| Have a Happy Holiday Season - Tips for LGBTQs
|Spending the holiday season with family and friends can sometimes be a stressful time. Here are some tips we found and adapted from the PFLAG website that may help you get through it.
If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender...
- Don’t assume you know how somebody will react to news of your sexual orientation or gender identity - you may be surprised.
- Realize that your family’s reaction to you may not be because you are GLBT. The hectic holiday pace may cause family members to act differently than they would under less stressful conditions.
- Remember that “coming out” is a continuous process. You may have to “come out” many times.
- Don’t wait for your family’s attitude to change to have a special holiday.
- Recognize that your parents need time to acknowledge and accept that they have a GLBT child. It took you time to come to terms with who you are; now it is your family’s turn.
- Let your family’s judgments be theirs to work on, as long as they are kind to you.
- If it is too difficult to be with your family, create your own holiday gathering with friends and loved ones.
- If you are transgender, be gentle with your family’s pronoun “slips.” Let them know you know how difficult it is.
Before the visit...
- Make a decision about being “out” to each family member before you visit.
- If you are partnered, Discuss in advance how you will talk about your relationship, or show affection with one another, if you plan to make the visit together.
- If you bring your partner home, don’t wait until late into the holiday evening to raise the issue of sleeping arrangements.
- Make plans in advance.
- Have alternate plans if the situation becomes difficult at home.
- Find out about local LGBTQ resources.
- If you do plan to “come out” to your family over the holidays, read up on how best to do it. Also, have support available, like a friend who knows, or contact someone from one of our counselling resources.
During the visit...
- Focus on common interests.
- Reassure family members that you are still the same person they have always known.
- If you are partnered, be sensitive to his or her needs as well as your own.
- Be wary of the possible desire to shock your family.
- Remember to affirm yourself.
- Realize that you don’t need your family’s approval.
- Connect with someone else who is LGBTQ, by phone or in person, who understands what you are going through and will affirm you along the way.
Next: Tips for Parents and Friends
Source: Tips for a Happy Holiday (PDF File), by PFLAG, with extracts from the book When Holidays are Hell...! A Guide to Surviving Family Gatherings, by Mariana Caplan
| Who homophobia affects
|Homophobic attitudes can impact upon anyone who:
- is, or is perceived to be, lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender/transsexual
- has friends, family or colleagues who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender/transsexual
- does not conform to stereotypical views of masculine or feminine behaviour
Homophobia can happen anywhere: at home, at work, at school, at university, in the pub, on holiday, perhaps even in the supermarket.
The gay community is frequently seen as an easy target by offenders because they often suffer in silence. Most offenders expect that the people they attack or abuse will not report it.
Homophobia presents itself in people young and old. Some people react negatively to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people because homosexuality is something they have little understanding about. It is the fear of something or someone perceived as "different".
Such prejudice arises from long-standing cultural stereotypes that depict lesbians and gay men as immoral, criminal, sick, and drastically different from what society considers "normal".
This prejudice is wrong. This is what we need to stand up against.
Source: Who homophobia affects, by SilenceisNotGolden.org
| A Student's View: Homophobia in School
|The following is an essay that appeared on 20 July, 2005 on Tolerance.org. The author of the essay was only identified as "Mae, age 16", who expressed her disappointment over pervasive homophobia in her school, and the frustration of having a different viewpoint. While SAFE cannot verify the identity of Mae and the contents of her essay, we felt it was a well-written essay with an important personal story, and we hope she does not mind us sharing it on this site.
"On the eve of the 2004 U.S. election results, I was on a school camping trip. I drifted into sleep, mulling over the way my teacher casually dismissed John Kerry as gay-friendly. She felt gay marriages were very "abnormal."
The next morning I abandoned breakfast, rushing up to the open balcony and planting myself in front of the tiny television, leaving my companions and teacher to dine below.
With my eyes fixed on the immaculately dressed Channel NewsAsia presenters, my ears strained to catch the sound trickling out of the box. A message mentioning a Bush victory scrolled past in the bottom bar. Unfazed, I reassured myself it was nothing to worry about when I heard a sudden outburst from below. Bush had won.
