Unity in Diversity - Recognizing Heterosexism and Homophobia
I would like to share the following anti-discrimination policy developed and practiced at McGill University in Montreal Canada. Here is an example of the social progress that is being made within Canada in regard to gender identity and sexual orientation. The inclusionary approach and positive reinforcement of diversity taken at McGill University should serve as an example for educational institutes and policy makers worldwide.
Equally interesting is the definition of the terms "heterosexism" and "heterosexual privaledge", which describe the common perception of society in assuming what is "normal". Also to be appreciated is the section which describes how to deal with heterosexism and homophobia. With new paradigms being developed within the educational system, it is only a matter of time before society at large gains a greater understanding and acceptance of human diversity.
The following is exerpted from: http://www.mcgill.ca/queerequity/heterosexism/
Recognizing heterosexism and homophobia:Creating an anti-heterosexist, homophobia-free campus
University campuses are a reflection of the wider society. Indeed, part of a university's strength is the diversity of all its members. Like other forms of discrimination and harassment, homophobia and heterosexism weaken diversity. Bias and hatred have no place at McGill University. In order to increase awareness of homophobia and heterosexism, it is useful to two of the components of sexuality: gender identity and sexual orientation.
Gender identity: A person's self-concept of one's gender that may be the same as or different from one's sex at birth (male, female, or inter-sexed*). Thus, adopting the female gender means becoming socially and culturally female, even if one is biologically male or inter-sexed. A person may also define one's gender identity as being more fluid than either male or female. In other words, one's gender identity may encompass parts of masculinity, femininity and other non-traditional gender expressions.
Sexual orientation: One's sexual, affectional and romantic interests to members of the same gender (homosexual), other gender (heterosexual), or both/all genders (bisexual). Some people experience their sexual orientation as an unchanging, lifelong part of their nature, and others experience it in a more fluid way that changes over time or across situations. Whether sexually active or not, everyone has a sexual orientation.
What is homophobia?
Homophobia involves harassing, prejudicial treatment of, or negative attitudes about lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, trans-identified, transgendered, inter-sexed and/or two-spirited (LGBQTT) persons and those perceived to be of these sexual orientations or gender identities. Discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity are not acceptable at McGill.
Homophobia includes a range of feelings and behaviours from discomfort and fear to disgust, hatred, and violence. It manifests itself in four different ways. Personal homophobia (or internalized homophobia) consists of personal beliefs and prejudices. Interpersonal homophobia (harassment and individual discrimination) involves individual behaviours based on those personal beliefs. Institutional homophobia includes the ways that governments, organizations, some religions, businesses, and other institutions discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Lastly, cultural homophobia (heterosexism) refers to societal values and "norms" that privilege heterosexuality over all other forms of gender expression and sexual orientation.
Homophobic behaviours include:
- "Gay-bashing" or physical violence, including sexual violence
- Making derogatory comments, innuendos, insults, slurs, jokes, or threats about sexual orientation or sexual practice
- Silencing talk of sexual or gender diversity
- Forcing people to "come out" or to "stay in the closet" (disclose or hide their sexual orientation)
- Linking homosexuality with pedophilia (child abuse)
- Accusing LGBQTT persons of "recruiting" others to join their sexual orientation
- Defacing notices, posters, or property with homophobic graffiti
- Rejecting friends or family members because of their sexual orientation or gender identity
- Behaving as though sexual orientation is solely about sexual practice or is a "lifestyle choice"
- Treating the sexual orientations or gender identities of LGBQTT persons as less than valid than those of heterosexuals
- Behaving as though all LGBQTT persons have AIDS or are responsible for the spread of it
Heterosexism is based on societal values that dictate that everyone is, or should be, heterosexual. Intentionally or unintentionally, our society privileges heterosexuality and heterosexual persons, and devalues, mistreats, or discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual, two-spirited, queer, and/or transgendered persons and those perceived to be so.
Recognizing heterosexual privilege
Heterosexual privilege bestows unearned and unchallenged advantages and rewards on heterosexuals solely as a result of their sexual orientation. These benefits are not automatically granted to LGBQTT persons.
