Before I Can Help To Combat Homophobia, I Must First Understand It

Before I Can Help To Combat Homophobia, I Must First Understand How It Affects Those Who Experience It Firsthand

"It's sad. It's 2019, and we're still afraid."

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There's an implicit understanding established when someone discloses an aspect of their sexuality to you. Or, at least, there should be.

That's why, when asked who of a group had boyfriends, I awkwardly glanced toward my roommate when she didn't raise an indicating hand and gave a knowing smirk as if to denounce it as an overly assuming question. In hindsight, it wouldn't hurt to be a bit more careful so as to never even hint at personal information that does not belong to me, even in the subtlest of ways.

However, this somewhat trivial situation was pretty much replicated for her in a much more saddening context. This summer, we've taken seasonal jobs in a far southern and presumably more conservative location than either of us has ever been before. Though we share a wall, we share the rest of our housing with two other suite mates.

Having been thrown into a foreign city with two already well-acquainted strangers, the two of us have been fortunate enough to be in the presence of such welcoming, kind people in both our newly introduced professional world and living arrangement for the next three months.

But, upon entering our temporary home for the first time and seeing religious decor framed and plastered across the common area walls and situated on its end tables, she immediately started to panic. And, when what seemed like the inevitable question about "a boyfriend back home" arrived, she gave an honest answer, though also lying by omission.

She was raised in a religious home. Attended an all-girls Catholic school, which instilled her hesitation to come out to any of her childhood friends in expectation of them asking if she ever had a crush on any of them. Religion has never been a problem for her. It's fear.

Of course, of these close friends that she's shared this part of her life with, she's had nothing but unconditional love. Unfortunately, this response hasn't been matched by every person in her life.

Growing up in the northern United States, she noticed that even those not like-minded never really brought any attention to queerness. It wasn't until an encounter with a good friend in her college's Baptist community center that sparked any discomfort with being her true self. While discussing progressive issues over gay rights, her completely unaware companion stated, "I don't hate them, but they're going to hell." From that moment on, she put up a wall of defense. Any anxiety induced by these types of claims has only been validated, exacerbated, and further manifested by the prejudice that often accompanies them.

Don't get me wrong, as a straight, white woman, I have observed from an acknowledged position of privilege that this is not the case with everyone everywhere. In fact, these beliefs don't seem to be as widely held as they used to be. We've progressed so much as a society in terms of these kinds of stances, but the few voices that still oppose only seem to get louder to those that are targeted.

Even as an ally, I'm afraid. I can't imagine what it must be like to not be able to discuss something so close to my heart with my own mother. Withhold any information about my significant other because of specific time and place.

I can't imagine where to go from here. But, I absolutely must if I ever want to make our world safe enough for those who have no needing for imagining.

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9 Queer Pride Flags That You Probably Didn't Know About

The rainbow flag is certainly the most recognizable, but it isn't the only Pride Flag there is.
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It's Pride Month yet again and fellow members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies are celebrating. Normally around this time of year, we expect to see that all-too-familiar rainbow colored flag waving through the air, hanging from windows and sported on clothing of all types. Even when not strictly a flag, the colors of the rainbow are often displayed when showing support of the larger queer community. But what many people do not realize is that there are many, many pride flags for orientations of all kinds, so Natasha and I (Alana Stern) have created this handy guide to some others that you may not yet be familiar with:

1. L is for Lesbian and G is for Gay

The most recognizable letters of the entire acronym, L (Lesbian) and G (Gay), represent the homosexual people of the LGBTQ+ community. Homosexuality is defined as being exclusively sexually attracted to members of the same sex. Again, although the rainbow Pride flag is easily the most iconic and recognizable, there is a Lesbian Pride Flag as well. Specifically for "Lipstick Lesbians," this flag was made to represent homosexual women who have a more feminine gender expression. Here are the Lesbian Pride Flag (left) and Gay Pride Flag with the meaning of each stripe (right).



2. B is for Bisexual

Bisexuality is defined as the romantic and/or sexual attraction towards both males and females. They often go unacknowledged by people who believe that they cannot possibly feel an attraction for both sexes and have been called greedy or shamed in many ways for being who they are, but not this month. This month we recognize everyone and their right to love. Here is the flag and symbol that represents the big B!


3. T is for Transgender (Umbrella)

Gender identities are just as diverse as sexual orientations. Transgender people are people whose gender does not necessarily fall in line with their biological sex. That is to say, someone who is born male may not feel that calling oneself a man is the best way to describe who they are as a person; the same can go for someone who is born female or intersex (we'll get to that in a bit). Someone born female may feel that they prefer to be referred to as a man. Someone born male may feel that they don't mind being referred to as either a man or a woman. And someone may feel that neither term really fits. Identities can range from having no gender, to multiple genders, to having a gender that falls outside of the typical gender binary of man/woman, to anything in between. The colors of the flag are blue (the traditional color for boys), pink (the traditional color for girls) and white (to represent those who are intersex, transitioning, or have a gender that is undefined).


Okay! Here's where we get into the lesser-known letters of the acronym. You may have heard of some of these before but didn't quite know what they meant or how they fit into the larger queer community, or you may not have heard of them at all. Either way, we'll do our best to explain them!

4. I is for Intersex

Intersex people are people who are have a mix of characteristics (whether sexual, physical, strictly genetic or some combination thereof) that would classify them as both a male and a female. This can include but is not limited to having both XX and XY chromosomes, having neither, being born with genitalia that does not fit within the usual guidelines for determining sex and appearing as one sex on the outside but another internally. It is possible for intersex people to display the characteristics from birth, but many can go years without realizing it until examining themselves further later in life. Here is an older version of the intersex flag which utilizes purple, white, blue and pink (left) and a more recent one that puts an emphasis on more gender-neutral colors, purple and yellow (right).


