How to Deal With Homophobic Friends: 10 Tips on What to Do If Your Friends Are Prejudiced Against Gay People

Updated on December 27, 2017
thehands profile image

Jorge is a bisexual guy who has mentored other LGBT people over the years. He likes to share his experience with others.

Are some of your friends likely to be bothered by this image because of their homophobia? Well, the joke is on them. These guys are probably just buddies...probably.
Are some of your friends likely to be bothered by this image because of their homophobia? Well, the joke is on them. These guys are probably just buddies...probably.

What to Do When You Have Homophobic Friends

Do you have homophobic friends who seem completely ignorant about how prejudiced and irrational their ideas are?

Perhaps you're thinking of coming out as gay or bisexual, and you're afraid that they could judge you. Or maybe you're not gay at all, but you're just a reasonable person who is concerned that your friends are a bunch of homophobic ignoramuses.

What do you do? How can you approach homophobic friends about their obvious biases?

Well, it's not always easy. The most important thing is to remain calm and try to view the situation as objectively as possible. Try not to get your emotions involved and follow some of the tips below:

1) Determine the Degree of Homophobia First

Some people these days treat homophobia (and many other kinds of prejudice) as a cardinal sin. They don't see any differences in degree, and basically consider someone who makes an off-colored joke about gay people to be just as "guilty" as someone who irrationally hates all LGBT people with a fiery passion.

This is a terrible mindset to have. It's the mindset of a crazy religion.

The truth is that someone who occasionally uses gay slurs in a joking context--as distasteful as that may be to you--is worlds different from someone who actually has hatred in their soul.

The first kind of personal is pretty much harmless, if impolite. The second kind of person often actively works to reduce human rights or even may physically harm an LGBT person.

So before you judge your friends, examine the degree of homophobia.

Do your homophobic friends just make dumb locker room jokes because that is what they were taught? Do they just have a mild dislike of gay people because they see them as "other" and don't have any actual experience with them?

Or do they actually hate gay people and want to beat some of them up in a dark alley or something?

If you're dealing with the latter, more severe case, then forget about reading the rest of this article. Run. Run far away and don't talk to those crazy people ever again. Even if you're not gay yourself, they could decide that they hate you or someone else for any reason in the world. They will bring you nothing but trouble. If you have to be friends with them, do so at a distance.

Hopefully, you're just dealing with the first, much milder form of homophobia, though. In that case, the rest of these tips should serve you pretty well.

2) Make Them Aware of Their Homophobia

Often, people are simply not aware of their own homophobia. Maybe they don't even realize that they could be disturbing other people with their remarks.

In cases like these, often they are saying homophobic things out of cultural habit more than actual homophobia on their part.

Just pointing it out mildly and casually may be enough to get them to realize:

"Hey, man, I know you don't really mean anything bad when you say that word, but there are a lot of gay people around here, and it could make them think that you're actually a homophobe," you could say.

If you're gay yourself, you might add, "Whenever I hear someone say that, I get kind of creeped out. Since I know you, I know that you're a good person, but if you were a stranger, I'd assume that you were the kind of guy who might beat me up."

Make it clear that you know (or assume) they're not trying to be rude, but that they're unintentionally coming off as a homophobe.

3) Don't Be Harsh or Judgmental in Your Disapproval, But Be Honest About It

The best way to make someone hold onto their opinion even harder is to be self-righteous.

You may not be intending it that way, but if you attack someone harshly for something mildly homophobic that they said or did, they're much more likely to get defensive. They might even double-down and become more homophobic. ("Gay people are so sensitive!")

Maybe it makes you feel good to self-righteously attack homophobic people. That's fine, but just because it feels good, doesn't mean it's right. More than likely, you're actually helping to further solidify homophobia.

Human beings cannot change their ideas when they're defensive. They're too busy trying to come up with reasons why they're in the right!

Instead, don't explode. Don't make it about how the homophobe is wrong. Don't make it about how you know better than they do. Don't make it about how "it's the 21st century" and they're stuck in the past.

Avoid reacting emotionally if you can. If you can stop yourself, try not to be "offended." Their homophobia really has nothing to do with you.

This does not mean that you shouldn't speak up!

Just listen first, and then calmly tell your homophobic friend that what they said or did probably doesn't contribute positively to the people around you.

