What Can I Do?

If you're heterosexual and/or cisgender, you'll find some initial information, tips, and options for action on this page...

... for everyday interactions with queer people.

... to create a “safer space”.

... dealing with discriminatory behavior within groups.

In everyday life

How do you talk about homo-, bi-, pan- or asexual, trans, queer, intersex or non-binary people? Which terms are used to describe or devalue people? At school, university or at work, among friends or family or on the street, treating other people with respect is unfortunately not yet a matter of course.

How can you give everyday support?

  • Listen, be attentive and react to discrimination, regardless of whether it happens unconsciously or ignorantly or is excused with “It's just youth language!” or “I didn't mean it like that!”. Discrimination is not a triviality, but rather unreflected, group-related misanthropy.
  • Wear a button with a rainbow flag visibly on your jacket or backpack or put a rainbow sticker on your timer.
  • Include queer relationships in your language when talking about relationships. It doesn't matter with whom!
  • During a conversation, make it clear that people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, trans, intersex, non-binary or queer exist and are welcome and supported by you.
  • Use diversity-sensitive language to include people of all gender identities in your spoken word. You can find tips and information on this in the Leitfaden für eine geschlechterinklusive Sprache bei AFS.
  • Encourage other people to confide in you when they need someone to listen to them.

Creating a “Safer Space”

If you deal openly and appreciatively with sexual and gender diversity, you make it visible and show your positive attitude towards the topic. People are more willing to open up when they feel safe, accepted, and are met with trust. This safe environment is called a “safer space”.

What can you do to create a “safer space”? 

  • Generally, assume that at least one person in a group is gay, lesbian, bi, pan, ace, non-binary, trans, intersex, or queer. So don't assume a person's gender from appearance or make sure that if the conversation e.g. revolves around being in love, same-sex love is also considered.
  • Trans and non-binary people are less exposed if everyone during the round of introductions gives their name as well as the pronouns they would like to be addressed with (e.g. they/them, he/him, he/she/him/her, she/her, none or all pronouns). This will help denormalize the notion that a person's gender can be determined by things like body language or appearance.
  • Use examples with queer people, relationships or families in the different course units and treat them equally.
  • Speak with a sensitivity of diversity to include people of all gender identities in your spoken word. You can find tips and information on this in the Leitfaden für eine geschlechterinklusive Sprache bei AFS.
  • Provide information and material, e.g. the general postcard flyer from QueerExchange. You can also wear a pride button or attach a sticker so that it is visible.
  • If you are unsure, you are always welcome to refer someone to the website or social media channels of QueerExchange.

What can you say or do in conversation?

  • Show appreciation for the willingness and courage to open up and talk.
  • Listen actively and empathetically and show your acceptance.
  • Ask what would be helpful and whether they want support without assuming that the person really needs it.
  • Conversations about sensitive things must of course always be confidential!

Discriminatory behavior in groups

Unfortunately, discriminatory behavior and derogatory remarks happen everywhere and should not be tolerated under any circumstances, because they downplay stigmatization. Sometimes they are expressed very consciously and offensively (“That's so gay!”), Then it often involves verbal attacks or even physical violence. But discrimination often happens unconsciously and is socially tolerated and learned. These are often so-called micro-aggressions, such as terms such as “gay”, “lesbian”, “tranny” or “faggot”, which are used in a derogatory way and thus, among other things, people who love the same-sex person who do not agree with the person Identify gender assigned at birth, specifically insult. A similarly unreflected group-focused enmity (GFE) exists with the word “retarded” for example.

How can you react in discriminatory situations?

  • If you register latently discriminatory statements and derogatory behavior in a group, you should respond to it and clearly contradict what is being done or said. Don't be afraid to address prejudices directly and question their content. You can also point out that, especially in intercultural exchange, curiosity and respect for many types of diversity include skin color, religion, social origin and also sexual and gender identity.
  • If a group member uses stereotypes in their statements (e.g. “these shoes are totally gay” for pink shoes), you can challenge these stereotypes in a conversation. You can fall back on concrete experiences: Do the group members e.g. have gay relatives or friends? Are they all dressed in pink? Why do you associate pink with “gay”? And what do these associations say about prejudice against queer people at large?
  • If a member of the group uses “gay”, “lesbian” etc. synonymously for something bad, you can address this explicitly and together try to find other adjectives that describe what is actually meant and do not discriminate against people in their use.