Homophobia & Transphobia
Content Warning: The following section contains content surrounding the history and current presence of homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, and other anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and prejudice. This content may be sensitive to people who identify as LGBTQ+.
Homophobia: hatred and aversion towards gay people, or people perceived as being gay. This can sometimes manifest in hateful humor and comments, rigid adherence to and policing of gender roles and expression, and social exclusionary processes. Homophobia also manifests in targeted physical, emotional, interpersonal, legal, and institutional violence.
Transphobia: hatred and aversion towards transgender (trans) people and/or any other gender expansive people regardless of identity. This can sometimes manifest in the subtle and/or overt denial of the gender identities of individuals, intrusive questions, comments and microaggressions, and fetishization of trans folx. Transphobia pervades all spaces: LGB+ spaces, the healthcare system, prisons, academic institutions, etc. Transphobia also manifests in the targeted physical and interpersonal violence, sexual violence, and murder of trans people.
Biphobia: hatred and aversion towards bisexual people as well as other folx who hold attraction to more than one gender. This can sometimes manifest in denying the existence of bisexuality, the endorsement of bisexual stereotypes, and the fetishization of bisexual people.
Due to experiencing homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, and other forms of hatred and oppression, queer people are exposed to greater mental health and physical health disparities than the general population. Keep reading for more specifics on these disparities.
Currently, folx who are part of the LGBTQ+ community face increased physical and mental health disparities due to discrimination, both structural and interpersonal. Queer folx as a community are exposed to additional harms that increase suicidality, depression and anxiety, substance use, homelessness, violence, and more. These harms exist within a range, from family rejection to hate crimes to legislative discrimination. Certain groups with intersectional identities experience increased harm and discrimination. For example, Black trans and non-binary folx are more likely to be incarcerated, homeless, assaulted, and murdered.
These issues do not solely exist outside of the Stanford bubble. Queer, trans, and non-binary students at Stanford face social, mental health, physical, and financial barriers in navigating prejudice from peers, faculty, staff, and family members. Navigating housing systems, administrative forms, athletic teams, mental and physical health systems can be extremely taxing for those who are not represented structurally and socially. Transgender and gender-nonconforming students are more likely to be targets of sexual violence on campus. Queer, trans, and non-binary faculty and staff also are exposed to prejudice and/or discrimination and may not disclose their identities, thus affecting their mental and emotional health and consequently work. Despite positive movement in terms of social awareness of LGBTQ+ issues, political and social systems continue to exclude, neglect, and harm those in the queer community.
In order to explain why this is currently happening, it’s important to retrace our steps and look at queerness through history. Despite current and widespread prejudice, queerness and gender diversity has existed and persisted across time and culture. From the highly respected gender diverse individuals in some Native American tribes to rituals of same-sex relationships in ancient Grecian cities and African tribes to the gender transformations and same-sex relationships of ancient Hindu gods, history has shown the diversity of love, attraction, and gender across cultures.
Multiple factors contributed to the oppression and erasure of these cultures. The rise of patriarchy and particular monotheistic institutions that condemned same-sex relationships and gender role fluidity was followed by early psychology’s pathologizing of same-sex attraction and science’s embrace of natural selection. With these belief systems being enforced throughout the world by European/white imperialism and colonialism, much of the world’s queer traditions, peoples, and cultures were eradicated and erased from both existence and historical narratives by white colonization. Though U.S. culture has continued to evolve, our ideas of gender, sex, and attraction still stay rooted in these prejudicial and oppressive forces.
While aspects of queer liberation in the U.S. has gained momentum over the past century thanks in large part to the civil rights movement and queer activists of color, we continue to find ourselves in a battle between queer freedom and oppression. While same-sex marriage has been legalized, protections for trans and non-binary individuals continue to be stripped away. While queer communities continue to reconnect and reclaim queer history and ancestry, U.S. mainstream culture and government continues to erase this existence in classrooms, history books, media coverage, and social structures (sometimes called straightwashing). The lives and experiences of queer folx, especially trans people of color, continue to be targeted by systems still impacted by religious prejudice, imperialist erasure, and social stigma.
It is imperative that these systems are changed, and even dismantled, in order to protect the lives and experiences of queer, trans, and gender non-conforming members of our U.S. communities. We can stop the discrimination and murders of LGBTQ+ individuals, protect those who do not fit into archaic binary conceptualizations of gender and attraction, and move towards a culture of care that celebrates diversity of connection and expression and the intersectionality of race, sex, class, and gender identities. In order to get there, we must work individually, interpersonally, socially, systemically, and legally.
Being in solidarity with a community against oppression requires both an intersectional lens and ongoing praxis. We know from the main anti-hate landing page that oppressions intersect. To fight one type of oppression would be incomplete without continuing to learn about and fight the other interlocking oppressions that target and magnify the harm experienced by individuals and communities. For example, to fight for queer rights would also include fighting for racial justice since those who are most impacted in the queer community by oppressive systems are queer and trans folx of color. Second, to fight against these systems takes continued learning and continued self-care; social justice work necessitates humility, ongoing education, and self-preservation. Taking care of ourselves ensures that we can continually and sustainably strive for liberation.
First and foremost, continue to educate yourself on aspects of identity around gender, sex, and attraction. Start with this Queer 101 video to learn about current conceptualizations of identity in the U.S. Follow queer educators and activists of all different disciplines and backgrounds in your social and traditional media. Learn about queerness through time and culture. Learn about the stories of queer people of multiple racial and spiritual communities. Diversify your media and entertainment so it includes a wide range of representations of love, sex, attraction, gender, race, ability, class, etc. Continue to learn, fight your own internalized prejudice, and be humble in your process.
Second, commit yourself to solidarity with all parts of the queer community. The queer community is expansive, permeating all cultures, nations, religions, and societies, and exists on a spectrum. Solidarity with the queer community entails being an active upstander when hearing prejudicial speech or witnessing discrimination towards any part of the queer community, not just those who are in our racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, etc. circles. It means having conversations with others so that queer folx don’t always have to be the ones to shoulder that burden. It means modeling appropriate and inclusive language and practices in your community, work, family, and faith.
Reallocate, center, and elevate
Third, help to reallocate attention, resources, and power. While being an ally is important, elevating and centering the voices and experiences of LGBTQ+ folx is key to shifting systems. Donate time, money, and energy to organizations and movements focusing on queer issues and communities. Make sure that the organizations and businesses you support with your money have diverse queer representation, initiatives, leadership and mentorship, inclusive language, etc. Fight for inclusive changes in the structures you’re a part of, like making bathrooms where you work accessible for all genders, changing language on forms and materials to be gender inclusive, advocating for initiatives highlighting queer issues and experiences, and seeing more clearly how heteronormativity and the gender binary system show up in your personal and professional spheres to exclude and invisibilize LGBTQ+ folx. Share news and entertainment centering queer folx of all backgrounds. Amplify the voices of queer folx, encouraging privileged folks to decenter their experiences and step back in conversation. Create spaces of visibility where folx can gather in community, protected from outside harm.
Finally, vote to change the legislative structures that harm the queer community. From the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to the passing of same-sex marriage, key legislative victories have shown that every single vote makes a difference. Listen to the policy suggestions from intersectional queer organizations and civil rights groups and vote accordingly. Vote in leaders who also listen to these policy suggestions. Put pressure on current leaders and systems by communicating via town halls, email and mail, op-eds, and through social media.