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I have a close immediate relative who has a habit of making derogatory/sarcastic/rude remark about LGBT people. He doesn't say this to their face but behind their back or makes remarks about LGBT celebrities. It happens most, if not every time this topic comes up.

He doesn't really hate them but loves to make fun of them. My guess is that he doesn't know a single LGBT person.

How can I get him to stop making those type of remarks in front of me? This is making me respect him less and feel irritated. I don't want this to have an effect on our relationship.

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    @IamNotListening I don't think so. That question is about pronouns and accidental mistakes, this one focuses on willful derogatory remarks.. – Tinkeringbell Dec 13 '17 at 15:56
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    @IamNotListening fully disagree – Gauche Dec 13 '17 at 16:48
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    I (also) disagree that this is a duplicate. In addition to Tinkeringbells comment, answers in the linked question pertain to coming from someone who is LGBT... This OP doesn't indicate that they are LGBT, but that they just don't like the comments. These answers wouldn't help this OP at all. – Jess K. Dec 13 '17 at 16:59
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. General discussion can also take place in our site chat room, The Awkward Silence. Please keep comments on-topic. – HDE 226868 Dec 13 '17 at 18:28
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I'm from the Netherlands, so I don't know whether cultural differences are very big with regard to such topics. But here, making rude remarks/jokes about LGBT people is certainly inappropriate in most regions and even frowned upon.

I think, if you haven't had such a conversation already, the first thing you should do is to explain to your relative that you're not comfortable with that sort of conversations. Just explain it like you said here:

You want him to stop only in front of you. Make sure to mention this is about you, that he's free to be however rude he wants to be when around others, but that right now you'd like him to remember that you don't appreciate such jokes/remarks.

Explain that you're willing to keep a good relationship with him, that you wanted to say this just so you wouldn't pent it all up and explode one day. Ask them if they think they could be considerate about this, so you can keep having all the good things you're having together now.

You might also explain that you know LGBT people and that such jokes are really hurtful, that they are equal to calling the relative a < insert something appropriate here >. Maybe, if you draw a parallel between his jokes and turn them around to something he does understand and have experience with, you might get some empathy. But proceed carefully, whether or not this will work is something you'll have to judge based on your relationship with your relative.

You can ask him to stop, and hopefully, he respects you enough to honor your wishes. But it's just as likely he won't ever completely stop this (he might forget who he's talking to in the heat of the moment) or just think you're overreacting. In that case, here's some more ways to handle the remarks as they come up.


I have a father that's very religious and pretty outspoken on these issues sometimes. He knows we don't like it when he makes certain jokes/remarks. When an openly gay celebrity is on tv presenting a show, he often made remarks (he still does now, but less often). Because he already knows we don't like his remarks, here's what we did/do:

Ignore it. Don't laugh at the joke, stop the conversation, have a little awkward pause and continue where you were before the conversation was interrupted by the rude remark/joke. Now, this works because he is our dad. It might be perceived as rude to obviously ignore somebody so obviously.

Diversion tactics. Again, don't laugh if it's meant as a joke. Instead of stopping and having an awkward pause, immediately continue the conversation on another topic. This works especially well when the conversation was already going in the direction of LGBT topics/ famous LGBT people. The downside to this is that it does mean that you might never be able to discuss these things normally with him, especially in a one-on-one talk.

Peer pressure. If there are more people in the group that think of his jokes/remarks as inappropriate and are willing to show this, it might make him think twice about making such remarks. Just make sure you're not ganging up on him and bashing him completely. Just one person saying 'Mmm, that wasn't really nice' while the rest nods to show agreement is good enough.

That's not funny/nice. Call them out: you already mentioned you don't appreciate the remarks/jokes. State again that you don't find it funny. Change the topic or end the conversation altogether. Again, this is pretty passive aggressive and it really depends on how your relative reacts to this whether this may be something you can try more than once.

Hopefully, by showing your unappreciation of these remarks/jokes, the relative will start making them less and less, just like my dad.

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Well, depending on the nature of the comments - my standard trick is to pretend not to get it, and ask the person to explain why it's funny. Usually comments/jokes stem from a prejudice of some form, which when it's unpacked in front of everyone is clear to see. Including the person making the comment.

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I have a grandparent who makes comments like that (not just about LGBT people, but about other things like race, too) and it bugs me to no end. What I have found works most successfully is to flat out tell them "that's not very nice" immediately after they make a comment. I make a point of stopping the conversation to signal to them that this is important to me, and we cannot proceed until it is resolved. I do this every single time.

