Social Question

jazzjeppe's avatar

How can I/we prevent homophobia?

Asked by jazzjeppe (2598points) February 8th, 2010

I enjoy discussing with my students (15 y/o) about many things but mostly I enjoy (or feeling obliged) discussing homosexuality. I get scared when I hear these kids discussing homosexuality. First I thought it is a religion thing and many of my students are either Muslims, Catholics or Christians and depending how hardcore religious they are, the more homophobia they show. But it’s not like that at all. It’s probably more likely to be the age and how mature they are. As a 15 year old boy you are almost expected to “hate gays” and most of my boys use the word “hate” when talking about gays. And it makes me very sad.

I believe as a teacher I have a huge task here. Even if most of them will grow up and start seeing life differently in a couple of years I believe we have to do our best to stop it.

How can I continue my work to prevent homophobia? Any thoughts?

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37 Answers

lilikoi's avatar

Education, plain and simple.

I think at that age, they are just using the words and not really comprehending the depth of its meaning. Why not show your class the movie Brokeback Mountain and incorporate it into a larger lesson plan? Or, I just read the book Zeitoun which was a biography about a Muslim man’s experience during and after Hurricane Katrina. He is not gay, but he is tolerant of them and the book touches on this a little while also exploring other issues like government corruption and deficiency and injustice in America.

jazzjeppe's avatar

@lilikoi Yes, indeed, education is vital, but I have a feeling it’s not enough. Somehow it’s about values they get from friends and family and I can teach them for weeks on how to respect people and I believe it would have little effect.

Nullo's avatar

First of all, recognize that a lot of what people call “homophobia” isn’t anything more than classic values being marginalized. Conservatives don’t necessarily hate or fear homosexuals.

If it helps you any, I was raised with the notion that gays weren’t to be hated. Everybody‘s got something wrong with them, after all, and being mean about it isn’t going to help anything.

I am reminded of a line from Mitch Hedberg’s comedy routine: “Alcoholism is a disease, but it’s like the only disease that you can get yelled at for having. “DAMMIT, OTTO, YOU’RE AN ALCOHOLIC.” “DAMMIT, OTTO, YOU HAVE LUPUS.” One of those two doesn’t sound right.”

life_after_2012's avatar

Keep in mind while you are trying to set a good example, these kids could have other adults telling them the exact opposite of what your telling them. If you really want to do this your probably not going to reach every kid, but one is enough because he/she may reach out to more of his/her peers and have better results then you. I think the gesture alone makes a big diffrence, but if i were going to combat homophobia i would point out that gay people deserve your respect like everyone else, but im no teacher, im just wishing you the best of luck and think that god will look out for you.

ucme's avatar

Bigotry in it’s many odious forms unfortunately has & always will be around in some form or another. The trick is to rise above ignorance & keep it where it belongs on the fringes of society in the minority.It is disturbing however to hear the very word gay used as a substitute for anything which is negative or derogatory as a matter of fact. Most of the kids of the age you state in your question where I live do this all the time eg “I’m not wearing that it’s gay” or “stop being gay” if someone’s being in their eyes, uncool.A sad indictment on hopefully as I say the minority of opinions.

Snarp's avatar

It’s interesting because everything I hear suggests that todays young people are far more accepting of homosexuality than my generation was/is. But there’s only so much you can do. I would have said something very much like those kids when I was their age. It was only exposure to homosexuals, working with them, spending time with them, and learning through experience that they were just like me that changed my mind. I think that young males especially, at that time of churning hormones, just don’t want to think about something that challenges their perception of what it is to be a man. I’m not wording that as well as I would like, but my main point is that you should definitely hold the line, but that only experience of homosexuals as human beings will change their minds.

SundayKittens's avatar

@jazzjeppe Yay for similar questions!!!!!!

lilikoi's avatar

@jazzjeppe Is it possible that they just don’t really understand what they are saying? When I was that age, all of my friends and I would say “oh, that’s so gay” purely out of routine. I was never homophobic and am actually a huge supporter of civil unions; to me it was just a common phrase to use because my vocabulary was so limited. It may be that they just need to mature a little to grow out of it….They need to learn how powerful words are and they need to learn tolerance.

You should watch this – you will not be disappointed.

SomNinja's avatar

You can’t.

It’s like racism – we will all harbour some opinion on it, and we need to embrace this and understand it rather than try and remove or ignore it.

A mistrust of anything new or unusual is natural and healthy. It’s the hatred of ignorance that we can combat through education and being totally open about it all.

Snarp's avatar

@Nullo I’m glad we’ve marginalized classic values like racism, slavery, and sexism and can’t wait until discrimination against homosexuals is similarly marginalized.

