Queeries: Question 4

Queeries: Question 4

Welcome to Queeries, the Gender and Sexuality Minorities Affinity Group’s (GSM) public question-answering forum. If you have a question you’d like to ask the members of GSM regarding queer life, terminology, or anything else, we’d love to answer it.

Queery #4: “A close friend of mine keeps making jokes (I think they are at least) about how he’s scared to be around a gay kid in our grade because he thinks he’ll get HIV. He’s just super homophobic in general. It really bothers me because I have a younger cousin who recently came out (who I love very much). Confrontation is hard for me, so what should I do?”

First and foremost, we at GSM thank you for being an ally in recognizing this behavior and letting us know so we can try our best to educate the members of our community. 

Secondly, our group brainstormed solutions for how non-confrontational allies can subtly confront people like this in the future. Here’s a list of helpful tips/reminders from your very own GSM:

  1. You could think of this as a teachable moment. Maybe see if they’re joking by asking “Are you serious?” or “What do you mean by that?” It’s possible that your friend is uneducated about HIV and genuinely worries that they could contract this disease from a gay student. If you think this is the case, we’d recommend informing them on the basics of this disease. If your friend’s comments come from ignorance, then a bit of education would put an end to it:
    1. HIV is a universal disease, not specifically a “gay disease”.
    2. HIV is not like the flu or a cold– it’s only transmissible through certain bodily fluids. You can be near a person with HIV, talk to them, and shake their hand with absolutely no risk of contracting it. 
  2. Because they’re your close friend, you can have a heart to heart chat (if you’re comfortable) and explain why your friend’s comments bother you. You’re allowed to tell your friend how you feel! Homophobia often stems from a misunderstanding or another underlying insecurity, so you could try and bring that into your conversation. Ask them– “Why did you say that? To be edgy? Is it a different issue?”, that sort of thing. Insecure people often make jokes at the expense of others to feel better about themselves. Your friend might need a shoulder to lean on, and you can show them that you care about them without reaffirming their problematic jokes. 
  1. This option is a bit more confrontational, but you can try directly telling your friend that what they’re saying is not okay because it reinforces and spreads stereotypes about the LGBTQ+ community. Gay jokes, like any other “joke” about marginalized communities, disregard our struggles. A little bit of constructive criticism on your behalf can completely change how your friend treats gay people in the future. Maybe your friend thinks that making these comments makes them cooler– if so, having someone say directly that that’s not the case might be the end of it. 
  1. This is the most extreme option, but if you’ve tried having this conversation with your friend and it just isn’t getting through, you might consider reevaluating the friendship altogether. If these insensitive, misinformed “jokes” are affecting you negatively so much so that it takes a toll on you mentally/emotionally, then distancing from this person is the best option. And if their homophobic tendencies continue threatening the wellbeing of others, consider reporting their behavior to a dean or other authority figure.

Thank you so much for this question!! It was really fun to answer and sparked a meaningful conversation in our group. Hope we helped with your situation 🙂

GSM encourages members of our community to ask us any questions they have about the queer community or even questions they have about their own gender and/or sexuality. If you want to submit a Queery to Queeries, submit via email to [email protected]. We’ll answer them together next time we have a meeting. We meet in room 422 during Affinity block on Day 3 (or, nowadays, we have Zoom meetings during this time– email [email protected] or [email protected] if you’d like to be notified about these meetings!) 

Our meetings are always open, so come visit if you’re interested. 

Yours queerly, GSM