Victims of homophobia and transphobia

Homophobia and transphobia are negative attitudes that can lead to discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) individuals, or people perceived as being LGBTQ.

Homophobia and transphobia are often caused by a lack of understanding about the realities of gender identity and sexual orientation. Whatever your sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, you can be a victim.

Homophobic or transphobic incidents may infringe your dignity or your rights. If this is the case, you can obtain assistance or file a complaint.

Homophobia and transphobia can occur in various forms, including

  • offensive remarks, insults and mockery;
  • rejection;
  • discrimination;
  • harassment and intimidation;
  • assault.

Offensive remarks and mockery

Offensive remarks and jokes are the most frequent form of homophobia and transphobia. For example, the word "gay" is widely used to describe annoying or unpleasant behaviour. Despite their apparent harmlessness, these remarks may hurt LGBT individuals or anyone targeted by the behaviour, and affect their self-esteem. They may also increase the difficulties faced by people in accepting or revealing their own sexual orientation or gender identity.

In addition, this type of behaviour, often believed to be humorous, tends to

  • perpetuate and trivialize homophobic and transphobic stereotypes;
  • devalue LGBT individuals or people perceived as being LGBT.

Rejection

It is not unusual for LGBT individuals or people perceived as being LGBT to experience rejection. For example, after revealing their sexual orientation or gender identity, they may be excluded from their group of friends; disowned by their family; dismissed by their employer.

Discrimination

Discrimination is a distinction, exclusion or preference based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Discrimination is prohibited by the Charter of human rights and freedoms.

Harassment and intimidation

Harassment and intimidation based on homophobia or transphobia are specific forms of discrimination that may target a person through words, isolated actions, or repeated actions designed to be vexatious or demeaning.

Assault

Assault involves physical violence, often intended to injure or humiliate a person. Crimes motivated by hate for a sexual orientation are considered to be hate crimes.

People who witness or are the victims of homophobia or transphobia may then hide their sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition, homophobia and transphobia, like all forms of discrimination, can reduce access to goods and services.

For example, victims may find it difficult to

  • find housing;
  • find or keep a job;
  • receive suitable health care;
  • access services.

People who are rejected or subjected to harassment, intimidation or violence may become isolated or marginalized. They may even be tempted to drop out of school or employment, or to limit their use of social services.

Victims of homophobia and transphobia may suffer stress that has a significant physical or psychological impact on their development, health and wellbeing. As a result, they are more likely to adopt harmful types of behaviour to reduce their anxiety, such as alcohol or drug abuse.

If you are a victim of a homophobic or transphobic action, or a witness of such an action, the first thing you can do is talk to somebody who can provide advice or assistance.

Young people

At school or at home, you can talk to an adult you trust, such as

  • one of your parents;
  • a close relative (such as a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or friend);
  • a teacher;
  • a special education teacher;
  • your school principal.

Adults

At your workplace, you can discuss the situation with

  • a fellow worker you trust;
  • your immediate supervisor;
  • your union representative;
  • a human resources staff member.

Assistance from a specialized organization

You can also request assistance from one of several organizations, which may be able to provide

  • counselling and assistance by phone or Internet;
  • support services;
  • advice.

Organizations, educational institutions and employers are required to provide you with a healthy, safe and respectful living environment.

If you are subjected to intimidation, harassment or assault

  • at school, contact the principal's office;
  • at your workplace, contact a supervisor or union representative;
  • in any other place, contact your municipal police department.

You can also file a complaint with one of the following organizations:

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