I stared blankly as my teacher jubilantly cried out, "Yeah! Bush won! No gay marriages!" Whoops and cheers followed her statement. I blinked, and looked back to the screen, taking the news in.
Then I doubled over, my hopes completely crushed.
Religious sentiments and blithe ignorance aside, I find my teacher to be a respectable person, which is exactly what makes it so difficult for me to come to terms with the persistent state of things here in Singapore regarding same-sex relationships.
In my school, homosexuality is treated as a joke by students and teachers alike. Derogatory slurs are tossed about without a moment's hesitation, and the word "gay" is always used in a negative context.
In my country, sexuality is still widely considered too taboo to openly discuss. Such prevalent prejudice is simply due to apathy and unawareness. That is why I find it so upsetting and wrong.
It is a terrible disappointment to see and hear people judged because of their sexual orientation. As a student experiencing this daily, it breaks my heart to know that my intelligent schoolmates and teachers hold such a biased view, even when the facts are laid out in front of them. If only they would look.
I first learned tolerance because I realized I was being a supreme idiot for just accepting what others said, without bothering to check the facts and form my own opinion.
The respect I had for my teacher was shattered because of her blatantly homophobic attitudes, which I believe are based solely on stereotypical images from others and from popular entertainment.
Right now, I'm sad to say, it isn't a good idea for a teacher to come out of the closet. I don't think that a teacher should lie about his or her sexual orientation. But to be successful and maintain a good image, he or she has to.
An openly gay teacher would suffer from a sullied reputation and be treated unfairly by both staff and students. The school might not demand an openly gay teacher's resignation, but the loss of respect — however subtle — would exist and would show.
I believe a teacher's sexual identity should not be grounds for discrimination. What truly matters is a teacher's ability to teach, to care for students and to inspire fellow colleagues.
Though disheartened by intolerant attitudes, I still harbor the hope that the situation will soon change for the better.
If a gay teacher is willing to face the consequences of being honest about who he or she is, then I fully support that teacher's standing up for personal beliefs. It would count as one step in the right direction.
I do not believe that homosexuality is a perversion of nature or a hedonistic lifestyle choice. Unless we bother to try and step out of our comfort zones, our perspectives on those who are different from us will remain vague and distorted."
Source: Does it matter if your teacher is gay?, by Mae, posted on Tolerance.org
| Is being gay the problem?
|It’s not being gay that makes some young people unhappy. It’s the negative reaction of other people that they fear, coming to terms with being ‘different’ and coping with it that’s difficult. It is even harder if this has to be done in secrecy from family, friends and teachers.
Lesbian and gay people of all ages can find themselves emotionally exhausted by having to reconcile how they are feeling inside with the problems others have in coming to terms with their sexuality.
Source: Is being gay the problem?, by Educational Action Challenging Homophobia (EACH)
| Who gets bullied?
|Who gets homophobically bullied or harassed?
Anyone can become a victim of homophobic bullying or harassment.
- Teenagers who have misjudged their best friend by confiding in them only to find themselves "outed" are the principal targets of this form of bullying.
- Heterosexual girls and boys who others think of as lesbian or gay can come under similar attack. Most young people taunted about their sexual orientation are, in reality, too young to know what their sexuality is.
- Friends of lesbian and gay people are frequently forced to face up to their own prejudices, fears and preconceptions whilst finding themselves the targets of homophobia by being "guilty by association".
- Children of a lesbian or gay parent or brothers and sisters of those homophobically targeted can often be vulnerable to homophobic abuse from peers should their family situation become known.
- Adults at home, in the workplace or in the street can find themselves targeted homophobically.
Source: Who gets homophobically bullied or harrassed?, by Educational Action Challenging Homophobia (EACH)
| Homophobic bullying and harassment
|What is homophobic bullying or harassment?
