As progressive as the US has become, the ugly reality of bigotry continues to loom over the heads of the LGBT community. From hate crimes to negative comments, everyday life can feel like a landmine. Dealing with bigots and biased people is exhausting and downright scary at times. As inexcusable as it is, there are ways to deal with these people that deflate the hate without going toe-to-toe and resorting to a physical altercation.
The most important thing is safety; if you are in a situation in which you feel physically threatened or at risk of harm, get out of the situation immediately. Nothing is worth jeopardizing your health and wellbeing. If you have been threatened physically or verbally, contact the police right away and make a report. In situations where a person continually engages in this behavior, file a harassment order to prevent them from having contact or being near you at all. You do not need to tolerate maltreatment; stay safe.
Decide When to Speak Up
Sometimes opportunities present themselves in which you can educate, challenge, or help enlighten someone about LGBT issues or rights. You may even be able to offer general information or clear up misconceptions in some circumstances. What to say and when to say it can be difficult to determine.
You can help others reach a greater understanding, or you can choose to pass; either option is perfectly acceptable. Just because you were born as an LGBT person, does not mean you need to be the ambassador of education and social justice. If you do decide to take on that role occasionally, think about what type of energy you wish to use in that role, how much you will engage, and when to walk away.
There will be circumstances in which you can make a real difference in how people understand the LGBT community, and other times when offering your knowledge and perspective will be fruitless. If you are dealing with someone who does not understand, they may be educable; someone whose ignorance is hate-fueled or based in rigid ideas they feel incapable of challenging, your words and efforts will be wasted. It mostly depends on that person’s cognitive rigidity and ability to think independently. You can’t fix that singlehandedly and it would be exhausting to try.
Self-Care in the Face of Bias or Bigotry
It is important to take care of yourself, particularly when you have been dealing with bias or maltreatment by others. Even if you shake off the negativity of others fairly well, sometimes that energy can still linger and impact you subconsciously. Self-care can take many forms, but should incorporate elements of physical, emotional, and spiritual nurturing.
Physical self-care may include getting a massage, going for a walk, eating well, exercising, and doing active hobbies. Self-care may not always feel great at first; it may mean doing things you don’t necessarily feel like doing because it is good for you. Getting medical or dental treatment and cutting back on excessive caffeine use are considered self-care, and these are not fun in the least.
Emotional self-care can range from talking to a trusted friend, letting yourself cry when you need to, or using healthy distractions like listening to stand-up or gaming. Pay attention to the way you think and feel. Sometimes the best type of emotional self-care is just being present in your current state of mind and being tuned-in to what is going on with yourself.
Spiritual self-care can apply regardless of your religious beliefs. Whether you are atheist, Buddhist, Christian or agnostic, spiritual care refers to tending to your connection to something transcendent; that which is beyond yourself. Some people may find spiritual care in listening to music or doing art, while others may enjoy an inspiring Ted Talk or podcast. If you do have religious beliefs, listening to a sermon or reading from religious texts may bring you peace and meaning.
Our culture has come a long way in combatting ignorance and bias about the LGBT community, but we have more work to do. Make sure you treat yourself with compassion and love, stay safe, and help educate people out of ignorance when you can.