Homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and acephobia are terms used to describe the fear or dislike or someone, based on prejudice or negative attitudes, beliefs or views about people who are or are perceived to be lesbian, gay, queer, trans, bi or asexual (ace)+.
This kind of behaviour can take many forms such as name-calling, derogatory jokes, intrusive or hostile questioning, threatening to ‘out’ someone, as well as unwanted physical contact and violence. It can happen verbally, in writing, in person or virtually (e.g. by email, messages, social media). Whatever form it takes, it is always unacceptable.
Below are just some example of what homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and acephobia might look like:
What might homophobia look like?
- ‘Joking’ that something (an action, an item, a person) perceived to be negative in some way is ‘gay’ (e.g. ‘that’s so gay’).
- Someone complementing another person of the same gender and then assuring them that ‘don’t worry, I’m not gay’, implying that that would be negative/bad.
- Assuming that someone is in a heterosexual relationship (e.g. asking a woman ‘so do you have a boyfriend/husband?’) is an example of a heteronormative stereotype.
- ‘Oh, you don’t look like you’re gay/a lesbian/bi/queer’ – this is based on damaging stereotypes about LGBTQA+ people, and wrongly implies you can ‘tell’ someone’s sexual orientation by their appearance.
- Suggesting LGBTQA+ people are sexually ‘deviant’ or dangerous based on or because of their sexual orientation or gender identity
What might transphobia look like?
- Misgendering someone deliberately or repeatedly (i.e. using the wrong name and/or pronouns to describe a person, referring to them using the wrong gender). For example, referring to a trans man as ‘she’, or refusing to use ‘they/them’ to refer to a non-binary person who has specified they use those pronouns.
- Refusing a trans person access to services or facilities appropriate to their gender identity (e.g. not letting a trans woman use a woman’s bathroom). This is also a form of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
- Suggesting that a trans woman/man is not a ‘real’ woman/man.
- Saying ‘oh you don’t look trans’ or ‘you can’t tell that you’re trans’ as though it is a compliment. This is based on the misconception that all transgender people are somehow visibly trans, or that all transgender people look the same. It is also implying that being trans is somehow shameful, and that the ultimate aim should be for a trans person to look ‘not trans’ and to conform to gender norms and expectations of beauty.
What might biphobia look like?
- ‘It’s just a phase’ – saying this dismisses and undermines someone’s experiences and/or feelings about their own sexuality and identity, which can be upsetting. Some people do feel that sexuality and gender is fluid, but this doesn’t make it ok to dismiss someone else’s sexual orientation as a ‘phase’.
- ‘You’re just greedy’ – this is a damaging stereotype.
- ‘You need to just make up your mind’ - this denies and undermines bisexuality as a valid sexual orientation.
- ‘You’re just ashamed/scared/embarrassed to say you’re gay or lesbian’.
- ‘You can’t really be bi/queer because you’ve only ever dated people of X gender’ or ‘you can’t really be bi because you have a girl/boyfriend’ – someone’s sexual orientation cannot be assumed based on who they’re dating. Relationship or sexual history or current relationship status shouldn’t be used as ‘proof’ of someone’s sexual orientation.
What might acephobia look like?
- ‘You are less than human and against human nature’ - this denies and undermines asexuality as a valid sexual orientation and can be extremely upsetting to the ace community.
- Suggesting that there is something ‘wrong’ with someone who identifies as ace - ‘You are deficient or broken’.
- ‘You are confused or going through a phase’ – saying this dismisses and undermines someone’s experiences and/or feelings about their own sexuality and identity, which can be upsetting.
- Saying that ‘you just haven’t met the right person yet’ - denies that asexuality is not a sexual orientation and that you need to be in a relationship with another person to be accepted.
- Espousing the belief that asexuality is a mental illness or is related to past trauma.