Trillian's avatar

I remember when I was 15 and knew everything.~ A harangue won’t change anybody’s mind. Maybe a more subtle approach. Let me think about it.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Well by being an informed person, you are already on your way to making a difference. You can always incorporate (though I don’t know what subject you teach) social justice concepts in your lessons (although be prepared for offended parents and general policing by your administrators).

Snarp's avatar

Are you in Sweden? I’m rather shocked to think of Swedish kids being more homophobic than American kids.

Nullo's avatar

FYI, those aren’t classic values.

JLeslie's avatar

@Snarp The OP teaches in Sweden at a school that is located in an area that has a high percentage of Moslems.

@jazzjeppe I think you just give the message of understanding and treating people equally, and I agree with the people above who said teenagers care about fitting in and throw around words. Not that it is ok, but it seems to be how it is, and I would guess it is seen even more in places where the subculture or religion frowns upon whatever topic is at hand whether it be homosexuality, virginity, living outside of wedlock, etc. I think even if children outwardly seem as though they are going along with the mainstream surrounding them, internally it makes a big difference that there are adults giving the message that it is ok. It will help them if they are gay themselves, and help them be understanding adults, even if they act like idiots when they are teens.

Snarp's avatar

@Nullo Odd then that they were values practiced in the United States right alongside discrimination against homosexuals throughout the entire existence of the country right up until the sixties. What makes discrimination against homosexuals a more classic value than discrimination against anyone else?

jazzjeppe's avatar

@lilikoi Thanks a bunch for that link! Will watch it in bed now on my pod :)

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

You can’t prevent people from thinking whatever they want, but if they express homophobic sentiments they should be confronted about it. In the US free speech is protected, but that just means that I have to match the hate-mongers word-for-word.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I would suggest contacting a national gay-rights group in your country and asking them for educational materials suitable for the age group you teach.

phoenyx's avatar

The term itself has always bothered me. The prefix “homo-” meaning same/like and “phobia” being “fear of”, so it should mean “the fear of people who are like me” when people are actually trying to describe intolerance. End rant, carry on.

Nullo's avatar

Yeah, and Hitler rode in cars just like you do.


Realistically and unfortunately, we can’t. As long as there are differences in sexual orientation among people, there will always be negative attitudes and homophobia. The same thing with racism and sexism. As long as people “look” different because of race, and as long as there are men and women, racism and sexism will always occur. Educating our young about the evils of homophobia would help prevent it to a degree, but when you try to be didactic about it and be politically correct about it, sometimes there is a backlash, an anti-movement to liberal thinking and practice. Unfortunately, it is human nature to go against what is “taught” to us.

Bugabear's avatar

Lead by example.

Arisztid's avatar

@Nullo I do appreciate the effort that you have made to not hate. However, in the following statement of yours lies a lot of the problem that contributes to homophobia:

Everybody‘s got something wrong with them, after all, and being mean about it isn’t going to help anything.”

That statement shows that, while you think homosexuality is a disorder, you choose to not hate.

The problem here is that, as long as people think there is something “wrong” with homosexuality, the attitudes still prevalent today are going to continue to pervade where the attitude lays.

This is along the lines of the beliefs held about various ethnicities. Various ethnicities were (and still are in places) “wrong” in being unable to hold a job, mentally inferior, criminally inclined, and more by the very fact of being born in that ethnicity. These attitudes pervaded the areas where they were held and, in many parts of the world, still do. They were, and in some areas still are, just “known” about the ethnicity in question. Some make excuses for them, not hating because nobody is perfect, while others hate balls to the wall and will use the perceived inferiorities as excuses for persecution from discrimination up to genocide itself.

Arisztid's avatar

Ok, to answer the question:

While it is not perfect and is going to take a long, long, long time, I believe education is the only chance there is of slowing the intolerance of homosexuality.

Understanding something is, to me, the best way to take away the fear/dislike/etc of the unknown. Education is the only way to dispel this fear.

Homosexuality used to be classified as an actual mental illness in the Bible of the mental health field… the DSM IV (the DSM III or II back then?). In the ‘70s, I think it was (please correct me if I am wrong), this classification was removed when the mental health field realized that homosexuality is not, indeed, a mental illness. This occurred because homosexuality was studied… the people in the forefront of that field continued to research and educate themselves.

I believe that education should come from any informed person. That can be myself, you (the generic “you”), an educator, a medical doctor, etc.

SeventhSense's avatar

I like stranger’s answer. Consistently meeting stereotypes with opposing viewpoints is key to changing sentiments. Just be aware with grade school kids they may do the opposite just to push your buttons so don’t get too despondent if they’re jerks. Boys are very self conscious and girls are giggly. Maybe find ways to introduce gay men/women in a context of a discussion on another topic. Brokeback Mountain- the images of cowboys in Montana, the death of Matthew Shepard and the tragedy of ignorance turned into hate.