View the situation for what it is: a mistake that's born from ignorance. Avoid being judgmental towards your friend. After all, there are probably lots of things that you're ignorant about, too, right?

If they're judgmental of gay people, what kind of purpose does it serve to be judgmental of them in turn? Did a judgement of a judgement ever help someone change their mind and learn the truth?

Keep discussions with your homophobic friends civil and try to be understanding. Fighting them on their opinions will not change their minds.
Keep discussions with your homophobic friends civil and try to be understanding. Fighting them on their opinions will not change their minds.

4) Let Them Have Their Opinions

Part of not being judgmental is letting people just have their opinions, even if their opinions are stupid.

Very often, people don't change their minds right away. After you tell them that their homophobia isn't cool, it may take time for it to sink in. Everyone changes at their own pace.

If, in the meantime, you treat their opinion as unacceptable and work hard to change it, you can actually slow that progress down a great deal.

For example, let's say that your friend tells you that gay people shouldn't get married because it would change the "definition" of marriage for everyone.

So you respond that you don't think any law can change the definition of anything, that human rights are more important than an abstract concept of "marriage," and that gay people are human beings like anybody else.

After listening to your reasonable points, they say that they still think gay people shouldn't marry.

Why? Well, there could be a number of excuses. You and I both know that they have no argument.

So what, though? Let them live with that silly opinion. You could argue that it's a "dangerous" opinion because then they might vote against gay marriage rights. True enough--but arguing with them about it probably will not change their mind.

As you already realize, this sort of opinion is irrational, based entirely on an emotional discomfort that they have with gay people getting married. They arrived at this opinion through their emotions, so no amount of outside logic will get them out of it.

You planted the seed of doubt in their mind, though. Hopefully it will grow into a non-homophobic tree.

5) Expose Them to New Ideas

Sometimes people are homophobic because that's simply all they've known.

For example, maybe they've been taught that being gay is a mental disorder or a moral failing, and they're simply ignorant of all the physical evidence that has emerged to the contrary.

If your homophobic friend mentions these erroneous ideas that are not backed by data, call them on it. This is different from relentlessly trying to refute an opinion. We're talking about scientifically and historically unsupported BS that people believe about gay people. If you share new information with them, they might actually change their minds.

For example, if your friend is one of those people who says, "Why are there so many gay people nowadays? If being gay was an actual thing, then they wouldn't just be suddenly appearing in droves. In my day, there were no gays."

It's perfectly fine to respond with something like, "Oh, c'mon, being gay is nothing new. Just because the media avoided talking about it until a few decades ago, doesn't mean that gay people didn't exist. They were probably just closeted when you were young because there was so much homophobia. In fact, there's well-documented historical evidence that gay people have existed for thousands of years, across cultures."

Of course, if they roll their eyes and tell you that it's their "opinion" (meaning, that they believe something dumb for no good reason and want to continue to believe it), then follow the advice in tip #4. Just let them have their silly beliefs.

Gay people are just like anybody else, but it can take a homophobic person some time to figure that out.
Gay people are just like anybody else, but it can take a homophobic person some time to figure that out.

6) Even Better, Consider Exposing Them to Actual Gay People

Abstract ideas only go so far. The main thing that really makes a homophobic person change their mind is positive experiences with gay people.

Almost always, homophobic people don't really know any gay people all that well. Their impressions and opinions of gay folks are second-hand, acquired from the media or from authority figures in their lives. They have assumptions and stereotypes in the place of actual experiences.

After all, if they had close friendships with gay people, they would realize that gay people are just like everybody else.

The cure for ignorant ideas is often not "correct" ideas--it's real-world experience. Nothing shows you the truth better than reality itself, after all.

So introduce your homophobic friends to some gay people that you know. Just make sure that your gay friends are compassionate, non-judgmental, and not too easily offended.

7) Avoid Letting Mild Homophobia Divide the Friendship

Friends will disagree about stuff. Yes, even stuff like whether it's okay to make ignorant comments about gay people.

If your friend is just mildly homophobic, blowing it up into a big issue that could wreck the friendship is probably not the best idea. Not only will it induce your friend to hold onto their opinions even more, but it will send the message that the cost of a friendship with you is their freedom to speak their mind.

