Frequently Asked Questions
I don’t get all this gay stuff. It’s so confusing 😁
It doesn’t have to be. What do you want to know?
Why isn’t there a straight pride parade? Isn’t that heterophobia?
First, ask yourself...
- Can you hold your partner’s hand out in the world and not fear violence because of your sexual orientation?
- Can you use public bathrooms without worrying about being harassed or attacked because of your gender identity?
If the answer is yes, then you’re probably marching in the everyday straight and cis parade.
Once a year, LGBTQ communities get a couple of days where their love, culture and community get celebrated. But did you know that Pride started as a protest, not a parade?
- For many decades, the police regularly attacked LGBTQ people.
- Hate crimes against LGBTQ folks were common.
- Employers fired people from their jobs if they came out as LGBTQ.
- LGBTQ people were publicly shamed in the newspaper for their sexualities and gender identities.
Although these things don’t happen as often as they once did, oppression continues today in a variety of forms. LGBTQ people experience high rates of suicide, homelessness, bullying in school and more.
Heterophobia simply does not exist, because privilege does not go both ways. There is no such thing as reverse racism, reverse sexism, heterophobia, cisphobia or poor privilege because oppressed groups do not have institutional power.
Yes, LGBTQ people can be rude and even prejudiced towards straight or cis people, but LGBTQ people cannot oppress straight and cis people because LGBTQ folks don’t have the institutional backing to do so. For example, even though someone can call a straight person a nasty name, they won’t be able to get that person fired from their job for being straight.
Personally, I don’t see sexual orientation or gender identity. Everyone is the same to me. All we need is love!
A: It’s wonderful that you have so much love in your heart and that you believe everyone should be equal. Sadly though, society isn’t quite with you on that yet. Whether we want it to be true or not, inequality exists. Pretending that it doesn’t by saying “all we need is love” doesn’t make inequality go away, it just makes it harder to acknowledge.
When you deny any possible bias in yourself, your LGBTQ friends may feel like you are being dismissive. We need love, but mostly it’s your willingness to see and resist inequality that will make LGBTQ people feel respected. Also, even if you feel like you don’t discriminate, you probably have absorbed and internalized some homophobia, biphobia and transphobia from our society. This isn’t your fault! Even LGBTQ people have internalized these ideas because they’re everywhere.
A big part of allyship is trying to move away from dismissing homophobia, biphobia, or transphobia (e.g. “I’m not transphobic!”) and instead, trying to understand and work through it (e.g. “Transphobia exists in our culture and likely exists in me. How am I being transphobic without meaning to?”).
Having conversations about privilege makes me feel unsafe. Help?
It is hard to admit we’re not all on the same level playing field. Learning about injustice is difficult. It’s natural to feel sad and uncomfortable, but feeling these emotions is a necessary part of unlearning behaviours and attitudes that contribute to oppression.
The process of learning about how privilege and oppression work can make us feel small or self-protective. Giving up some privilege so power can be shared more equally can feel confusing or unfair. One way of thinking about it is like this: If you’re used to getting most of the pie all your life, it can hurt when someone takes a piece of it from you, even if you they still have less pie than you. It’s important to remember that the pie wasn’t evenly split to begin with, so you’ll have to give some up to make things equal, which might not feel great.
If it feels unsafe, unfair or confusing to have conversations about privilege, remind yourself that you’re getting a small dose of reality. It can be uncomfortable to be in the reality of the world, but it is not unsafe. What’s actually unsafe is oppression. And remember, LGBTQ people don’t have a choice about whether or not they experience oppression.
I’m not transphobic! So how come I can’t be proud of being straight? Am I supposed to feel ashamed and guilty because I’m not trans? I didn’t choose to be straight or cisgender.
It’s natural to feel defensive when you realize you are privileged. We’ve all been taught that good things happen because we work hard for them. Finding out you have advantages you didn’t earn can make you feel as though your effort isn’t being recognized. It can be easy to slide into feelings of guilt (“my behaviours suck”) or shame (“who I am sucks”) and then fall into a pit of guilty despair.
Remember that many of our privileges are part of the society we’re born into and are not our choice. That said, it is our responsibility to change inequality in our society. One way to do that is to understand the ways you may be unintentionally homophobic, biphobic or transphobic, and work to change these behaviours. You can also choose to be compassionate about others’ oppression and help to stop it, rather than being defensive about your role in it.
Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are over. There’s Toby’s law, same sex marriage and Laverne Cox. Why are we still having this conversation?
It’s awesome that there has been so much progress on LGBTQ recognition and rights. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. LGBTQ people experience high rates of suicide, homelessness, barriers to getting good quality health care, and bullying in school.
Remember privilege is about systems of power, not about those few individuals who are exceptions to the rule. It’s great Ellen DeGeneres is on TV and same-sex marriage is legal, but those wins don’t mean the fight is over.
Do trans people feel like they are in the wrong body?
Everyone is different. Some trans people feel like their bodies don’t reflect who they are inside, and like a lot of people, they may want to change how they look. When people see your body and think “that must be a man!” or “that must be a woman!” when that’s not who you are, it can feel really awful.
Some trans people feel that they were born in the wrong body. Others believe that this way of understanding being trans isn’t helpful because they don’t experience their bodies as wrong. For example, a trans man has a male body, regardless of his transition status. The issue isn’t that his body is wrong and needs to be changed, but that society needs to change its ideas of what a male body is.
Comic artist Sophie LaBelle says it best: “What do you mean “I have boy’s parts”? Are you talking about my penis? Because it’s mine and I’m a girl. So it’s a girl’s penis.”
Gender-affirming surgeries and hormone treatment can be super important for some trans people. Medically transitioning can allow the world to see their gender the way that it is, and ease their personal discomfort. However, many people can’t afford medical transition or don’t want hormones or surgery for health reasons or other reasons. Also, lots of trans people are happy with their bodies just the way they are.
What is the difference between gay and transgender?
Your sexual orientation (how you feel about other people) is totally different from your gender identity (how you feel about yourself). If you’re trans, you feel like the label of boy or girl you were assigned at birth doesn’t fit. But that doesn’t automatically mean anything about who you’re attracted to. Just like cis people, trans people can be gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, asexual, or any other sexual orientation.
Can you be religious and LGBTQ?
Absolutely! One thing that many religions have in common is they want people to love and care for others. There is a history of people using religion as a way to spread hate and discrimination, but there is also a long history of religious people identifying as LGBTQ, and of religious people supporting the LGBTQ community.
What bathrooms do trans people use?
Everybody should be able to use the bathroom where they feel most comfortable. For trans people, that is usually the bathroom of the gender they identify with. Most trans guys prefer to use the men’s washroom and most trans women prefer to use the women’s washroom. But not all trans people fit into the categories of men and women, and non-binary and gender non-conforming trans people need to pee too! Using a bathroom can be an uncomfortable experience when people think you don’t belong there, so some folks choose to use all gender washrooms when they’re available. Most of the time, we can assume people in a bathroom are in the right place.
When two gay guys date, does one of them act like the girl and the other like a guy?
Every relationship looks different. LGBTQ people take on different roles in relationships based on their skills and interests, like taking care of kids, paying bills or shopping. While some chores and activities are traditionally linked to men and others to women, that doesn’t mean the people doing those things identify that way.
Is it possible that an LGBTQ person is just experimenting or confused?
There are actually two Qs in the LGBTQ acronym, and they stand for queer and questioning. It’s totally possible that someone may be in the process of figuring out who they are in regard to their sexuality or gender. That’s why it’s so important to check what pronouns people prefer, not make assumptions about the gender of people’s crushes or dates, and keep the conversation open.
Unfortunately, parents, doctors, teachers and professionals can be dismissive about young people’s identities. The best approach is to assume the person knows themselves best.
Can you tell somebody is trans just by looking at them?
No. We’re all taught to think men and women should look a certain way. When someone is transgender and they’ve transitioned in ways you can’t tell, it’s called passing because people read them as cisgender. Surgeries and hormones can be really expensive or hard to access, so some trans people might not fit our ideas of how a man or a woman should look. And that’s okay. Some trans people don’t want to fit into society’s standards on how women and men should look, and others may choose not to medically transition for other reasons. Long story short: It’s best to not assume someone’s gender. All you need to know is how to respectfully address them not what’s in their pants or their medical history.
If somebody hasn’t had surgery, how can they be transgender?
