Malini’s Girl Tribe has always been a safe space for everyone to share their stories, triumphs, and struggles. To ensure it continues to be so for everyone across genders and sexual orientation, we invited LGBTQ Activist and Filmmaker Sonal Giani, to host a #GirlTribeAMA session for the Tribe.Sonal answered questions such as how to be a better Pride ally, how to come out to one’s friends and family, how to ease someone’s coming out, tips on what to say or what not to say, the common myths and misconceptions surrounding the queer community, the support groups we can connect with, and more. Read on to know all that she shared!

Q. How can I respond to homophobic or transphobic jokes, comments and attitudes?

If you are in a position to call out the homophobia directly, then you should. Make your stand known and speak up about your views on accepting others regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. When faced with awkward questions/comments, respectfully turn them around; it helps the person see how absurd the line of conversation is. For example, respond to “When did you realise you are gay?” with “When did you realise you are straight?”

Q. How can I deal with homophobia at the workplace?

Avoid losing your calm. Remember this is about them, not you. A lot of the phobia is rooted in social conditioning. If you aren’t in a position to call out the person making homophobic comments, then leave the space. This is an easy way to let them know that you don’t partake in such conversations. Bring it to the attention of your HR Manager. You can also look at the possibility of arranging a sensitisation session. Also, regularly update your communication material to reflect gender and sexual diversity.

Q. Is there a right way to ask questions when you don’t know something and want to learn, yet not come off as offensive?

Avoid shifting the labour of educating yourself, onto the individual. Nowadays, resources are easily available. But, if you find yourself unable to access specific resources despite putting in the labour for it, be honest and respectfully request for direction. Another yardstick to use before asking questions is to turn it around and see if it comes off as invasive. For example, before asking if a trans-person has had surgery, consider this: if you were asked in public about a surgical procedure you undertook, would you be comfortable with it?

Q. What might a person who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender go through when coming out?

People may experience emotions ranging from mild anxiety to deep paranoia. They may fear losing friends, family and support structures. Coming out to people who do not want to engage supportively can be extremely challenging and can induce a feeling of helplessness. It’s advisable to have a strong support system before coming out. With self-acceptance, this can also be a very powerful self-affirming experience.

Q. How can I respond to people who object to LGBTQIA+ people for religious reasons?

I would advise against engaging in any religious debate on homosexuality and LGBTQ+ rights unless you are very well-read on the subject. Instead, it’s better to bring the focus to human rights violations faced by the community. Such experiences are based in reality, and it is very difficult to challenge them. However, if you are someone who is interested in Theology, you could get in touch with members of the National Ecumenical Forum on Gender and Sexual Diversity.

Join Malini’s Girl Tribe on Facebook to be a part of more such conversations!