If you realize that the homophobia is coming from a deep-seated, angry place, then that's different. In these types of cases, the problem is beyond just homophobia specifically--they have emotional issues and have probably lost touch with reality to some degree. (All prejudice is a result of losing touch with reality and being taken over by circular thoughts about some subject or group of people.)

In situations where someone is genuinely filled with irrational hate, of course it's best to keep your distance.

8) Avoid Defending Your Homophobic Friends When Their Prejudice Gets Them Into Trouble

Maybe you're worried that your homophobic friends could get into an altercation for their homophobia. You might have witnessed an argument between one of your friends and someone who was offended by a slur or ignorant comment.

Should you show your friend loyalty and defend them, even though you know you're wrong?

Well, that depends. What does loyalty mean to you? Would you rather have a strong devotion to your friends--supporting everything they do--or would you rather be loyal to the truth? You can't do both of these all the time, because your friends are bound to be wrong at some point.

Acknowledge when your friends are wrong. Trying to defend their antics and back them up when others point out their faults doesn't help them to improve. Being a real friend sometimes means that you'll have to challenge each other.

Don't turn your friend's homophobia into a political issue--you're just blowing it up to a level that it doesn't deserve.
Don't turn your friend's homophobia into a political issue--you're just blowing it up to a level that it doesn't deserve.

9) Don't Make Things Political

This is a common temptation, especially for those who are left-leaning gay people. If you spend a lot of time exposing yourself to the cultural politics of gay rights, you may not realize how much of life that you view through a political lens.

As a result, you may be extremely offended by the homophobic comments that your friends make. You may read into them much more than your friends do. You may assume ill intentions on the part of your friends, even if these intentions don't exist.

Resist the temptation to turn one instance of, "Don't be such a homo, man!" into a political or philosophical debate. Try to avoid seeing your friends as "privileged straight men" and the entire population of gay people as victims of their aggression.

The truth is that politics is BS, plain and simple. It is an attempt to talk about human beings in such general, collective terms that any ideas you can harvest from that kind of thinking are next to useless in the real world.

Your friends are just a group of individual people, who may or may not have said some homophobic stuff. You are just an individual person, who may or may not be gay (or an ally, or whatever).

Never lose sight of that. You are a specific set of people with unique, specific circumstances. This is not a "culture war" and you are not on the front lines.

Forget your politics and see your friends for what they are: human beings.

10) Remember That Ignorance Erodes Slowly

Above all, have patience. People are generally really attached to their ideas. Unfortunately, their opinions often form a part of their identity, which makes them hard to shake. They are going to be hesitant to change because it's almost like killing off a part of who they are.

This is not the exclusive territory of homophobes, though. If you look deep inside yourself, you'll probably notice this same tendency in you. Almost everyone holds onto opinions way longer than necessary because admitting that one is wrong can be very uncomfortable.

So have some compassion for your friends. Lead them to the water, like a good friend should--but never force them to drink.

Your Homophobic Circle

How many homophobic friends do you have?

See results

Coming Out to Homophobic Friends

If you are gay, bisexual, or another sexual minority, what is your technique for coming out to people who are homophobic?

See results

Questions & Answers

© 2017 Jorge Vamos

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    • profile image

      June 

      6 weeks ago

      I am in a sticky situation. I go to a catholic school and a lot of kids in my class are uncomfortable when it comes to homosexuality. One friend in particular told me that she’s ok with gay peeps but she doesn’t want to see them. She told me to never invite her to a gay wedding which broke my heart since that’s the only type of wedding I’ll have! Help, someone!

    • profile image

      R-A-S-BOY 

      3 months ago

      I feel horrible reading this, cause I pretend to be "normal"for all ( my family and my social circle) it's ruining me. My Dad is a police officer and hate all gay people just for exist. Sometimes I think he will accept me because he loves me first I am gay, but I have to be realistic and see the truth.. he will never change .. idk

      #SorryMylanguageSkills

    • thehands profile imageAUTHOR

      Jorge Vamos 

      5 months ago

      To Eliza:

      Opinions don't get people killed. Opinions are just ideas. Crazy homicidal people get people killed. I think as a society we need to learn to separate human beings from the ideas that they claim to have. These days, we are more divided than ever and we tend to pigeonhole people based on what we see in the media.

