We all know the world needs more compassion and kindness. We can all agree with the basic belief that everyone deserves to be accepted and loved for who they are inside. Kindness is not something that should be based on a colour, gender or sexual orientation. But sometimes our own biases can stand in the way of this becoming a reality.
One group of people who experience bias and prejudice are the LGBTQ* community. There has been a significant rise in the level of personal attacks the members of this community have had to endure recently. We think this is wrong, and we started to wonder what we could be doing about this growing level of discrimination towards people based on their sexual orientation. Like most changes, we know the change has to start with us.
Why are we so biased?
No one is born prejudiced or with a bias towards one group or another. Instead, these are patterns we are taught from a young age. From birth, we are inundated with messages about different types of people. We learn stereotypes and bias without even realising it. The LGBTQ community experience these subtle biases everywhere – anti-gay jokes, biased language and homophobic slurs such as “faggot” or “dyke”. They also experience outright discrimination – calling someone a derogatory name based on their sexual orientation, harassment and even physical assault.
These biases, subtle and overt, have the power to hurt and isolate people. Therefore we believe it is essential to identify any biases we are holding and challenge them. A compassionate, kind and inclusive world is one we need to build without bias.
Identifying our Biases
The following questions were created to highlight subtle biases that may exist in our thinking, especially when it comes to the LGBTQ community. See if you can identify any surprising biases you hold.
- If someone were to come out to you as LGBTQ, what would your first thought be?
- How would you feel if your child came out to you as LGBTQ? How would you feel if your mother, father or sibling came out to you as LGBTQ?
- Would you go to a physician whom you thought was LGBTQ if they were of a different gender than you? What if they were the same gender as you?
- Have you ever been to an LGBTQ event? Why or why not?
- Have you ever laughed at or made a joke at the expense of LGBTQ people?
- Have you ever stood up for an LGBTQ person being harassed? Why or why not?
- If you do not identify as LGBTQ, how would you feel if people thought you were LGBTQ?
(questions sourced from Glsen.org)
Changing our Biases
The first step in change is recognizing the need to change. Likewise, in identifying biases we have held, we can see how these might have influenced our actions towards others. The more aware we are, the easier it is to ensure bias is not undermining the kindness we want to show, to everyone.
Kindness, inclusion and compassion are the keys to changing the world. And, remember even the smallest act of caring and compassion can send out ripples that reverberate through our communities. What will your act of kindness be today?
* LGBT or LGBTQ: An umbrella term referring to people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender. Sometimes the acronym is written as LGBTQ, with the “Q” referring to those who identify as queer and/or questioning. The acronym can also include additional letters, in reference to other identities that do not conform to dominant societal norms around sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.