Social justice – generally refers to the idea of creating a society or institution that is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, that understands and values human rights, and that recognizes the dignity of every human being.
Activism – consists of intentional action to bring about social, political, economic, or environmental change. This action is in support of, or opposition to, one side of an often controversial argument.
Oppression – Oppression is a type of injustice. Oppression is the inequitable use of authority, law, or physical force to prevent others from being free or equal. The verb oppress can mean to keep someone down in a social sense, such as an authoritarian government might do in an oppressive society. It can also mean to mentally burden someone, such as with the psychological weight of an oppressive idea.
- The restriction in question must be enforced by other people.
- The restriction must be unjust.
- The restriction must be to the detriment of those who are restricted.
Power – Typically defined as “power-over,” the ability to coerce another’s behavior. Power also includes access to social, political, and economic resources. In systems of oppression, power accrues to those who most closely approximate the mythical norm—(in the US) male, white, heterosexual, financially stable, young-middle adult, able-bodied, Christian. Social institutions (family, education, religion, media, government) reproduce hierarchy and ensure the maintenance of power in the hands of members of the dominant culture by normalizing the dominant culture so that hierarchical orderings based on gender, race, social class, etc. appear natural and inevitable.
Power brings unequal distribution of tasks and rewards (starting salary, resources such as time off for research or start-up funds/travel funds, research assistance, service expectations).
Privilege – An invisible package of unearned assets.
Actions to Challenge Heterosexism and Homophobia on Campus
- Read gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered literature and history
- Read newspapers or journals that feature gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered news/issues
- Go through a whole day imagining yourself to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered
- Attend gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered speakers, films, workshops, cultural events
- Attend a meeting of a group such as PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
- Listen to and learn from gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people
Model Non-heterosexist or Non-homophobic Behavior and Attitudes
- Take pride in your same sex friendships
- Use inclusive language like partner or date rather than boyfriend/girlfriend wife/husband
- Make friends with and get close to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people
- Don’t make assumptions about others’ sexual orientations or genders
- Don’t assume that being gay or lesbian is just about being sexual
- Don’t assume gays or lesbians don’t have, like, or want children
- Keep confidential information you have about others’ sexual orientation or gender presentation
- Use the same standards for same gender affection in public that you use for opposite gender affection
Create an Inclusive Culture and a Welcoming Environment
- Assume that people in your residence hall, classes, groups, and/or campus are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered
- Assume that closeted gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered people in your residence hall, classes, groups, campus are wondering how safe the environment is for them; provide safety by making it clear you accept and support all people
- Put up bulletin board displays that include same sex couples or references to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered lives
- Post flyers announcing events of interest to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people remember there is a heterosexual assumption so actively advertise gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people are welcome especially at parties or dances
- Find out about and share resources and information on gay-affirmative service providers, events, bookstores, bars, etc.
- Say the words gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered out loud, be aware that there are potentially people around you that are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered even if none are out.
- Sponsor a workshop on homophobia
- Sponsor a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered speakers bureau program
- Sponsor films like Pink Triangles, Times of Harvey Milk, Before Stonewall, Personal Best, Parting Glances, Desert Hearts, etc.
- Set up bulletin board displays on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered issues/culture/people
- Have informal discussions where you live, go to school, work, groups, and friends
- Offer alternatives, accurate information, etc. when you hear homophobic stereotypes or myths
- Write articles for a newspaper on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered issues, write letters to the editor
Confront Overt Incidents
- Interrupt heterosexist/gender jokes, slurs, comments, or assumptions
- Actively react to anonymous anti-gay graffiti
- Get support for yourself when confronting incidents
- Make clear to all who are involved both relevant policies and your own feelings
- Provide support to the victim/target of the attack
- Critically review local media for heterosexual bias and call/write editors with complaints/suggestions
Take a Public Stand
- Wear a button such as “I support gay rights” or “How dare you presume I’m heterosexual”
- Attend rally or march supporting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people; write a letter to the school paper
- Sign a petition supporting gay rights
- Promote gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered nondiscrimination policies
- Campaign to pass gay rights bill
- Join an organization that promotes gay rights
- Form a support/activist group for heterosexual allies
- Organize to get more resources on your campus: an office for GLBT Concerns; lesbian and gay studies courses/program; pro-lesbian/gay counselors; gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered speakers, cultural events, etc
Awareness – The Advantage of Being Heterosexual
We live in a society where being heterosexual or perceived as heterosexual carries advantages and entitlements. Many of these benefits are most often invisible and provide financial, emotional, and safety entitlements. Some of these advantages include:
- I don’t have to consider my safety when walking with my partner.