5. A is for Aro-Ace Spectrum

The A in the acronym is usually only defined as Asexual, which is a term used to describe people who experience a lack of sexual attraction to any sex, gender, or otherwise. People who are asexual can still engage in healthy romantic relationships, they just don't always feel the need or have the desire to have sex and are not physically attracted to other people. If that's confusing, think of it this way: you are attracted women, but not men. You may see a man and think, "He's kind of cute" or "That's a pretty good-looking guy," but you still would not feel any desire towards that person, because that's not what you're into. Asexual people generally feel that way about everyone. That's the "Ace" half of "Aro-Ace."

"Aro," or Aromantic, is a term used to describe people who do not experience romantic attraction. Aromantic people still have healthy platonic relationships, but have no inclination towards romantic love. The reason Asexual and Aromantic are together is because they are very heavily entwined and oftentimes can overlap. Underneath that spectrum are also other variations of asexuality (including but not limited to people who still feel as though they are asexual but experience sexual attraction in very rare circumstances, or only after they have a romantic connection) and aromanticism (including but not limited to people who still feel as though they are aromantic but experience romantic attraction in very rare circumstances).

Below are two versions of the Aromantic Pride Flag (top and middle) and the Asexual Pride Flag (bottom).





6. P and O are for Panseuxal and Omnisexual

Pansexual and omnisexual people are not limited by gender preferences. They are capable of loving someone for who they are and being sexually attracted to people despite what gender their partner identifies as. The word pansexual comes from the Greek prefix "pan-", meaning all. Pansexuals or Omnisexuals will probably settle for whoever wins their heart regardless of that persons gender.


7. But what about the Q?!

The Q can be said to stand for Queer or Questioning, or both. "Queer" is more of a blanket term for people who belong to the LGBTQ+ community or who identify as something other than heterosexual or cisgender (a term that has come to describe people who feel that their gender does fall in line with their biological sex; i.e. someone born male feels that he is a man). It is also possible for someone to identify as queer, but avoid using it to refer to specific people unless you know they are okay with it; some people still consider it insulting. Questioning means exactly what it sounds like: it gives a nod to those who are unsure about their sexuality and/or gender identity or who are currently in the process of exploring it.

There's no one flag specifically for the letter Q, as all of the above sexualities and identities technically fall underneath this term.


This list is hardly comprehensive and there are a number of other flags, orientations and identities to explore. Pride Month is still going strong, and there's always more to learn about the ever-changing nature of sexuality as a whole and the way we understand it. It's a time for celebration, but also a time to educate and spread the word.

For a more in-depth description of different types of attraction and how they work, click here.

For more complete lists of gender identities throughout history, click here or here.

For a general list of commonly used words in the LGBTQ+ community and their definitions, click here.


Now go grab a flag and fly it high--you've got a ton to choose from!

Cover Image Credit: 6rang

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Pride Month And People’s Sexual Identity Are Not Marketing Ploys For Corporations To Pillage

What is feeding into these limited-edition rainbow products actually doing to help the LGBTQ+ community?

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You may have heard of pink or even green capitalism, but now, meet rainbow capitalism: the latest ploy from corporations to make you believe that they care about your cause!

Perhaps it was inevitable. As support for the LGBTQ+ community grew to the majority being in public support, corporations jumped at the opportunity to sink their claws into the movement for their own economic gains. It appears in the form of Adidas's "pride pack" rainbow merchandise, despite being one of the biggest sponsors in this year's World Cup in Russia, a country whose anti-LGBT laws make being apart of the community a dangerous thing.

It appears in companies changing their logos to that of rainbow colors, without actually doing literally anything to contribute to the LGBT+ community. It appears in the slacktivism of "allies" purchasing a rainbow product and feeling as though they have contributed to the cause.

To give context, Pride Month was created in honor of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, headed by LGBTQ people, predominantly of color, including black trans women Marsha P. Johnson, after being silenced by the police all throughout history. It garnered attention to the LGBTQ+ fight for equality by taking a step further than the polite and resigned protests.

So then why is our current Pride Month being defined by just that: movements for equality that are polite and resigned?

Here's the truth you may not want to hear: buying a 'love is love' mug or posting a picture of your rainbow Ikea bag is not really supporting the LGBTQ+ community. Sorry, not sorry.

Corporations are thriving off of people's willingness to accept the most minimal efforts as support. What is feeding into these limited-edition rainbow products actually doing to help the LGBTQ+ community? In most cases, nothing but exploiting the very real and very serious battle for equality to love who you want to. Even though the LGBTQ+ symbol of a rainbow can be found nearly everywhere during the month of June, its current use by corporations only works to silence the actual hardships and meanings behind the movement and its activists.

To mend this loss of focus is to raise awareness. Continue to educate yourself and other people on the real reasons for Pride, and the real reasons why companies may be using these symbols. Investigate the companies that you want to purchase LGBTQ+ products from: Are they donating to LGBTQ+ causes? Have they ever actively donated to anti-LGBTQ or other humanitarian causes? Are they only vocal when it comes to the month of June, and silent on anything gay-related after?

Pride Month was designed not only to celebrate the braveness of those LGBTQ+ activists who have come before us, but each and every single member of the community who continues to fight for equality. When corporations minimize that down to a rainbow-colored bottle of mouthwash, ask yourself: Are they supporting for the right reasons? Or is it just another contribution to the silencing of the LGBTQ+ community?

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