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HETEROSEXUAL? ORGANISING WITH LESBIANS, GAYS AND BISEXUALS?

SOME POINTS TO BEAR IN MIND

1. Recognise that not everybody you meet is heterosexual. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people are everywhere - and nearly all of us look and behave exactly like anybody else. 

2.  Always challenge heterosexist/heternormative talk or behaviour - avoid waiting for a lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans person to do it.

3.  Always be prepared to raise the issue of lesbians gay, bisexual and trans oppression in appropriate contexts, for example in connection with relevant items in the news.

4.  Ask your lesbians gays, bisexuals and trans friends/colleagues/comrades how you can be supportive of them and their struggles.

5.     If lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans friends or colleagues talk to you about their partners, their social lives or other aspects of their lifestyle, recognise that you would find such a conversation quite ordinary in a heterosexual context.  Feel complimented that your friends have enough confidence in you to talk about themselves and their lives; many lesbians gays, bisexuals and trans people are very careful about whom they trust.  It is a good idea for you to initiate a conversation that will enable them to reveal information about themselves and their life. 

6.  Assuming that because a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered person is open about their sexuality or identity in talking to you, it is therefore automatically going to be all right for you to tell others that that person is LGBT would be a serious mistake.  It is a maxim among LGBT people that you never come out for others besides yourself unless with their agreement, and it is crucial heterosexual people should also observe this rule.

Revealing a trans person’s gender status that you have learnt due to professional status is illegal.

7.  Before you take action of any kind which is designed to support lesbians gays, bisexuals and transgendered people, from arranging demonstrations to drafting resolutions, check it out with as many LGBT people as you can.  Listen to what they have to say and try to incorporate their feedback and acknowledge it.

8.  When arranging to meet with lesbians gays, bisexuals and transgendered people think about the venue.  Does it meet their needs?  Remember that a public place may be uncomfortable for them - they may well be reluctant to risk being publicly identified.  If you are in the habit of going to the pub after meetings, make sure that it is an LGBT friendly pub.

9.      If you have a car, remember that safe transport is an issue for gay men and bisexual, trans people as well as for women.  Attacks on LGBT  are a real concern.

10.  Respect the need for lesbians gays, bisexuals and transgendered people to have space to organise together without heterosexuals being present.  The need for lesbian-only, and trans people space must also be taken on board. 

11.  If a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered person is considering coming out publicly, recognise that it is not your place, as a heterosexual person, either to encourage or discourage them.  They will know, better than you, the risks they would be taking and the strains this may put on them: they also know how stressful and oppressive it is to live in the closet.

12.  Always bear in mind that lesbians gays, bisexuals and transgendered people are not in any sense a homogenous group.  There are lesbians gays, bisexuals and transgendered people in every class and race, and there are enormous variations in politics and lifestyle.  There are also many lesbians gays, bisexuals and transgendered people with disabilities, whose existence and needs are all too often overlooked.

13. Be aware that lesbians share in the oppression of all women; and that black lesbians gays, bisexuals and transgendered people have racism to contend with, and may be isolated from the usual support networks of their own culture.  Recognise, too, that working-class, religious, older and disabled lesbians gays, bisexuals and transgendered people have an unequal access to resources. 

14.  Understand that while lesbians gays, bisexuals and transgendered people share similar experiences of surviving in a heterosexist culture, and often organise together to run LGBT campaigns, help lines and similar activities, there is an important sense in which they should be seen as forming four quite separate communities. 

15.  Following on from the last point: a lesbian, a gay man a bisexual or trans person may well have quite different preoccupations and agendas.  For example, a gay man, is less likely to be a parent and find himself confronting the discrimination of the courts over custody and access; while for a lesbian, AIDS is very unlikely to be a personal anxiety, though many lesbians recognise the need to work in solidarity with gay men in seeking to raise public consciousness on AIDS-related issues.  The issues for a transgendered person will vary considerable depending where they are in reassigning their gender.

16.  Always remember that however much you may feel you have learned about heterosexism/heteronormativity and how it operates, you have never experienced it from the inside, in the way that lesbians gays, bisexuals and trans people do all the time.

Lesbian and Gay Rights Working Party, City of Leicester Teachers' Association, (NUT).