15 Ways You Can Be Offensive Without Being Homophobic

18:00Ciaran McCormick

It is a familiar scene:

Alex: I oppose same-sex marriage but I am not homophobic.
Mary: Agreed, I just don't like it when they try and impose their values on the rest of society. My cousin is a lesbian though and I love her so I am not either.

Many people say or do offensive things and claim that they are innocent because they are not homophobic. However, even if you are not a homophobe - afraid of homosexual people and ideas - you can still be unacceptably offensive. This article debunks some of the most common affronts to lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Many people may be unaware that by saying or doing these things they hurt and oppress.

These are the 15 ways that people who claim not to be homophobic can still be offensive

1) Assuming Heterosexuality is the Default Option













As the dominant sexuality in society, most people assume that this makes heterosexuality the default option. They believe their children will grow up straight and ask men about girlfriends and vice-versa without pausing to think about alternative relationship possibilities. They even automatically assign heterosexual relationships to animals in nature.

These assumptions are known as heterosexism and are an insidious and offensive alternative to homophobia. This is especially the case when heterosexuality is presented as the more desirable or superior option.

2) Oversexualisation


Distilling gay people into just sexual beings is particularly bad. Some complain that they oppose homosexuality because they find anal sex unnatural. This ignores the attractions and relationships that make up most of people's identities and obsesses over physical mechanics.

3) Seeing Lesbians Through Straight Eyes












Because much of the media is dominated by straight men, the representation of lesbians is skewed. They are often seen as a straight fantasy or a plot twist where the guy is rejected by the girl and then she is revealed as lesbian by kissing another girl. Seen all the time in tired and predictable television. Alternatively, people wrongly assume that lesbians must be butch because only masculine people are attracted to women.

4) Using Offensive Slurs and Language










Many people claim that they are not homophobic but are entitled to use a range of offensive phrases. Using 'that is so gay' as an insult normalises the idea that homosexuality is inferior. Other slurs like f****t are so offensive because they are traditionally associated with oppression and violence towards LGBT people.

It is not enough to argue that they have taken on other meanings, because you have to be aware of the contexts of the words you use and not escape blame on technicalities.

The No Homophobes project shows that the f word has been used over 28 million times on Twitter and 'no homo' in nearly 8 million tweets. Gay people can say these things if they choose to reclaim them from people that use them in a derogatory way but this is not a blank cheque for straight people to use these words.

5) Assuming Gay Relationships are Unstable
Relationships between the same gender share many of the same strengths and weaknesses of straight partnerships. Rates of monogamy, drug and alcohol use and the raising of children depends on the type of person, not their sexual orientation. Gay bars have played an important part in gay history as a safe space, but it is unfair to stereotype all LGBT people as nightclub addicts or recreational drug users.

6) Ignoring the Importance of Sexuality













Just as it is bad to oversexualise the gay community, it is also offensive to ignore the importance of people's sexuality in their lives. It is annoying when straight people say that coming out should not exist anymore. It is also ridiculous when heterosexuals complain about people imposing other sexual orientations on them, when they are free to talk about their own relationships and sexuality openly.

7) Denying Young People Same-Sex Education












Children need better sex education, particularly on same-sex issues. The idea that straight children will turn gay if they are taught it is ludicrous. Children are not recruited to be gay and straight sex education does not change the sexuality of gay children. Yet the integration of queer issues into the curriculum and gay sex education is woefully inadequate.

8) Bisexual Erasure













There is a long list of ways in which bisexual people face unique oppression. Do not tell them they are greedy, undecided or are going through a phase. Do not assume they are 50:50 or try to impose a ratio of attraction to men and women. Certainly, do not tell them that they should lie about their attraction to the same sex when they are in an opposite sex relationship. Sexuality is about potential attraction, not just actual sex.

9) Do Not Filter LGBT Websites


Blocked LGBT resources are often lumped in with pornography and justifiably blocked topics like suicide and abuse. However, heterosexual information websites are untouched. This can be an accident of algorithms or conscious decisions to censor gay identities but is entirely unacceptable.

10) Complain About Gay Only Spaces
If there is a gay only bar or a gay rights officer, people will sometimes complain. They argue that they should have a straight only bar or a straight rights officer. Fortunately, straight people have not been subjected to systematic oppression, violence, harassment and enjoy a series of privileges. The whole world is a straight safe space. This means that gay people are entitled to safe spaces without heterosexual people.

11) Consider Therapy













If you promote the idea that gay people should be free to choose to change their sexuality, you reinforce the claim that it is inferior. Scientific evidence also shows that it does not work and ex-gay therapy represses people's genuine sexual expression and can severely damage their well-being. It can even be seen as akin to torture, especially when techniques like electro-shock are used.

12) Oppose Same-Sex Marriage













This is most common on religious grounds, but religion does not hold a monopoly on marriage or its definition. It is not okay for your religious beliefs to trump the rights of people you will ever meet. This is one of the biggest issues at the moment, a thorough debunk can be found online easily.

13) Ignoring Intersectionality












It is important to appreciate that there are many experiences of LGBT identity. They intersect with race, class, gender and many other personal characteristics. This means that everyone encounters oppression in different ways and stereotyping others based on your own experiences can be offensive no matter what your sexuality.

14) Hating Camp











It is wrong for gay or straight people to hate others based on superficial things like a camp demeanour but it is too common. Straight-acting people that dislike more extravagant gays creates unnecessary tensions. It is unfair to claim that camp people are at fault for the lack of diverse portrayal of gay people in the media. Blame the structures of power that only allow one type of gay expression to be seen instead.

15) Forgetting Heterosexual Privileges













Ultimately, people that are offensive but defend themselves by saying that they are not homophobic forget their straight privileges. They are able to hold their partners hand in public without fear of harassment or violence, they are free from discrimination in sport and employment. They do not have to come to terms with a non-dominant sexuality and are known because of their personality rather than their sexuality.

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