Heterosexual privilege includes the right to:
- Show affection in public safely and comfortably, without fear of harassment or violence
- Openly talk about one's partner and relationships to others without considering the consequences
- Benefit from societal "normalcy": the assumption that heterosexual individuals and relationships are valid, healthy, and non-deviant
- Assume that all people and relationships are heterosexual, unless otherwise known
- Not face rejection from one's family and friends because of one's sexual orientation or gender identity
- Easily access positive role models and media images for one's gender identity and sexual orientation
- Not be asked to speak on behalf of all heterosexuals
- Use gender specific pronouns when referring to one's spouse or partner without discomfort or fear of reprisal
- Have automatic recognition of one's spouse as next-of-kin in emergencies
- Easily select reading or viewing materials in which heterosexuality is the predominantly reflected orientation
- Have families similar to one's own represented in children's literature
- Raise children without fear that they will be rejected or harassed by peers because of their parents' sexual orientation or gender identities
- Receive support and validation from a religious community
- Not risk being denied employment, housing, or other services because of one's sexual orientation or gender identity
- Not be seen as needing therapy to "cure" one's sexual orientation or gender expression
Anti-heterosexism involves recognizing and questioning the power and privileges society confers on heterosexual people because of their sexual orientation. It involves respecting and fostering the inclusivity and diversity of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Anti-heterosexism challenges the assumptions that disadvantage LGBQTT persons because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
What can I do about homophobia and heterosexism?
Whether you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, two-spirited, queer, transgendered, trans-identified or heterosexual, we all share the responsibility to end homophobia and heterosexism. Here are some tips:
- BE NON-JUDGMENTAL. Being LGBQTT is not something to be ashamed of or judgmental about. Homophobia, not sexual orientation or gender identity, is the problem.
- USE GENDER INCLUSIVE AND NON-HETEROSEXIST LANGUAGE. Do not assume that you know someone's sexual orientation and/or the gender of one's romantic/sexual interests. Use inclusive language even if you know someone is heterosexual. Help educate and encourage others to use inclusive language, as well.
- ASSUME THAT ANYONE COULD BE LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, QUEER, TWO-SPIRITED, TRANSGENDERED OR HETEROSEXUAL. Don't assume that everyone is heterosexual "unless you know otherwise" or that everyone should be heterosexual. Similarly, don't assume that someone is LGBQTT based on stereotypes or assumptions about one's friends.
- DON'T TEASE OR HARASS OTHERS for exhibiting behaviours that are not traditionally associated with their gender (or what you perceive their gender to be).
- DON'T "OUT" PEOPLE. Do not force anyone to disclose one's sexual orientation. Also, if you know that someone is LGBQTT or is questioning one's sexual orientation, don't assume that you may tell anyone else. Be sensitive to the fact that some people are "out" in some areas of their lives, but not in others.
- DON'T THINK OF LGBQTT PERSONS SOLELY IN TERMS OF THEIR SEXUAL ORIENTATION. Just as the lives of heterosexual people include far more than their attraction to members of the opposite sex, LGBQTT persons also have friends, skills and multifaceted interests unrelated to their sexual orientation. Don't define anyone by one's sexual orientation.
- DON'T ENGAGE IN HOMOPHOBIC JOKES, COMMENTS, SLURS OR OTHER BEHAVIOURS. Speak up against these when you witness them. If you don't, your silence condones and encourages such behaviours.
- EDUCATE YOURSELF. If there are things you don't know or understand about LGBQTT issues, do some research, ask questions or contact a group that deals with these issues.
- TALK ABOUT SEXUAL DIVERSITY. Maintain an inclusive group, classroom, living or workspace by talking openly and respectfully about LGBQTT issues when they come up. Treat these issues as you would any other issue.
- REMEMBER THAT AN INDIVIDUAL'S SEXUAL ORIENTATION INVOLVES MORE THAN SEXUAL BEHAVIOUR. It includes attraction, companionship, intimacy and emotional attachments as well as sexual activity.
- DO NOT FORCE PEOPLE TO HIDE their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- DON'T ASSUME THAT LGBQTT PEOPLE ARE SUFFERING or have regrets about their sexual orientation and want to be heterosexual. Likewise, if someone who is LGBQTT is having problems, don't assume that sexual orientation is the cause.
- RECOGNIZE INTERSECTIONS AND SIMILARITIES OF PREJUDICE. Heterosexism and other forms of oppression and discrimination have similarities and areas of overlap. For example, a black lesbian may experience homophobia, racism and sexism. An East Asian man may be disadvantaged by racism in ways that are similar to the ways a gay man is disadvantaged by homophobia and heterosexism.
- ENGAGE IN INCLUSIVE PRACTICES. Create work, study and living environments in which gender and sexual diversity are included, modeled and valued.
Lots of love,