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Are You Contributing to Subtle Homophobia?

You might be contributing to a homophobic narrative and not even know it.

It is a sad truth that every gay, bi, and lesbian person has experienced homophobia/biphobia in some form or another. Now, this doesn’t mean that every LGB person has been the victim of a violent assault or verbal abuse (although, the stats are shockingly high), but rather they have, perhaps unknowingly, endured some form of discriminatory bias.

The majority of people who have witnessed outward hatred towards queer people usually wholeheartedly reject this type of behaviour in our society. However, there is another discrete version of this homophobia/biphobia, one that a lot of people don’t realise they are contributing to. It is subtle, but its effects are very real, and it is representative of an underlying societal issue we have where we find issue with those who do not subscribe to the heterosexual norms expected of us. Furthermore, it shows how far we still have to come in terms of our attitudes towards non-heterosexual people.

This subtle homophobia/biphobia can take many different forms and is usually said in passing conversation and holds no malicious weight behind it. A lot of examples of subtle homophobic/biphobic aren’t clear to those who haven’t thought about them before. It may not seem like the list below comprises of biphobic and homophobic things, but if it contributes to the narrative that rejects sexual minorities then it continues to disseminate the issue, which ultimately leads to more outward hateful actions.

For this reason, I thought that I would compile an incomplete list of examples of subtle homophobic and biphobic things that us queer people wish would stop. (Thank you to everyone for sharing your experiences of subtle homophobia or biphobia.)


#1 “That’s so gay” or  “Don’t be gay”

These are phrases that we have all heard being thrown around at some point or another. It is used to display that an action or a person is doing something undesirable in the view of the speaker. At first, it may seem that I am being too sensitive and reaching to find a problem because no one actually means it in a bad way right? Unfortunately, attributing undesirable actions to being gay implies that being gay is a negative thing. This, in turn, endorses the idea that being gay is undesirable.


#2 “How can you know you are gay/bisexual if you’ve never tried it?”

To combat this one, all I need to say is “how can you know you are straight if you’ve never slept with the same sex?” One’s sexual orientation is not validated through sexual experience. It’s simply not.


#3 “Are you sure you are gay? You don’t seem gay.”

The problem here lies in assuming that to be gay means there is a prescribed way that one has to behave in order to qualify as being gay. We all know that the stereotype states that effeminate men are gay. I find issue with this as it equates feminine equalities as being undesirable, which isn’t the case. You get effeminate men, who are straight, and you get straight women with masculine qualities, neither determines a person’s sexual orientation.


#4 “Which one of you is the girl and which one of you is the guy?”

Firstly, if you are asking these people in a same-sex relationship then it is clear that you are asking about sexual preferences. Mind your own bloody business. Second of all, if it’s a same-sex relationship, there isn’t a man and a woman (that’s kinda the point).


#5 It’s just a phase/you are experimenting

Some people are curious, that’s natural and their experiences are valid. However, when it comes to how people identify, they know better than you do. For a lot of LGB people, accepting their identity was a long and arduous process, they do not need that journey doubted and undermined just because you don’t understand.


#6 Discrediting bisexuality by calling it a stepping-stone for coming out as gay or intentionally calling bi people gay when you know that it isn’t the case.

Bisexuality is real. The dismissal of this orientation is a problem propagated by both the queer community and straight people, and it needs to stop. As said before, undermining someone’s identity adds to the problem. You don’t have to understand bisexuality, but accept that it’s real and your ignorance won’t change that, it just makes you look stupid.

#7 Assuming bi and lesbian girls will want to have a threesome.

Asking a lesbian if she wants to partake in a threesome that involves a man is about as stupid as it seems; yet it still happens. Assuming bi people will inherently be promiscuous because of their sexuality is equally stupid. No bi person wants to have sex with someone who is biphobic.


#8 “What a waste, you would have had such pretty children”

It is no one’s duty to have children. Even if they were straight they might not want children. Think of the lucky children that will get fostered or adopted by two parents who are in love and ready to have children.


#9 “They are just bi/lesbian/gay because they cant find a man/woman”

False! They are who they are and they cannot change that. It has nothing to do with a lack of interest from the opposite sex.


#10 Calling sexual orientation a lifestyle or a choice

Do you really think any queer person would choose to be hated and risk being beaten up? No one would choose that. It isn’t a choice and it isn’t a lifestyle that any of us follow. It is a fundamental part of who we are, not something we’ve decided to try out to seem edgy or cool. If you are looking for a new lifestyle, try healthy eating or not being an a*****e. We don’t need our already difficult journeys demonised as an undesirable road to be on.


#11 “Do you prefer men or women?”

Why does it matter? Mind your own business!


#12 “gay best friend”

This one seems harmless, but the problem still exists.  It has the subtle impact of highlighting that you see a difference between a straight friend and a queer friend when in reality the difference is not significant. I am a friend who happens to not be straight.


#13 “Oh, you’re gay? Do you know ______?”

The chances of me knowing your neighbor’s nephew’s friend Caleb is slim. The community (in Aberdeen) is small, sure. But that doesn’t mean we are all in a group chat discussing Rupaul or Nick Jonas’ ass


#14 Parents saying that you have ruined their plans of having grandchildren.

This is our life so stop interfering. The notion that we are dissidents corrupting your life plan for us is dumb. Stop worrying if your son or daughter is going to have children and just worry if they are happy or not. Chances are if you are pushing your agenda on your children then they aren’t going to be happy.

Now, this article isn’t here to point the finger at those who may have accidentally contributed to this narrative and to out them as being problematic because that does not solve anything. Instead, I ask you, if you notice yourself or others perpetuating these attitudes, that you rephrase what you are saying, or apologise. Nobody is perfect so it is unrealistic to rid yourself of this behavior, all I ask is that you try. Together we can create a society where we don’t make judgments on people based on heteronormative ideals and instead on someone’s character.


Zachary Hunter

Aberdeen '20

English and Language & Linguistics Student at Aberdeen
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