Occasionally my grandparent will become defensive, and this paragraph might become too specific for your question. My grandparent has a religious faith that at its roots tries to teach love and care for other people. I always remind them of this. "These are people you're hurting. We are not supposed to do that. We are supposed to be examples of love, as best as we can." I know you might not have faith, but regardless I feel as though many people are raised with lessons of being kind to one another. You might be able to remind him of these lessons if he is defensive.

Finally, if all else fails you can be honest with him that these comments hurt you, because you care for LGBT people. He might not know an (open) LGBT person, but he does know someone who is hurt by his comments.

This might take 1,000 tries, and it might be exhausting, but take heart and keep it up. This is important. I wish you luck!

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    Thanks for that, as a queer person it brightened my day. – apaul Dec 13 '17 at 22:55
  • Agreed, but as you stated : exhausting. It's hard to fight on every fronts... – user14435 May 4 '18 at 8:27
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I think what you're asking for- expecting them to get to change their behaviour without a confrontation that risks an argument- is a little unreasonable. There are only two ways your friend will stop making these comments, either their attitude changes or they respect you and how their comments make you feel. The third alternative is that you learn to tolerate those comments, which is probably where you are stuck with if you're unwilling to risk a confrontation.

If you want to change their attitude, one of the best ways is just to know LGBT people. Often these sorts of characteristics are targeted in isolation, but getting to know someone puts it in the greater context of being a complete person defined by more than just that one trait. This isn't a foolproof silver bullet; people with bigoted views may seem hypocritical when they say their friends who they should be bigoted against are an exception, but it's a step in the right direction. But this, in itself, is a risk, as if the bigotry runs deeper than you realise, the association might drive them away.

Getting them to respect how you feel is probably the most adult way to deal with the situation without trying to change anyone's mind: let them know that the remarks make you feel uncomfortable and you'd prefer not to hear them. This doesn't guarantee an adult response, though, as they might become defensive and resist having their behaviours dictated, or they just might not care enough about you to cater to your feelings.

Confrontations are healthy in any relationship: they are a bid for the other person to recognise things that don't make us happy and their ability to change to further the relationship. Keeping something to yourself robs the other person the opportunity to respond and, with issues that genuinely bother you, can compound over time and lead to arguments and fights that result from bottling up the issue. Conflict resolution is an important element in successful relationships and should be practised; if they always turn into arguments and fights I'd say you need more practice.

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This answer is going to be a bit more generic than the others. You have plenty of answers directed specifically at dealing with LGBT comments, but I think it's worth having a more generic answer which addresses the whole Interpersonal bit of IPS. Accordingly, I would deal with the issue in steps. The first step is simply to ask:

Can you please stop doing that?

While there's plenty of intentional things that people do in this world, there's also plenty of things we just do because we've never had a good enough reason to stop. They might not stop making fun of LGBT people all the time, but they will hopefully remember that you have a preference not to hear these things. (You do refer to them as a "close immediate relative," so presumably they're willing to spare some brainpower to remember some of your likes and dislikes).

If we skip this step, we invite conflict. If we approach the problem as an intentional problem, when it was not, then it's accusatory and people get defensive. That has a horrid tendency of causing people to do more intentional things, causing more problems. Asking politely should be the start of any discussion like this.

If this doesn't work (and presumably it hasn't), the next step is to figure out why. We've ruled out the possibility that it's an easy low-energy fix by asking politely. Now we need to figure out whether they are saying these things to intentionally support some internal purpose, or if it's just a habit that's too hard to break quickly. This can be determined by remaining polite, but firm. Repeat your request for them to not say these things. If it's just a habit they have, then you should see some slight tinges of embarrassment at the fact that they can't seem to make good on a single request. If you start sensing this, then you have a choice to make: how much are you willing to push on someone negatively, embarrassing them, in order to achieve your goals. You will have to hurt them a bit, and you have to make a judgement call as to whether that is a good idea or a bad idea. You can help them by steering clear of situations that lead to obvious jokes at the expense of the LGBT community, but in the end, it's a question of balance here.