Just like any form of bullying or harassment, homophobia can include verbal, physical and emotional abuse by an individual or group but it's directed specifically at someone who is lesbian or gay or thought to be by others. What makes it different from other forms of bullying or harassment is the personal motivation that drives it.
Most homophobic bullying takes place at a time when young people are unsure about their own developing identity - subjected as they are to the confusing messages our society sends out about what it means to be "a man" or "a woman" and the stereotype of what it means to be gay. Homophobia presents itself in young people as the fear of and the reaction to an issue about which they can have little understanding and to a person perceived as "different".
Homophobic harassment of adults is unwanted behaviour which is offensive, causing the man or woman affected to feel threatened, humiliated or patronised. Such behaviour can seriously interfere with a person's personal health, work performance and security, creating a threatening living or workplace environment.
Homophobic bullying or harassment can take many forms:
- unwanted physical contact
- threatened or actual physical abuse or attack
- verbal abuse such as suggestive remarks, jokes or name calling
- display or distribution of offensive material or graffiti
- non-verbal abuse such as mimicry, offensive gestures or body language
Source: What is homophobic bullying or harassment, by Educational Action Challenging Homophobia (EACH)
| What is homophobia?
|Frequently asked questions about homophobia
What is homophobia?
Sometimes people who object to gay people are called homophobic. Homophobia is a fear of and/or hostility towards gay people or homosexuality. Homophobia is often expressed visibly, audibly and sometimes violently.
Why do some people behave badly towards gays?
Although people often grow up exposed to more or less the same beliefs about sexuality, they can hold quite different attitudes in their adult lives. While some people believe homosexuality is a valid lifestyle, others violently object. Some people believe that homosexuality is unnatural, others see it as a sin and have said that for gay men 'AIDS is a plague sent from God'.
At the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, gay men were frequently singled out for abuse as they were deemed to be responsible for the cause and spread of the virus. Sensational reporting in the press became progressively anti-gay and did little to help the situation.
What causes people to be prejudiced against gay men and lesbians?
There are probably no simple causes of homophobia. While there is probably no single thing which causes a person to be homophobic, research has shown that prejudice towards gay people and homosexuality can be influenced by the person:
• reporting no homosexual experiences or feelings;
• being negative about types of sexual behaviour and relationships which are neither procreative nor take place within marriage;
• having and adhering to strong religious beliefs which disapprove of sex and/or homosexuality;
• having little or no social contact with lesbian and gay people.
How do people express their homophobia?
Amongst young people, boys and girls who do not act in line with their gender stereotype - for example boys being sporty, strong decision-makers and girls being more emotional, expressive nurturers- may be subjected to severe bullying.
This may include accusations of being of the opposite sex, or of being gay. Boys who show their feelings or who are too intimate with other boys are often called 'girls', 'fags', or 'poofs'. Girls who are deemed to be too boyish or who hold feminist views run the risk of being called 'dykes' or 'lesbians'.
Boys may be more prejudiced than girls towards gay people. This is because the boundaries on boys gender roles are much more rigid than they are for girls. As a result boys have a limited number of ways acceptable to their peer group to express their emotions. This often means that any expression between boys may be seen by their peers as latent homosexual interest.
Between girls, in contrast, close friendships which involve embracing, touching and sharing thoughts and feelings are more legitimate and are less likely to be seen by their peers as an indication of homosexuality.
'Gay' is often used by young people as a standard insult. This derogatory use of words associated with homosexuality is one way in which young people learn it is highly undesirable to be gay.
What are some of the effects of homophobic teasing and bullying?
There are a number of effects:
• It silences young people who are experiencing gay feelings;
• In order to protect themselves, young gays and lesbians often pretend to be heterosexual and sometimes join in homophobic taunts themselves;
• It reinforces the isolation of young people who are being bullied or abused because they are perceived to be gay. There is no-one to talk to and people are very hesitant to defend them;
• It keeps gays separate from each other because of the implications of being seen together by their peers;
• It starts a common set of feelings regarding rejection which effects individuals for many years to come, even in their adult lives;
Many gay and lesbian adults say that they began to identify themselves as 'different' in their secondary school years. In this period, the absence of support, understanding or information was sometimes a source of distress in itself and often magnified their anxieties.
