family might blame themselves and sometimes the immediate reaction is to stop talking to you or kick you out of the family home. It is often a knee jerk reaction because, they might think it is disgusting or they do not know what to do in that moment.
If you are transitioning I think that you should not tell the GP that there has been a breakdown at home because that could slow down the process. You do not need to blatantly lie but you don’t have to tell the medical staff everything.
You should take time to reflect on why your journey is important to you and evidently as you get older your parents will have to get with the programme. Think about whether you should give up your sense of happiness for the sake of your parents, they have already had their life experiences. It is important to be selfish but not so selfish that you forget to think that it will be tough for them at first, they are going to need space and you’re going to have to educate them.
What advice would you give someone who lives with homophobic family members?
Living with homophobic family members can be mentally exhausting, I think that it is important to protect your mind. Spend time with friends that respect you and if they are good people then you should be able to confide in them. If you do not have anyone to talk to then contact an organisation like the Samaritans.
If your family members are homophobic it is more than likely because they lack understanding on what it means to be LGBT. I would try to be patient and explain your sexuality/identity to them as much as you can.
I would firstly try to understand where they are coming from and get to the root of their homophobia and secondly take care of your own wellbeing. If you are in a situation that is abusive or in a negative environment, then you need to get out of it.
From personal experience I would firstly explain things to your family in a way that they can understand. Dissect where the homophobia is coming from. If they are family members who love you then it is likely that they are willing to listen to your experience.
It is not always easy and you will not always have family members that will understand but remember to take care of yourself on your journey of self discovery.
Do you think that it is possible to change a homophobic person’s point of view on the LGBT+ community?
People are homophobic for various reasons some of them include ignorance, and the inherent belief that they are better than LGBT+ people. They believe that these people are abnormal and strange. The idea of having an attraction to someone of the same sex or the idea of never feeling that you were born in the right body, is a big mystery.
If there is a willingness to learn (willingness is the key word here) you should use the opportunity to educate the person. People seem to just go by what the media tells them without having a real interaction with people from LGBT communities. These people don’t know that a same-sex couple could have similarities to a heterosexual couple.
Some people are willing to sit in their ignorance which is fine. But I think that through education you can change someone’s view.
It is possible, but not always. The long and short of it is that you have ignorance and then willful ignorance. I think it is only possible to change a homophobic person’s opinion of the LGBT+ community if that person is willing to learn. Not everyone is brought up surrounded by diverse communities and therefore have not been exposed to the way others live their lives. If such a person is open to the idea of education and learning about other people’s lived experiences, then there is definitely a chance an opinion can be changed – that person can be enlightened. However, if someone is unwilling to learn I think it is somewhat pointless. You can take a horse to water, but you certainly cannot make them drink as they say. Quite honestly, I have had absolutely no satisfaction in banging my head a brick wall when it comes to willful, bigoted people….so I would say focus your attention on those who are willing to listen and be educated.
Please feel free to leave an answer to any of these questions in the comments section below.