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How Allies Should Respond to LGBTQ Harassment

1 in 10 non-LGBTQ students have been physically harassed or assaulted because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. 58% of non-LGBTQ students also report being upset by homophobic comments.

-Egale Canada Human Rights Trust, 2011

Want to be an ally but not sure what to do when you witness hurtful or offensive comments, jokes, or behaviour? Here are some ideas on how to respond.

 Tips for Responding:

  • Identify the problem. Is it in behaviour, language, or attitude?
  • Focus on the impact. It’s not about what someone “meant” to do, it’s about the effects it had on other people.
  • Avoid character judgements. It’s about behaviour, not about whether or not someone is a “good” or “bad” person.
  • Keep cool. Use a non-judgemental tone and facial expression.

Direct Responses

  • Clarify what you heard. “I think I hear you saying that all ____are       ___. Is that what you mean?
  • Ask for more information. “What do you mean?”; “I’m not sure I understand, can you explain?”; “How did you develop that belief?”; “What’s so funny?”
  • Appeal to common values and/or the principles that guide your organization or environment. “At our school, we learn to treat others with respect. I think that statement is disrespectful.”; “In this organization, we don’t talk about other people that way.”
  • Refer to your own journey. “That was my first reaction too, but then I realized…” or “I used to think the same thing, then I started to question why I thought/felt that way.”
  • Address the behaviour. “It is not okay to stereotype people”; “That comment is transphobic, here’s why…”
  • Explain the impact. “Your comment is hurtful to myself and others.”

Indirect Responses

  • Use non-verbal signals. Give a questioning glance, change the subject, or leave.
  • Repeat the statement without the discriminatory language. Someone says “My day has been so crazy.” You respond “Did you mean to say your day has been hectic?”