      Many people have or claim to have certain ideas because they've been conditioned to have them, but deep down they are good people. These ingrained ideas may occasionally come out as mild homophobia. Because trying to fight against people's ideas will often just make them hold onto their opinions even MORE, this is why I say it makes sense to forgive mild homophobia (for example, the tendency to use homophobic insults in a playful way, etc) and merely guide people in the right direction gently.

      In that sense, no, "homophobia is homophobia" is way too simplistic. It's the intention that is important here. It's whether the person is being merely insensitive and ignorant, or if they are genuinely being hateful. Those things are VERY different, and we do a disservice to everyone by trying to say that mild opinions and extreme, violent hatred are the same. They are not.

      As I said in the article, if the person's homophobia is not just unconscious conditioning, and they actually DO have a personal hatred in their heart for gay people, then obviously it makes sense to cut them out of your life, even if you're not gay. If they hate gay people irrationally (or for what they think gay people are based on repeated viewings of Fox News), then they probably hate other kinds of people too.

    • thehands profile imageAUTHOR

      Jorge Vamos 

      5 months ago

      Hey Pat...Riarchy (amusing pun you made there; do you have a sibling named Mat?),

      Did you actually read the article, or did you just read the title, decide what it was about without looking at the rest of it, and then post whatever random reaction the hamster wheel in your brain happened to produce?

      It's sort of like that other comment you made on my other article that had nothing to do with the actual article--except that that comment was even more random and off-topic (so I removed it).

      And though I don't think you're asking the question in earnest (since you basically already assumed my intention and answered it yourself, incorrectly):

      Yes, you could apply this advice to heterophobic friends as well. You could apply this to anyone who has a prejudice, actually.

      Though, granted, I have met very few heterophobes.

      Much more common are homophobes (case in point, yourself), which is why there even need to be articles addressing this.

      But seriously dude, get a life and stop playing the victim. Or rather, if your other comment on my other article was any indication, get yourself to a psychiatrist.

    • profile image

      Pat Riarchy 

      5 months ago

      Noting the vile and disgusting things homos came out with during the "marriage equality debate" which would be enough to make any one phobic, would this advice be the same on How to Deal With Heterophobic Friends? Or doesn't equality work that way.

    • profile image

      Eliza 

      7 months ago

      Have you realized how much a bad idea this is? "Not letting mild homophobia divide the friendship"? What type of bull is that? Homophobia is homophobia, period. It's best you stay away from the person, because if they don't change soon, they probably never will. Homophobia is what gets people killed, and if you stick with people who are homophobic you are most likely going to be a victim. It's not safe.

      "Letting them have their own opinions" is a good idea, but not when said opinions can get actual people killed because of who they love. Overall, this article is a bad idea. I've tried going through similar steps with my homophobic friends, but I've received nothing but harassment and ignorant comments.

    • thehands profile imageAUTHOR

      Jorge Vamos 

      10 months ago

      @Paula

      Haha, yes, the caption under the picture was just a joke. Probably, they are a couple (it's a stock photo so I don't know). However, there are people in non-Western cultures who kiss on the mouth with no sexual connotation, so it does exist--just definitely not among Americans.

      As for the other stuff, yeah, that's what this article is all about. People are entitled to their opinions, so I don't think they should be attacked for them, but if they have ignorant opinions about something, there's no harm in trying to encourage people to change their minds, especially if their ignorance can lead them to be prejudiced towards those around them.

      And as for your coming out, I'm afraid it's too late to go back now, Paula. Since you commented on a gay-themed article, now you must come out as gay, stop loving men, and wear flannel for the rest of your life. I'm sorry, it's the law.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 

      12 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      About that first picture....Never in my long life have I seen simple "good buddies," male or female, kiss on the lips.

      Moving on....If any of my fiends were "homophobic ignoramuses, it would not be for me to tell them how to feel & think or not feel & think. I'm a firm believer in every individual being entitled to their own opinion. If they're homophobic, that's on them and it's not my problem.

      Now...Frankly, if they were publicly rude or vocal about their biases, or intentionally call someone out, embarrass or harass gays, I'd definitely speak up and take a stand. In fact, if this was a regular practice, I'd scratch them off my friend list!

      BTW, Zero chance of me "coming out." I'm strictly a man-lover.

      Peace, Paula

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