Phobias separate us, respect unites us

Phobias separate us, respect unites us

An intense and irrational fear of objects, situations or people is called a phobia. What are your phobias? To heights, to spiders, to darkness? Is it possible for people who do not follow the established canons about a man or a woman “should be” generating this type of reaction?

Do not forget that it is also called phobia of extreme hatred or rejection about something or someone, for example, xenophobia (hatred of a certain ethnic group) or Islamophobia (hatred of people who practices the Islamic religion). It is in this line where homophobia, transphobia and biphobia come into play.

Overcome hating

The phobia against those who are not heterosexual or who do not express their gender in a traditional way is originated from several factors. One of them is unknowledge (which we can also call ignorance). Whoever exercises homophobia most likely does not know someone homosexual closely, or so he believes so.

A second component of these phobias is fear and the third is prejudice. These two elements are closely linked, since the preconceived ideas of what a homosexual, lesbian, bisexual or trans person is often negative, and one starts from these assumptions to fear what “this type of people” can do.

How many times have you not heard that boys and girls could “learn” to be homosexual just by seeing people with these characteristics on the street? Sexual orientation is not something you choose or change.

Violence and discrimination

Yet homophobia, transphobia and biphobia do not stay in the private sphere, they nor are just problems between individuals. These are conflicts that consist in social dimensions and that seriously affect people of sexual diversity.

On the one hand, they result in discrimination against these groups, limiting, for example, their access to social security as a couple or their right to health services. For example, it is common for medical personnel in hospitals to refer to a trans woman by her (male) birth name, without any qualms about exposing her to other users.

Likewise, gay men are turned away when they try to donate blood. No matter how safely they engage in their sexual practices, the simple fact of declaring their sexual orientation excludes them.

The worst thing is that, since there is a social homophobia/transphobia/biphobia, these discriminatory acts are justified. Both public opinion and the justice authorities themselves have a hard time watching that the problem lies in rejecting someone simply for being who they are.

How do we change things?

On May 17, 1990, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Three decades later, there are still those who consider a different gender orientation or expression a justifiable cause for rejection.

If you grew up on these ideas, you don’t have to keep them even knowing that they affect people’s rights. To get rid of the burden of homophobia, at AHF we propose 5 simple steps:

Find out. It’s time to question what you think gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans are. Investigate! Today there are many reliable sources and more and more people are talking about their own life experience.

Do not prejudge. The word prejudice refers, as the word says, to establish a prior judgment. Review the idea you have of people of sexual diversity and then contrast it with the reality you find, either by researching or relating to these groups.

Question. Analyze the negative ideas that your family, school or society have transmitted to you about people of sexual diversity. Does his way of being really hurt you? Why would these people deserve less rights than the rest of all, regardless of their social status, skin color or state of health?

Respect. You may not feel affinity or appreciation for people of sexual diversity, but it is important to give them the respect we all deserve. Respect is not a concession, but to be convinced that we have the same rights and we must assert them.

Share. If there are many people around you who condemn diverse sexual orientations or gender identities, open up the conversation. There is no reason to fight, but you can invite others to ask you the same questions that you are asking yourself on this topic.

Remember that many groups in society that have made significant progress in their guarantees (such as women, indigenous peoples or Afro-descendants) were once totally excluded, and even they have not finished conquering all their rights. The path of the people of sexual diversity is still under construction.

AHF Latin America and the Caribbean offers services free of discrimination for all people, counseling for STIs, free HIV tests and linkage to treatment. Learn more at