Many surgical procedures in Canada are difficult to access, and this is especially true for gender affirming surgeries. Medical transition can be extremely expensive and the families and friends of trans people may not be supportive. Depending on where a person lives, there may be a limited number of doctors available who know how to or want to work with trans people. The bottom line is, it’s not trans people’s bodies that matter so much as how they feel. People are transgender because they know the gender they were assigned at birth didn’t feel right.
How do lesbians have sex?
Mouths, hands, toys and minds can be important in sex no matter who is involved. Sex definitely doesn’t need to have a penis and a vagina to be considered real sex! People of all different sexual orientations are really good at figuring out lots of creative and enjoyable ways to have sex, be intimate and feel good with one another. Lesbians included!
Do bisexual people want to date everyone?
It would probably be exhausting if being bisexual meant that you’re attracted to everyone you see! Being bisexual means you have the potential to be attracted to people of different genders. Just like a straight woman probably doesn’t want to date every man she meets, a bisexual person doesn’t want to date every person they meet.
Are LGBTQ people born that way?
It may be hard to imagine why somebody would choose to be LGBTQ when there’s so much stigma wrapped up with these identities. Sometimes the argument of being born this way helps people feel better because if it’s genetic, then it isn’t anyone’s fault. But being LGBTQ isn’t a fault, it’s wonderful!
Lots of LGBTQ people are proud of who they are, and love being part of the queer community—many wouldn’t choose to change even if they could!
Trans women were born boys, right?
Well, no. Trans writer Janet Mock says it best: “I was born a baby. Who was assigned male at birth. I did not identify or live my life as a boy. As soon as I had enough agency in my life to grow up, I became who I am.”
How is drag different from being a trans woman?
Drag is a performance, like acting in a play. When they’re off stage, most drag queens identify as male. Being trans is who someone is in real life, so trans women identify as women. The only thing that drag queens and trans women have in common is that they were assigned male at birth. But it doesn’t matter how someone was assigned at birth, what matters is how they identify now.
Ouch that hurts
How is saying “that’s so gay,” homophobic? Isn’t that just how everyone talks?
Even if you have good intentions, it’s still homophobic to say “that’s so gay” when you mean something is weird, bad, wrong or ugly. When LGBTQ people hear you use this expression, they assume you’re not a safe person to be around.
What about freedom of speech? Social justice warriors can be too sensitive, and take all of this language stuff way too seriously.
It’s pretty hard to be chill when you’re experiencing daily instances of homophobia, transphobia or biphobia. Being asked to change your language is a lot easier than being an LGBTQ person in this world. Also, LGBTQ lives and experiences aren’t just playing politics. LGBTQ people experience very real violence and exclusion, and it feels really horrible when these experiences are reduced to debate points in a theoretical argument.
Check out this video about how constant microaggressions can make many of us less chill than we would like.
What about self love? Trans people are oversensitive about transphobia and microaggressions and just need to love themselves more. They have to forget about what other people say.
Transphobia is overwhelming and has a huge negative impact on trans people. Feeling depressed, hurt and angry are reasonable responses to an onslaught of hatred or violence. When cis people tell trans people to smile or be more positive in the face of violence, they imply it’s the trans person’s fault for experiencing violence.
It’s pretty hard to love yourself when most of the world tells you you’re not lovable. The truth is that trans people are doing an amazing job of thriving in a world that is hostile towards them. How can you help?
All aboard the allyship
Is it wrong to think two girls making out is hot?
Wrong is a strong word. But remember that queer women aren’t together for the benefit of other people. Its okay to think something they may do is attractive, but it’s not okay to harass or sexualize anyone who is just trying to live their life.
Supporting a friend in coming out
My friend didn’t tell me they were gay and I feel betrayed. Is it okay to be angry?
If you feel like you are the last to know, it’s normal and okay to feel hurt or disappointed. But there are many reasons why somebody might not be ready to come out. Coming out can be a big deal and a scary decision.
Some time after they have come out to you, you may want to ask what stopped them from telling you sooner. It may have nothing to do with you at all—maybe they wanted to be totally sure before letting you know, or maybe they wanted to wait until they were comfortable telling everyone at once and not just a few people at a time.
Your friend may not have told you right away because they were afraid it might change your relationship, that you might like them less, or that you might not accept them at all. LGBTQ people have to work hard to feel safe from stigma and bullying. As an ally, it’s important to empathize with why it might be scary for a friend to come out to people, including you.