- I can walk hand-in-hand with my partner with no regard to the comments, looks of horror, or safety.
- I can go to any restaurant I wish to celebrate my anniversary and love with my significant other without regard to safety concerns.
- I can be reasonably assured that the police will respond to my call for help regarding a domestic dispute.
- I am never questioned about my sexual orientation.
- I am never asked to explain the heterosexual “experience.”
- I am never asked to explain how I got this way regarding my sexual orientation.
- I am never asked to explain the “straight agenda.”
- I can use the appropriate pronouns, when asked about my relationship, without fearing people will judge or reject me.
- I can speak in public about the causes and equality of all people without being judged of personally having an “agenda.”
- When my significant other is in the hospital, I am assured of being allowed to visit them, because I am considered family.
- I am never asked to speak for all heterosexuals.
- My sexual orientation will not be used to deny me the opportunity to rent an apartment, or obtain a job or promotion.
- I do not have to consider whether I will find accommodation when planning a vacation which will welcome my significant other and me.
- I do not have to be fearful that I will be arrested while in my hotel room.
- I can openly display pictures and personal items which celebrate my relationship.
- If I choose, my sexual orientation will not prevent me from the child adopting process.
- I can live in this society without ever thinking about the benefits I have because of my sexual orientation.
- If my significant other should die, no one will question whether I have the right to make the arrangements or question the appropriateness of my attending the funeral.
- I can openly grieve because of the death of my significant other.
- I can be assured of retaining the property I shared with my significant other after their death. No one will question if I have ownership rights.
- I can be assured no one will take away my children because of my sexual orientation.
- My fitness, as a parent, is not questioned because of my sexual orientation.
- My family and I can see us portrayed positively in stories, movies, pictures, greeting cards, and posters.
- I never have to hear, “what a waste,” when people find out my sexual orientation.
- I never have to answer “who plays the man and who plays the woman?”
- I am free to choose the job or profession I wish without regards to the appropriateness of my sexual orientation.
- I can be assured my employer will give me time off, under the Family Medical Leave Act, to care for my ill significant other.
- I can be assured my employer will offer health benefits to my family and me with no tax consequences to me for the portion paid by my employer.
- I do not have to provide any other documentation to my employers other than a marriage license validating my relationship with my significant other to qualify for health care or other company benefits.
- I will be entitled to my significant other’s social security benefits.
- I can be assured the law will protect my position, as a parent, should something happen to my significant other.
- I can be assured the government will provide tax benefits for my significant other and me, because of my relationship.
- I don’t have to consider how my partner or I will be treated when invited to a social gathering.
- I don’t have to consider when my work group plans a “family” gathering, whether I will be included or welcomed or the result on Monday, if I do not attend.
- I can easily share my plans for the weekend or what I did over the weekend or on vacation without considering the pronouns I use.
- I don’t have to explain to my supervisor that because I don’t attend the company get-togethers or am unable to share my personal life, that I am not a team player or aloof.
- Spousal abuse is an acknowledged social ill and I can expect help from the police and other social organizations.
- As a straight young person, I can count on being helped by our community’s social service organizations.
- I can introduce my date to my family and probably not have them ignore them.
- Should something happen to my relationship, people will not tell me the reason is because these types of relationships never work out.
- I don’t have to seek validation of my sexual orientation and me as a person through the collective studies by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, other scientific studies, or my book of worship.
- I don’t have to continue to defend my humanness and who I am as God’s perfect child to those who judge me as a moral deviant and condemn me to an eternity of hell.
- I can turn on my T.V. or attend a movie and not see a caricature that would describe my entire community.
- I can celebrate who I am, in my fullness of a person, by being true to myself.
- I don’t have to think about my sexual orientation at all.