As you may recall from a recent post of mine, I've been quite surprised by the strength and resilience among our community to challenge homophobia. After delivering a series of workshops on homophobia to youth, I was shocked at how willing these youth were to engage with issues surrounding homophobia and how able they were to understand the connections between experiencing homophobia and HIV risk.
At AIDS Service Organizations like ours, we are now seeing this connection more and more in our line of work and we're really beginning to understand the consequences that experiencing homophobia can have on LGBTQ individuals' health. Particularly, experiencing homophobia can significantly increase one’s risk of HIV infection, as well as increase the burden of disease for those living with HIV. Research is now showing that those who experience homophobia in forms such as isolation, bullying, exclusion, and violence, may have a lessened sense of self-worth or self-esteem, which can lead to an increase in the likeliness of partaking in “risky behaviours”, which in turn can lead to an increased risk of HIV transmission.
Realizing this connection, the agency I work for, AIDS Committee of Guelph (ACG) wanted to develop a resource targeting youth that would help prevent HIV transmission by increasing capacity to address homophobia, help resolve internalized homophobia, and increase knowledge on HIV transmission. But how could we do this in a way that would be fun and accessible?
Knowing that something like 90% of youth use cell phones, 60% of which use smart phones, what better way to disseminate this info but through an iPhone app? I have to hand it both to my predecessor and Executive Director - what a fabulous way to allow youth to access information in a confidential and fast way, using a tool that they spend the majority of their day on anyway!
This app functions to provide witty comebacks to homophobic slurs or phrases, as well as to answer questions and help dispel myths about HIV transmission that you may be too shy to ask your teacher, parent, or health care provider. It even has a quiz that rates your homophobia. Our aim is to provide accurate information that youth may feel too uncomfortable to find elsewhere, as well as to open up discussion and help build capacity to challenge homophobia.
As I mentioned in a previous post, Guelph is a relatively progressive town and may be more accepting of people’s sexual orientation in general than other regions. But that's not to say that people here don’t still experience homophobia. It’s also important to remember that homophobia can take on more subtle forms like the derogatory use of the word “gay”, or even as constant heteronormative images that infiltrate our daily lives. That's why it is important to recognize the effect all these different forms of homophobia can have on our lives and to be able to challenge them together, regardless of sexual orientation.
We hope this is precisely what our app, and the launch party we are having for it, will begin to do. Our app launch party takes place this Thursday January 31st, 2013 upstairs at the Albion Hotel (49 Norfolk, Guelph, ON) at 8:30 pm and is a chance to try out the FREE app if you haven’t downloaded it already, to mingle, dance, maybe win some prizes, and to simply open up much needed discussion around homophobia and HIV. It's our hope that this app is another step toward challenging homophobia, increasing knowledge, and decreasing stigma and HIV transmission.
Come celebrate the release of this great app with us. See you at the party!