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Homophobia is often used to describe unfounded dislike of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer, and two-spirited (LGBTQ2S+) individuals. This can include uncomfortable feelings for those who identify as LGBTQ2S+ and can also lead to rejection and verbal or physical abuse. Homophobia can be found in the home, workplace or anywhere in the community.

Societal/Cultural Homophobia

Societal/cultural homophobia is all around us. It’s the way that society promotes heterosexuality and discriminates against LGBTQ2S+ people. Homosexuality is always shown as “different”, so it is often shown as something to be tolerated or despised. Media, film, TV, books, holiday brochures, insurance companies, religious institutions and schools often do this by not including information geared to LGBTQ2S+ individuals.


Institutional/organizational homophobia is discrimination by systems such as government, business, employers, and public services. Examples of institutional/organizational homophobia include:

  • when a company invites an employee and their husband or wife to an event, excluding same sex relationships
  • when the family membership to a fitness club only mentions opposite sex partners.
  • when sex health education classes in schools focus on heterosexuality as the only accepted norm for all students. This exclusion is not necessarily deliberate, but it means that same sex partners are not seen an option

Internalized Homophobia

Internalized homophobia happens when LGBTQ2S+ and even heterosexual people have been taught to think that heterosexuality is the norm or “correct way to be”. Hearing and seeing negative depictions of LGBTQ2S+ communities in the media, workplace, school, community, can lead individuals to internalize these negative messages. As a result, feelings of self-hatred and mental distress can arise and manifest itself in varying ways, such as:

  • Denial of feelings or sexual orientation to self or others
  • Attempts to change sexual orientation
  • Low self-esteem or negative body image
  • Contempt for the more open members of the LGBTQ2S+ community
  • Projection of prejudice onto another target group


Heterosexism is the belief that heterosexuality is better than homosexuality. In a heterosexist society, heterosexuality is more desirable. Therefore, it is assumed that all people are heterosexuals until proven otherwise.


Homonegativity is a less aggressive way of not accepting LGBTQ2S+ people. This is done through comments, insults, and further discrimination.

How Homophobia Puts LGBTQ People at Risk

Homophobia is harmful to people who are LGBTQ2S+ identified. It can put LGBTQ2S+ people at risk for:

  • Homelessness because they are not welcome at home or choose to leave abusive situations.
  • Depression and suicide because they grow tired of being discriminated against.
  • Higher rates of alcohol and drug consumption as a means of coping with stress.
  • HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections because they have not had extensive sexual health education about their same sex needs
  • Poor overall health. When poverty, homelessness, isolation, depression, and homophobia overlap, it makes healthy living very difficult.

Be an Ally

  • Use language that includes everyone and doesn’t make assumptions (i.e.; refer to “partner” versus girlfriend/boyfriend).
  • Speak out when you hear people using the words like “fag”, “gay”, or “dyke” as a put down or insult.
  • Post a rainbow symbol at home and work to let everyone know you won’t tolerate discrimination.
  • Know how and where to refer LGBTQ2S+ youth for help
  • Be familiar with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms section that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Make sure your workplace has had training and education on LGBTQ2S+ issues.
  • Make homosexuality and heterosexuality-based information available equally

Contact Us

For more information, please contact The Clinic at 519-663-5317.

Date of creation: January 1, 2007
Last modified on: March 3, 2023

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1Rainbow Health Ontario Retrieved from