Dealing with Homophobia as a Survivor

This article is part of our “Dealing with…” advice series, written by activists based on their own experiences.

As queer survivors, we know that we often face additional obstacles to pursuing justice both for our own cases and as organizers. Here are a few tips we’ve compiled to address homophobia as a survivor:

  • Rape takes many different forms. As a society we focus almost exclusively on heterosexual penile-vaginal nonconsensual penetration–but we know too well how limited a scope this is. Just because the rape that occurred may not be penis-vagina or penis-anus doesn’t mean it isn’t rape. Remember to validate your own feelings, and be prepared to push back on administrators or police who believe only penile-vaginal penetration counts as rape. Title IX is on your side, and don’t hesitate to cite it.
  • Talk about your sexuality exactly how and as much as you want. During your grievance hearings you may be asked to either keep quiet or ‘out’ yourself by others. In your activism, others may ask you to be the token queer and identify your sexuality publicly with a neat label, while at other times people may ask you to ‘play straight’ so as not to ‘distract’ from the issue. Do what you want to do. Don’t let anyone pressure you to identify or articulate that identification in a way you don’t want to.
  • Develop strategies for combating stereotypes. Many queer survivors face disbelief from friends, family, and administrators as a result of stereotyping. (E.g., Gay men want sex all the time, so how could you be raped? Your partner is femme, so how abusive could she really have been?) It’s not your job to lead people out of their bigotry but, in preparation for the times when you think the battle is worth fighting, develop some go-to responses that call attention to the baseless, generalizing stereotypes on which people are basing responses to your experience.
  • Remember that it’s never your fault that you were victimized. Queer people are targeted at a disproportionately high rate — that’s because of systemic bigotry and violent institutions, not because of you.
  • You cannot speak for all queer people. You will likely be tokenized in your activism by your allies or the media. That sucks. Reject that burden–it’s both too big a responsibility and reductive of you as a human.