How to cope with homophobia

Sadly, with 61 per cent of young LGBTQIA+ people in Australia experiencing verbal homophobic abuse, it’s a too-common behaviour. Experiencing homophobia can be really tough and leave you feeling attacked, angry and isolated.

We’ve put together this guide to help you identify homophobia, learn how to look after yourself if you experience it and know where to go to seek support.

In this article, we'll cover:

What is homophobia?

Homophobia is any negative feeling, behaviour or language directed at people whose sexuality means they are attracted to the same sex or to more than one gender.

Repeated homophobia is a form of bullying, and can feel really awful. Homophobia may also lead to discrimination, which is when someone is targeted and treated poorly because of their identity or characteristics. Sometimes homophobia is passed off as ‘banter’, but this doesn’t make it okay.

Homophobia doesn’t have to target you directly to have a negative impact on your wellbeing or sense of self. You may see homophobic comments online or witness homophobia in TV shows, or your friends and family might make negative judgements or comments about queer people.

You may also experience casual homophobia, which is where someone might say ‘that’s so gay’ or use a homophobic slur in a passing comment that’s not directed at a queer person. This kind of homophobia is really common in schools, with nine in ten LGBTQIA+ students hearing homophobic language at school.

What is internalised homophobia?

Internalised homophobia is when LGBTQIA+ people feel negatively about their sexuality and other queer people. It’s often the result of being raised with the false and harmful belief that heterosexuality is ‘normal’ and that being queer is ‘other’ and somehow wrong. Growing up in an environment where you hear, see or contribute to homophobia may cause you to internalise it and think negative things about yourself.

Internalised homophobia is a real struggle for many queer people, with serious impacts on their mental health and wellbeing. People who are struggling with internalised homophobia may experience high levels of negative self-talk, not be able to embrace their identity or be comfortable in their own body, and may potentially develop depression or anxiety.

Overcoming internalised homophobia is a journey and you will likely need to reflect on your own life, upbringing and biases. It’s important to have a strong support system to help guide and care for you during this process. There are many places to look when starting this journey, like:

  • ReachOut Online Community, where you can connect with queer people who have been through similar experiences

  • professional mental health services like therapy, QLife and ReachOut PeerChat, where you can chat to a peer support worker who understands what you’re going through

  • queer magazines and websites where you can hear from others.


How to cope with homophobia

Prioritise your safety

When you are experiencing homophobia, you can feel at risk, especially if it is accompanied by violence or threatening actions. In the moment, it’s important to put your safety first and to remove yourself from the situation if possible. This could look like leaving an area to seek a safe space and support person, or stepping away from your device and planning to report or delete the comments/post/messages.

Ask for support

Experiencing homophobia can be confronting. It’s okay to ask for support from your friends, family, teachers, support services, or even from bystanders if you need to.

Talking with someone you trust can give you the space to vent or cry or be angry. Together, you can brainstorm ways to respond to the homophobia – or you may just need a hug.

If you don’t feel comfortable going to someone you know or you'd just prefer privacy, try accessing online or phone support. There are many different online and phone support options, like:

  • ReachOut Online Community, where you can meet new people and talk through your experiences

  • QLife web chat, where you can speak to a peer worker who is a member of the LGBTQIA+ community

  • ReachOut Peer Chat, where you can have a text-based one-on-one chat with a peer worker

  • eHeadspace, where you can speak to a counsellor online or on the phone

  • Kids Helpline, who you can call anytime for support on 1800 55 1800.

Access professional help

Speaking with a professional like a psychologist or a peer worker can help you work through your emotions in a safe space. Together, you can come up with a response plan or just talk about how the homophobic behaviour has made you feel.

The digital services above are good options for chatting with peer workers or online counsellors. There are also mental health professionals who are specially trained or interested in LGBTQIA+ issues and may be best suited to help you. You can search online for a queer-friendly therapist, or check out queer-specific counselling services in your area, like Queerspace in Melbourne or Pride Counselling in New South Wales.

Our resources on accessing professional help will tell you more about where to start and what to expect.

Homophobia Support Services

Homophobia at home

It can be extra hard to cope with homophobia when the people who are hurting you are your family and loved ones at home. Educating your family and reaching a common ground may be a great option, but it’s important to put your wellbeing and safety first.

Try making a list of everyone in your life who could support you from outside the home. Include on your list support services like QLife, Lifeline and Minus18. Whenever you’re having a hard time or are struggling to cope, call or text someone on the list and ask to chat. You can talk about all the things that you love about yourself, your identity, your life and even your family. This exercise is important because it reminds you of the positives in your life, which can be really hard to see when you’re in a space that feels exhausting or negative.

If your home life is violent, or if you’re at risk or you can’t see your home life improving, you might need to seek alternative safe housing and support from others outside of your family. You can use the AskIzzy tool to access housing support services near you. Leaving home can be really scary, because you might be leaving your usual support system. Ask for help from friends, your wider family, or your school or uni.

The ReachOut Online Community is a safe, anonymous space to talk about your home life, and you can find lots of similar posts there that may help you with your situation.

Look after your wellbeing

If you’re feeling good it will be easier to cope when you go through something that really hurts. Wellbeing is really all about you doing the fun things you love, in order to feel good. By practising self-care, checking in with yourself and seeking support whenever you need it, you are building your resilience so that you can bounce back faster from tough situations.

There are plenty of ways to practise self-care, including:

Connecting with your community is another great way to boost your wellbeing and feel loved and supported. You can watch a queer movie, chat with a friend, support a queer organisation through volunteering or buying some merch – anything that helps you feel connected and embraced by the community. Focusing on the joy of what it means to be queer may help you to feel less alone after a tough experience and be proud to be you!

Homophobia Wellbeing

Responding to homophobia

Responding directly to homophobia can feel really good, it may connect you with your community and can sometimes educate people who weren’t aware of how their actions were impacting others. But it could also be dangerous, and you may have to follow a long reporting process that can leave you feeling exhausted, especially if you don’t get the result you were hoping for.

Because you don’t know what the outcome will be, choosing to respond can feel like a tough decision. No matter what anyone says, it’s your decision.

If you do choose to respond directly, you can:

  • respond in the moment by standing up for yourself or others and trying to educate the person/s

  • tell your parents, friends or another trusted person and allow them to respond on your behalf

  • report the behaviour to your school, TAFE or uni and follow their reporting processes

  • speak about the incident online on your social accounts or in queer spaces

  • report the online incident to eSafety or ReportCyber

  • report the incident to the police.

Let your loved ones or someone you trust know your plan so that they can support you. After you respond, do something nice for yourself that will make you feel good. Prioritise your wellbeing to help you focus on the positives and move on from the situation.


Homophobia is something that most queer people will experience in their lifetime, but you will be better prepared to cope if you are kind to yourself, check in with yourself and those in your community, and look after your wellbeing.

Embracing your identity (privately or publicly), celebrating queer joy and being a part of a thriving, welcoming community are all great ways to combat homophobia and leave you feeling like you’ve got this!

What can I do now?

  • Learn more about calling out discrimination.