The other response is a defensive one. If they get defensive in response to very soft gentle pressure, that is an indication that this making fun of LGBT individuals is serving a purpose in their mind, and they feel the need to defend that purpose. At this point you have another decision point. Is it worth your time and energy to better understand your relative? To get past this point properly, you're going to need to expend the energy it takes to dive into why they are making these jokes. You'll need to dig further than "making it for fun," as you mentioned in the chat room. We need to understand what purpose it serves in their mind. Are they uncomfortable with their own sexuality? Do they have a really bad boss that happens to be homosexual and this is the only outlet they have? Are they going through an existential crisis surrounding their religion and their entire life is really brittle right now?¹ Why are they saying these things?

Only once you understand better why they are saying these things can you truly start to help without conflict. You can start to provide them assistance with what they really want, rather than just combating their word choices. Maybe you can give them an opportunity to loudly complain about their boss for their actual poor-boss-choices rather than their sexual orientation. Maybe you can be the friend that they can trust won't poke too hard at their uncertainties. Whatever it is, you can't find the answer on the internet. The answer is inside your close relative.

There is, of course, the usual approaches. If you're not willing to spend the time to get inside their head, you can always rely on tried and true processes. I don't know much about India, but in America, it's totally acceptable to shame someone for their anti-LGBT views (as ironic as that sounds). There's also always the option of just not talking to them. If you can't take the time to learn their views, maybe they're not as close as you think. Regardless, those approaches will bring conflict. You get to decide if that conflict is worth it or not. But my preference is to try to resolve these issues with no conflict, by getting into the head of the other individual and trying to help them out.

¹ This may sounds silly, but these sorts of crises do occur, and their side effects are wide. I had a friend who went through a crisis like this, but instead of trying to help him get his footing, I destroyed the footing of every view he had, on the theory that it would force him to come to my point of view. Instead, it just created enormous amounts of strife. In later discussions, after his crisis was over, we talked about what effect I had had on him. We both agreed that I did not actually encourage him to take my world view. In fact, I encouraged him to find the exact opposite because I was destroying the fragile ideas he was relying on instead of trying to strengthen the fundamental ideas he needed to arrive at. For some reason we always seem so surprised when we hurt someone, and their response is to go away instead of coming closer (even though it looks so obvious when written as a sentence like that).

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I don't know the attitude toward LGBT in India or the region you're from, but if it's in any way similar to the southern US, where I'm from, you can't.

The prejudice is often deeply ingrained in the person. It's really no different from trying to persuade a racist not to be racist.

The best thing you can do is tell this person, in private, you don't think those jokes are appropriate, but that's no guarantee that anything will change. If the individual respects you, perhaps they will refrain from making such comments in the future in your presence, but their opinion is unlikely to change.

On the other hand, if their prejudice is particularly strong, they could then perceive you in a negative light for sympathizing with LGBT people and lose respect for you. You may even become a target for them if they're particular malicious.

In other words, there's no guarantee that you can address this without it having an affect on your relationship.

  • I would consider removing the first two sentences, since they are broad generalisations and unhelpful to the question asker (not to mention in my experience, incorrect). While it might be very difficult to change how people feel, it is absolutely reasonable to ask them to change their language. – kem Dec 13 '17 at 19:39
  • @KeltieMurdoch No offense intended, but your experience doesn't invalidate mine. While racist, homophobic, or xenophobic comments weren't common, they weren't rare either. Where I grew up and lived for 20+ years, I witnessed and had them directed at me first hand. I think it's relevant, as certain areas tend to be more or less accepting in situations like this. The N word keyed into a black man's car in the 2010's should give you a better idea about where I'm coming from. I never said asking for a change in language was unreasonable. – Chris Schneider Dec 13 '17 at 20:36
  • I understand where you're coming from, but I think there's a lot of reason for optimism. Less than two decades ago, a majority (57%) of the country opposed gay marriage. Now 62% are in favor. While support of marriage equality and homophobia aren't necessarily exclusive, I think that it's a good proxy - and it means that a lot of people must have shifted their views of gay people pretty severely! The people left over are likely are more committed to being anti-gay, but this indicates to me that people's beliefs and actions can definitely be shifted, and that it's worth trying. – Obie 2.0 Dec 16 '17 at 9:21
  • But I do agree that there's no guarantee that you change someone's mind, and the poster shouldnt get their hopes up. I think it's very much worth trying, anyway. I've been surprised in this respect before, where people turn out to be far more willing to change than I ever would have thought. – Obie 2.0 Dec 16 '17 at 9:27

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