Ria777's avatar

@jazzjeppe: Catholics or Christians

you mean Catholics and Protestants.

Ria777's avatar

@Arisztid: Homosexuality used to be classified as an actual mental illness in the Bible of the mental health field… the DSM IV (the DSM III or II back then?). In the ‘70s, I think it was (please correct me if I am wrong), this classification was removed when the mental health field realized that homosexuality is not, indeed, a mental illness.

it didn’t just happen. a group of gay men (or women as far as I know) made a concerted political effort to have homosexuality struck from the DSM. don’t get me started on my hatred for that evil book the DSM, though.

Ria777's avatar

first of all, I wouldn’t show Brokebank Mountain. they can always dismiss it (rightly) as “just a movie” and it might just bore them.

if you want to do Matthew Shepard use, as a bridge, a discussion on lynching. go from lynchings to him. they can’t wriggle out of it by saying “that’s different” then.

also, by the way, make sure to mention attacks on white people by black people because that happens too.

see for example:

take note of the fourth paragraph.

anyway, it helps to show what homophobia means in context, not just in isolation.

Ria777's avatar

in the post on the DSM above I meant “a group of gay men (no women as far as I know)”.

iphigeneia's avatar

What subject or subjects do you teach? I don’t know how you can specifically tackle the topic of homosexuality within the normal curriculum, but I’m sure you could positively influence your students by encouraging inclusive values.

If you choose to introduce the issue with a film or book, you would probably have greater success with a non-fiction, lesser-known text. This should ensure they approach the study with a more open mind, and may make it a more acceptable classroom discussion.

Ria777's avatar

What subject or subjects do you teach?

I wondered that too.

anyway, I would flat out not given reading assignments. they can ignore those. or they wouldn’t have sufficient literacy to appreciate it, let alone the motivation. (college students frequently can barely read or write. let alone 15 year olds.)

Snarp's avatar

@Nullo Well that’s a complete non-sequitur. The same arguments that are used to defend discrimination against homosexuals were used to defend discrimination against women and against African Americans. Racism can be, and was, seen as a value. Cars are not.

Nullo's avatar

Until you can conclusively demonstrate that there isn’t something disorderly about homosexuality, without trying to equate it to ethnicity (an unrelated concept), I’m gonna stick to my opinions.

I was pointing out a perceived logical fallacy on your part. Being able to use similar arguments, and having vaguely similar goals, does not make two cases the same.

Snarp's avatar

@Nullo I fail to see what logical fallacy I committed. Perhaps if you could name it and provide evidence for it, then I could understand your point. In the meantime, I shall restate.

You have justified discrimination against homosexuals as being a classic value. At least that’s how I perceive the statement: “a lot of what people call “homophobia” isn’t anything more than classic values being marginalized.”

I submit that other kinds of discrimination, such as against those with different skin color or against women are just as much classic values as discrimination against homosexuals. I can conceive of no case that can be made that racism and sexism were not societal values, not just fleetingly, but for centuries. Racism essentially from the moment of the first encounter between white and black people up to sometime in the Sixties (or later). Sexism from, well as far back at least as ancient Greece and in a continuous line from then until the Sixties (or later). It was considered disruptive to society to treat women or black people as the equals of white males. These were, without doubt, traditional values, and discrimination against homosexuals existed right alongside them.

The only argument I have heard that suggests that there is any difference between discrimination against homosexuals and discrimination against black people or women is that homosexuality is a behavioral choice not a natural born trait like gender or skin color. This argument is flawed because there is considerable evidence that homosexuality is a trait that an individual is born with, and the only real alternative to that is that it develops over time as the individual develops emotionally (nature vs. nurture). In either case, however, it seems highly unlikely that homosexuals make a simple choice to be gay. Gay is something they are, an innate part of them that they can no more choose than they can skin color or gender (perhaps even less so given the modern state of medical science). Discrimination against homosexuals, like discrimination against black people, Jews, women, Irishmen, Hispanics, Asians, Arabs, or any other ethnic or gender group you can think of is treating a human being entitled to less rights than other human beings on the basis of a characteristic that is part of who they are, that they did not choose, and that does not in any way impair their ability to do any job, be a loving parent or spouse, or be a good soldier. It is discrimination. It is no different from racial or gender discrimination, and like them it is a classic value that deserves to be marginalized.

Arisztid's avatar

@Nullo I could not care less if you think homosexuality is a disorder. I also know that you, with your reference to classic values, do not have any chance of changing your mind.

I was just pointing out how your attitude is one that supports homophobia.

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