Source: Talking Homosexuality in the Secondary School, by Avert.org
| Am I homophobic?
|An attitude test on homophobia
One of the main reasons that gays and lesbians find it hard to tell us about their sexuality is often because of our attitude towards homosexual people.
We may not think we have a homophobic attitude but maybe we say or do things that make us look like we do.
We often send off signals that we will not accept them because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. This may not be intentional but it does often happen.
Answer 'yes' or 'no' to the the following questions:
1. Do you laugh at jokes whose humor depends upon put downs and stereotypes of gays, lesbians or bisexuals?
2. Do you automatically think of gays; lesbians or bisexuals only in terms of sexuality rather than seeing them as complex people who have, among other significant features, a bisexual or same sex orientation?
3. Do you use dehumanizing slang - 'queer', 'homo', 'fag', 'dyke', 'lezzie', 'butch' to refer to gays, lesbians and bisexuals or to put people in line when they stray from traditional sex roles?
4. Do you assume that a lesbian, gay man or bisexual is interested in you sexually, regardless of your sexual orientation? Do you think that if a lesbian, gay man or bisexual touches you, she or he is making sexual advances?
5. Do you react negatively when lesbians, gay men and bisexuals discuss their same sex relationships, when you do not react negatively to discussions of opposite sex relationships?
6. Do you feel it is important to make others aware that you are not gay, lesbian or bisexual?
7. Do you speak up about gay rights, but make sure every one knows that you yourself are heterosexual?
8. Do you think you can "spot one" - i.e. believe that gay people can ordinarily be identified by certain mannerisms or physical characteristics?
9. Do you fail to confront anti-gay remarks or behaviors for fear of being labeled gay yourself? Do you assume that people speaking up for gay rights or against, gay, oppression are themselves gay?
10. Do you assume you don't know anyone who's gay?
If you answer 'yes' to any of these questions, you need to take the time to think about things more deeply. Homophobia can have very damaging effects on your relationship with your child or loved one.
| SAFE's statement on The Penal Code
|SAFE Singapore has sent out the following Statement to our Press and Media contacts in Singapore. The Government has asked for public feedback on the proposed changes to the Penal Code and it would be very helpful if you could write in to the feedback unit, identifying yourself as a straight ally,
Feedback link: reach.gov.sg
Thank you one and all for your continued encouragement and support!
13 Nov 2006
To The Press
We are a group of parents, families and friends of lesbian and gay people who believe in a society that accepts, affirms and empowers everyone to participate fully in it regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.
We write to voice our opposition to the proposed changes to the Penal Code and in particular to the retention of s.377A which criminalizes male same-sex acts even if conducted in private.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has come public to say they will "not be proactive in enforcing the section against adult males engaging in consensual sex with each other in private." Why then have a law if it is not going to be enforced? Is it not illogical
and a self-contradiction to have a law on the statute books and not enforce it? It appears that the government wants to have its cake and eat it too -- employing gay people in civil service, welcoming foreign talent even if they might be gay and benefiting from the contributions of intelligent and creative gay brains while not doing anything at all to protect these same gay people's human rights.
Are we to remain on the surface, according to MHA, "by and large, a conservative society (where) many do not tolerate homosexuality, and consider such acts abhorrent and deviant" while covertly wooing the gay community's pink dollar and creative talents?
As friends and families of gay people, we are strongly against any law that makes the people we love and respect -- our adult gay sons, brothers, grandsons, nephews and friends, "criminals" simply by what they do in private with another consenting adult.
Do we have an agenda? Yes indeed. Our agenda is to strive for a society based on justice and equality, respect for individual dignity and opposed to bigotry, homophobia or any other form of hatred and discrimination.
Ms Khoo Hoon Eng
Ms Susan Yap Siu Sen
Ms Tan Joo Hymn
Ms Ong Su-Chzeng
Supporting, AFfirming and Empowering
Our LGBTQ friends and family.