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Handling Campus Homophobia
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Most LGBTQ students will confront homophobia at some point in their college career. The experience will no doubt be challenging, but it does not need to be traumatic. If you speak out against homophobia when you encounter it, you'll emerge stronger and better equipped to deal with similar situations in the future.
Here are some tips on how to respond when the going gets tough:
Remember that it's not really about you. Even when it seems like a personal attack, keep in mind that the roots of homophobia are irrational fear. Homophobia is the result of the offender's biases and prejudices; it has nothing to do with you.
Gently educate. Some students arrive at college not knowing that a word or phrase is offensive. They may come from a place where there were few visible LGBTQ people or where homophobic terms were common. Try calmly saying "It offends me when you use those words or make those jokes." Even a simple "Hey, that's not cool" can go a long way.
Stay safe. Never challenge someone if you fear for your physical safety. Be sure you know the people on campus who can assist you with confronting homophobia. Know your campus anti–discrimination and harrassment policies, and find out who to contact if you encounter bias. Write down the number for the campus police.
Assess the situation before responding. When deciding how to respond, it's important to consider multiple factors. Where did the situation take place? Do you have the time to adequately address it? How well do you know the people involved? Depending on the answers, you may speak up right away or say "I'd really like to talk about what just happened, can we get together later?" Or you may simply choose to walk away.
Use your allies. Sometimes it can be helpful to enlist a friend, teacher or administrator to confront homophobia. These people may have a level of authority or a personal relationship with the offender that you don't have. Identify allies when you get to college so you can ask for their help when you need it.
Take time to practice and prepare. Some colleges offer training to help you practice responding to common types of campus homophobia. The more strategies and approaches you have up your sleeve, the better equipped you'll be.
Step back when you need to. When a situation arises, it's important to evaluate whether you are mentally prepared to confront it. Seek support from friends, family and allies. Find ways to channel your negative feelings, be it getting some exercise or talking things out with a friend.
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