What should I say to people who say that homosexuality is” just wrong” and “disgusting” and who try to change me?
Thank you for your question. First off, we’d like to say that we’re sorry that people have been saying these things to you. Those are hateful and disrespectful words and no one has the right to try to change anyone else. We hope you won’t let their negative beliefs impact on how you feel about yourself – there is absolutely nothing wrong or disgusting about being gay.
This may sound harsh, but you might consider reducing or eliminating the presence of people who persist in this disrespectful behaviour from your life. If they are a friend, you may choose to “break up” with them. If they are family, that may be more difficult – but you are absolutely allowed to put boundaries on your relationships to protect yourself from harm, including family relationships. What shape that takes is up to you – it may mean discontinuing contact, or agreeing not to speak about sexual orientation or gender identity.
Another way to protect yourself and set boundaries is just to walk away from the conversation. Your feelings of safety are first priority – if you feel unsafe in a situation where someone is speaking this way, it is totally okay to change the situation or remove yourself from it. Some ways you might do this could include:
- try to change the topic
- excusing yourself to use the restroom
- excuse yourself to go speak with someone else “Oh, there’s Aunt Bessie! I had better go say hi”
- take some quiet time for yourself in another room
If you feel more comfortable challenging these folks, here are a few considerations for engaging with them:
- try to stay calm
- try to be respectful (even if they aren’t)
- remember that your feelings are legitimate
- it’s okay to excuse yourself or end the conversation if you feel it is too much. Do not allow others to press you into continuing an uncomfortable discussion.
If the people seem confrontational and antagonistic, you may wish to simply tell them that you respect their opinion but that they shouldn’t force it on you. Let them know that you are happy with who you are, and that you’ll have to agree to disagree on the matter. As hurtful as some of these things may be, and as tempting as it can be to retaliate, it may be best to not stoop to their level and engage in an argument. Some people have previously formed notions that, although they may be wrong in our eyes, cannot be shaken by anyone else. Sometimes these people have experienced things that we cannot understand that have led them to hold these views, and only they can work through why they hold such opinions and their validity. Remember, not being able to change someone’s negative views does not make you any less awesome! You don’t have control over other people’s feelings and beliefs, but you do have control over your own. Feed yourself with kind messages about who you are and what it means in your life to be gay. In spite of the challenges we face, there are so many great things about being gay! Lastly, we think it’s important to hammer home this point: it is okay to disengage from a person who is being disrespectful or saying hateful things.
If you sense that the person you’re speaking with is more open minded, you may wish to explore with them where their beliefs come from. This can be a great opportunity to educate others about sexual diversity and human rights. Listening will help you to understand where they’re coming from: they may be misinformed, their negative beliefs may come from previous experiences with people of the same sexual orientation as you, or they may have strong religious reasons for objecting to homosexuality. If it turns out that the person feels this way because of a prior encounter with someone who is sexually diverse, you may want to reiterate that no two people are the same. The way one person acts is not necessarily a reflection of their sexuality, and not all people who are queer are the same – in fact, queer means different! It may end up that the things they think are “just wrong” or “disgusting” about the people don’t have anything to do with their sexuality. Hopefully they can keep an open mind in their relationship with you; they may find that some of their beliefs are ill-founded.
It can be difficult challenging someone who believes hateful things about gender and sexual diverse people because of religious reasons. If you are speaking with someone who is using religion as a platform for their beliefs, you may wish to remind them that every person’s relationship with God, and their interpretation of sacred texts, is different. Many things written in sacred texts are no longer adhered to today, even by people who interpret those works literally. According to Christian texts, one should not wear clothes of mixed fibres – but we’re sure there are lots of Christians out there wearing cotton-poly blends. Encourage people coming from a religious standpoint to critically evaluate what their teachings say about being queer, and whether they are applicable today. Most religions are based on values of love and acceptance, you may encourage them to focus on those aspects and remember that gay people may be religious too.
For more information about queer people of faith, consider checking out the following resources:
- Muslims for Progressive Values
- The Gay Christian Network
- Gay Buddhist Sangha
- Sarbat: LGBT Sikhs
- The Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association: Information and support for GLBTI Vaishnavas and Hindus
These kinds of conversations can be draining, even if you are able to change someone’s views. Remember to care for yourself afterwards. There are lots of ways to do this, you may choose to chat with a close, accepting friend, make some crafts, listen to music, watch your favourite movie, go for a walk, or reach out to more formal resources.
As the holiday season approaches, some people may have to return to environments that are not supportive or even safe. We know it can be difficult to be in those situations, but please try to put your wellbeing first. Have a self-care plan in place.
Here are a few places that you can count on for support:
- OUTline! We’re here for you. Give us a shout at (519) 836-4550 or online if you need to talk to someone who’s been there. We will be open on Mondays from 3:30-6pm, Wednesdays from 6-9pm, and Fridays from 1-3pm. Please note that we will be closed from December 23rd-January 3rd for the holidays – but we’ll be back on the lines (and online!) on January 6th.
- Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youth Line. They’re open from Sunday-Friday from 4pm-9:30pm. Call them at (1-800) 268-9688, or chat with them online.
- Good2Talk, Ontario’s post-secondary student support network, call them at (1-866) 925-5454. These folks are available 24/7 to chat with you about whatever is bugging you!
- Community Torchlight Distress Line. This 24/7 support line offers empathic active listening from trained volunteers. Give them a shout toll-free at (1-877) 821-3760 if you need someone to talk to.
At the end of the day, same-sex relationships are about love. And how can the expression of love be disgusting? Personally, we believe there are much more vile things in the world, such as pollution, discrimination, war, and raw onions. Despite all the negative things that people may say, it’s important to know that you are free to be (and be with) whoever you please. Remember that there is support for you! We hope you are able to surround yourself with such people, as you truly deserve. If you aren’t able to right now, just reach out. We’re here for you.
❤ Amber, Mackenzie, Ashley and Liz