It is our responsibility to acknowledge our biases against gay people, to educate ourselves about the things we don’t know, to unlearn the myths surrounding homosexuality and fight internalised homophobia, says the author*.
It is easy for us to look at people belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community and immediately use our minds to draw opinions of what and who we think they are. We tend to forget that biases and preconceived notions are intolerable and destructive. It reduces our ability to objectively think and analyze people and situations with nuance.
I grew up in a strict Catholic and conservative Ugandan Family, and was well-grounded in the cultural and religious values and teachings. Throughout my upbringing, I was taught homophobic beliefs.
The schools I went to further exacerbated my animosity towards gay people – movies/stories about homosexuality were frequently shown and sometimes, ‘ex-gays’ were brought in to give us inspirational talks. Many told us stories of how young girls and boys were paid and allured into becoming gay. I must admit, most of these stories were meant to make us more detestable & intolerable to the gay community. I was quick to believe every toxic story and opinions we were told, I was very intolerant of the queer community.
From time to time, my guilty consciousness caught up with me. I felt the pain of being judged and treated as an outcast by people who don’t know the truth about HIV or the challenges people living with HIV like myself have to endure each day. Surprisingly, that’s the kind of culture we often take pride in. The narrative that “If the majority hate it – don’t question, why! They are probably right; all you have to do is join the bandwagon” is selfish and toxic, and gets rid of one’s independent objective judgement.
Unlearning homophobic values
I have come to learn over a period of self-reflection that my past animosity towards the gay community were based on what I was taught to believe and what I had learned myself to believe.”
I remember the many times my curiosity pushed me into questioning people to validate the myths surrounding homosexuality and to my surprise – many validations were irrational and subjective – not different from what we continuously hear. It is important to note that our backgrounds and surroundings play an important role in influencing our judgement and perceptions towards people and situations that may seem “different” or “unique”. And usually if we limit ourselves from unlearning the values that our backgrounds taught us to honor, we may end up unintentionally excluding people that identify as “different” from what we were taught is normal and acceptable.
Initiating new conversations
It’s easy to judge the LGBTQIA+ community and much harder to recognize and appreciate the differences and uniqueness we hold. Sometimes we are hesitant to initiate deeper conversations that may evoke guilty emotions and cause us to question why we hold such undesirable animosity because once we do, we will be nudged to understand and appreciate homosexuality and the gay community.
I want you to always remember; we are all humans worthy of both love and kindness. I strongly believe that if we all take action to transform our thoughts and ourselves, we will be able to reduce injustice, intolerances and hatred towards the LGBTQ community.”