Homophobia and transphobia
Forms and consequences
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.
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 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 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.
When I started Secondary II at school, my brother had already left. It all began on my first day of school. Slaps, punches […] I was the token gay. I got insults every day. I didn’t have a first name, I was just “Labrie”, “the faggot”, “the gay” […] People pushed me into garbage bins and made fun of me in the changing room. […] I think my sister went through a lot too. People shouted at her “Hey, you’re the sister of the school gay!”. She arrived home in tears.
Martin Labrie, 44, gay and volunteer at GRIS
Once, on December 23, my dad called to ask if I would be there at Christmas. I said, “No, I’m too tired, I need to rest.” After saying that I’d been telling him the same thing for the last ten years, he added, “You have to do something about this, or you’ll end up dead.” In my family, the person whose judgment about my transidentity worried me the most was my dad. And suddenly, he was giving me permission to do something, the right to open a door I was not expecting to open. [...] I didn’t choose to be trans, but I chose to live as a trans and to accept my transidentity. And it was my dad who gave me that chance.
Élise Cornellier Bernier, 44, trans woman and volunteer at GRIS
Today, I embrace my gay friends wherever I see them, just as I would if I saw them at home or in the gay village. I wouldn’t have done that 10 years ago. Back then, if I ran into gay friends at the entrance to Radio-Canada, I used to shake their hand. […] I don’t remember the exact date when I decided to change my approach, but it happened before I came out in public.
Philippe Schnobb, 50, gay
Our words and our actions have consequences. The way we behave can have a serious and long-lasting impact.
Homophobia and transphobia can force a person to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity. Like any other form of discrimination, they can reduce a person’s 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.
Last update: August 31, 2023