"Discrimination is the absence of understanding." - JJH
Everybody knows they exist. In fact, they're the single biggest reason that many of us don't let our absolute selves show in public. It makes sense, though, doesn't it? Homophobia -- the fear of gays and lesbians -- is exactly the thing that gays and many straights would like to eliminate. Since we all know that it hasn't died out yet, here are some excellent tips that will help you combat homophobia and the homophobes that dish out the verbal daggers.
The very, very important thing to do is practice for homophobic encounters. Say your lines in front of a mirror. Plan out what you're going to do if somebody screams "faggot!" at you or asks if you're gay in a very demeaning way. Practice it. Don't let them catch you off guard. That's what they want. They want to try and shame you and embarrass you. If you're ready for the encounter, they won't be able to do that.
Now, getting the lines down is an important part. I have a few favorite lines of my own that I happen to like a lot. When somebody calls you a derogatory name like a faggot or a diesel dyke or a fudge packer (or whatever all those stupid terms are!) there are a few ways of handling it. My favorite is just saying, "Damn right!" and then smiling. It takes the power of abuse away from them. You've just nullified their power. If you're feeling particularly brave you can always say, "Takes one to know one!" Another more tame one that I used on a hot-shot guy from my biology class when he asked me if I was a "gaylord" (welcome to third grade, ladies and gentlemen!) I said, "Don't look now, David, but your immaturity is showing." Those are just ideas. But seriously, take a piece of paper and come up with a bunch. Remember the easy and punchy ones. They ARE your defense as a human being.
Another dreaded question is the famous, "Are you gay?" Now, we're assuming that his person you're dealing with isn't a friend of yours. They might be a distant acquaintance, or maybe that kid that sits next to you in your second hour class, or some wise guy that comes to find you in the cafeteria. You need to smile and politely ask, "Are you?" This can generate a few responses. Often it's serious embarrassment. If they say, "no" then ask them why it would make any difference one way or the other. If they say that they're just curious and it won't make a difference one way or another just say, "Well, I'm glad to hear it. Then we don't even need to discuss it, do we?" This is where you smile a pearly white grin again and gracefully get out of the situation right away. Always keep control of the situation, and the second you lose the control, leave. Period. Just know that you're right and they're wrong. Another helpful hint: they like to ask you if you're just going through a phase. When they ask you that say sweetly, "Are you going through a phase?" Always utilize the power of switching the focus from you to them.
Many young gays and lesbians fear violence and verbal abuse. As far as violence goes, I recommend that you get yourself into a self defense course ASAP. For one, it builds self confidence BIG TIME. Second, it's great exercise. And third, if you should sadly come into a situation where you need to defend yourself, you'll be able to. Being able to take care of yourself is very rewarding. I entered a kickboxing class at my local YMCA and I've been addicted to it ever since. I feel much safer now. I learned how to deal with the verbal abuse (which is very sparse for me, but I'm ready for it!) and now I feel better.
It's not easy being gay and growing up, but as long as we don't really have any other choice than being who we are, let's make the best of it. We have every right to be just as much ourselves as everybody else does.
Hey, do me a favor, will you? Take care of yourself. And think about what I said about protecting yourself. You deserve it.