Content warning: homophobic slurs, sexual harassment, violence
Recently a fellow college student said something to me that was deeply homophobic and dehumanizing towards gay people, knowing that I’m gay. When I later described this experience to a mutual friend and expressed that the comment was hurtful, the mutual friend told me, “Don’t take it personally.”
As a gay person, when I’m told to not take homophobia personally or to “stop complaining,” it dismisses my experiences and creates an environment where no one can really talk about homophobia.
I’ve been called a lesbo, whore, slut, bitch, carpet-eater, bollera, dyke and other names. I’ve been called these names on the street, online, in my middle school, in a club, in a driver’s education car, and in my home. I’ve been called these names by strangers, family, classmates, and men in positions of authority. I’ve been sexualized and compared to lesbian porn by an adult man. I’ve been touched without consent by straight men who enter spaces for lesbians with the intent to sexually harass women like me. I’ve been physically threatened and made to feel unsafe. The worst part is, I’ve been told to stop talking about these experiences.
Dear straight friends and straight strangers, instead of telling me not to take it personally, I ask that you start to take it personally. Please, take it personally upon yourself to end homophobia and all intersecting systems of oppression.
Take it personally, and don’t tolerate “jokes” that belittle people of marginalized sexual orientations and gender identities. In the context of the violence we face, these jokes are not funny. Don’t just hold yourself back from participating in homophobia — work on fixing the homophobe inside yourself. We all have one. Before I came out in high school, I used to make homophobic comments to fit in, which shows how homophobia is embedded in our culture. We need ongoing work to address this condition of homophobia that we have all internalized.
Take it personality, and support Black, Latinx, Indigenous, people of color, Muslim and religious minorities, and other voices in the LGBTQ community that are often excluded. Take social and legal action to address the bullying, homelessness and addiction that plague our community.
Take it personally, and work towards a world where members of the LGBTQ community hold roles of authority. My community needs to direct our own movies with characters who are more than gay stereotypes, to write our own legislation against conversation therapy and housing descrimination. Instead of silencing all talk of homophobia, amplify LGBTQ+ voices. Building awareness about these issues helps us all to push back against the physical and sexual violence that has been covered up.
I take this responsibility very personally by holding myself accountable for my actions. I have made comments that questioned and excluded bisexual people. I’ve definitely been racist, such as times when I made offensive comments to friends or laughed at racist stereotypes in movies. I’m very sorry for the hurt I have caused. I’m actively working to do better and to challenge prejudiced views in my family, my community and myself. We can all do something to create a society where power and opportunity are more evenly distributed.
I love being gay, despite the challenges. I love it so much! The LGBTQ community has helped me appreciate different types of beauty and happiness. I love the freedom of relationships without the restrictions of traditional gender roles. I also enjoy ice cream, cats, kayaking, reading, science, and many other things besides being gay, but I feel most excited when I can help out younger members of the LGBTQ community. I feel joy knowing that some younger gay people will have an easier time in the future, and that in the meantime I can make a space more welcoming by flaunting how gay I am.
I look forward to a successful life, spending time with people I love and sharing my story. I refuse to accept poor treatment in silence to make other people feel comfortable.
Dear reader, dear straight people, please don’t ever dismiss the struggle against discrimination. Instead of telling me not to take it personally, please work to do better, more actively and ferociously than you ever imagined. I see you, and I truly appreciate your efforts, more than you know.