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In Everyday Life

How are homosexual, bisexual, transgender, or intersex people talked about? What kind of language is used to define or degrade them? At school, in college or university, at work, with friends or family, or even on the street, a respectful treatment of others is unfortunately not yet a matter of course.

So, what can you do?

Listen, pay attention and react to discrimination, no matter if it is done unconsciously or ignorantly, or if it is excused with "It's just something you say!" or "I didn't mean anything by it!" Discrimination is nothing trivial: It's careless misanthropy aimed at whole groups of people.

● Wear a rainbow button on your jacket or backpack or put stickers in visible places.

● Include queer people whenever you're talking about relationships - no matter with whom!

● Make it clear in conversations that people who define themselves as homosexual, bisexual, trans*, intersex or queer are welcome with you and can count on your support.

● Encourage others to confide in you if they need someone to listen to them.

Create a "safe space"

Treating sexual orientation and gender identity with openness and respect creates visibility and positive attitudes. People are more likely to open up if they are made to feel safe and confident. An environment where this is possible is called a "safe space".

What can you do to create a "safe space"

● Generally assume that there is at least one person in the group who is homo- or bisexual, trans*, intersex or queer, thus being on the spectrum outside heteronormativity. So when talking about topics like having a crush, also consider and mention the possibility of it being on someone of one's own gender.

● Use examples with queer people and ways of life in workshops and games and treat them as equally.

● Make materials and information available by, for example, putting out the QueerExchange flyers or putting up our poster "Where do you want to go?". You can also wear a button or put up stickers.

● If you are unsure about something, feel free to direct people to us at QueerExchange.

Putting these steps into action will create a safe(r) space for people to open up to someone, maybe for the first time, knowing that the reaction will be welcoming and appreciative.

What can I do in the conversation?

● Express joy about the willingness and courage to open up and talk.

● Listen actively and emphatically and show your acceptance.

● Ask what would be helpful and if support is needed without assuming that your counter-part necessarily needs help.

● Remember these sensitive conversations always are and remain confidential.

Handling discriminatory behaviour within groups

Unfortunately, discriminatory behaviour and derogatory comments are omnipresent and should not be tolerated by any means because they trivialize stigmatization. Sometimes, they are voiced consciously and offensively ("That's so gay!"), involving direct verbal attacks or even threatening physical violence. Much more frequent, though, are cases of unconscious, socially tolerated and acquired discrimination. This is usually a case of micro-aggressions like the use of terms like "gay", "dike", "tranny", or "faggot" in a derogatory manner, thus insulting e.g. same-gender loving people directly. A similar case of such 'group-focused enmity' (GFE) exists with the term "retarded", for example.

How can you react in discriminatory situations?

● If you notice discriminatory comments or derogatory behaviour, you should address it and controvert it. Don't hesitate to address prejudices directly and question them with regards to content. You can also point out that intercultural exchange includes curiousness and respect for many kinds of diversity - skin color, religion, social background, and sexual and gender identity.

● If a group member uses stereotypes in comments (e.g. "These shoes look so gay!" when talking about pink shoes), you can question these stereotypes in a conversation. You can draw from concrete experiences: Do people in the group e.g. have homosexual relatives or friends? Do they all dress in pink? Why do they associate pink with "gay"? And what do these associations tell about prejudices against queer people?

● If a member of the group uses terms like "gay", "lesbian" etc. as a synonym for something bad, you can explicitly address this and try to find other adjectives together that describe what is actually meant to be said and doesn't discriminate against other people.