Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2 Easy Group Exercises: Addressing Homophobia

via United Black Element (U-BE) Adaptation of the Mpowerment Project to Young Black MSM.  There are more exercises in the adaptation manual. It is a free download when you register at


Setting up the space and setting the tone for exercises.

Note: We recommend conducting this brief opening activity at the beginning of each session of activities below.

  • To get participants involved right away by participating in setting the atmosphere.
  • Having the statements (see list below) on separate signs and posted throughout the room is meant to more easily catch the attention of the participants, who might otherwise easily disregard a list of items all on one sign.
  • Signs
  • Something to easily attach the signs to the walls so they can be removed later and re-used.
Ask participants to post the individual signs on the walls around the room

Instructions for the facilitators

Convene the participants back to the center of the room and ask them to read the signs silently and take in their meaning

Statements to be posted on individual signs


All questions are important.
Thank you for being here with us.
Join in!
You opinions are invaluable for each one and all of us.
Each single one of us is special and unique.
Your friends need you. Show them that they matter to you.
Your whole community needs you.
The world we dream of is possible. Let's build it together.

Greater Columbus Mpowerment Center | Ohio

Figure 2 – Homophobia

The following activities address homophobia in order to:
  • Develop awareness and understanding of the experiences of both acceptance and discrimination of different sexual orientations and/or gender identities.
  • Understand the impact on the lives of individual participants of internalized homophobia/ transphobia and of feelings of shame.
  • Explore coping skills (both positive/adaptive and negative/maladaptive) used to deal with homophobia and discrimination, including survival strategies.
  • Experience a sense of community through sharing personal stories of oppression, discrimination, homophobia/transphobia.

Figure 2.1 – Cross the Line 
(Estimated time 30 minutes: 10 minutes for exercise + 20 minutes for discussion) pg. 63.


The goal of this activity is to explore the impact of participants’ experiences of acceptance and/or denial of their sexuality, with a focus on self-esteem and their identity as gay men. It is essential to explain the concept of internalized homophobia.


• List of statements 
• Cushions

Instructions for facilitators
  1. Have the participants stand in a straight line at the center of the room, all facing the same direction.
  2. The facilitators read out loud a set of statements one by one (see list below). Some statements are about positive experiences associated with being gay and one’s sexual identity and others are about negative experiences.
  3. Ask participants to listen to each statement. Take one step back if they think it is a negative experience or one step forward if they find it to be a positive experience.
  4. If the experience described in any statement feels neither positive or negative, then that participant can stay put and take neither a step forward nor backward.
  5. After reading all the statements in the list, the facilitator asks the participants to look around and asses in silence where they stand in relation to other participants.
  6. Ask participants to sit down on a cushion in the same exact spot where they landed after taking the various steps during the exercise.
  7. Have participants share their thoughts, feelings, and opinions about the activity they just did. (See below for a list of questions that can be used to guide the discussion.)
  8. It is important to NOT initiate the discussion by having the participants who find themselves in the rearmost position with respect to the midline talk first. Instead, the facilitators should open the discussion so as to give participants time to reflect. 
List of statements: (Feel free to come up with your own statements too. These are examples).
  1. If you like being attracted to other men, take one step forward. If you don’t like being attracted to other men, take one step backward.
  2. If you feel comfortable talking with your family about things having to do with your sexual orientation, take one step forward. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about your sexual orientation with your family, take one step backward.
  3. If you were made fun of or criticized for being different when you were child, take one step backward. If not, take one step forward.
  4. If at work or in school you feel respected as a gay man, take one step forward. If you do not feel respected as a gay man, take one step backward.
  5. If you have ever been physically attacked for being gay, take one step backward. If not, take a step forward.
  6. If you have ever been verbally harassed/called names for being gay, take one step backward. If not, step forward.
  7. If you would feel comfortable walking down the street holding hands with your boyfriend, take one step forward. If you would not feel comfortable, take one step backward.
  8. If your family would accept your boyfriend and welcome him to family events, take one step forward. If they would not, take one step backward.
  9. If coming out to some friends has caused you to lose them, take one step backward. If not, take one step forward.
  10. If you have ever felt embarrassed or ashamed to tell a physician or a nurse that you are gay, take one step backward. If not, take one step forward.
  11. If you never felt rejected by your family for being gay, take one step forward. If you ever felt rejected by your family for being gay, take one step backward.
  12. If you have ever been discriminated against because you are gay, take one step backward. If not, take one step forward.
Questions that may be used to facilitate the discussion

• How did it feel to take part in this activity?
• How did you feel when you took a step backward?
• How did you feel when you took a step forward?
• How do you think the experiences described in the statements used in this activity influence the way you relate to and behave with other men?

What the facilitators should ask (and say) at the end of the discussion.
  • Why are gay men mistreated and discriminated?
  • How does discrimination affect the way we are?
The concept of homophobia refers to the fear (or phobia) of homosexuality. This fear can be expressed as disgust/loathing, hatred, prejudice, or discrimination directed against men or women who are homosexual, or toward any type of sexual diversity.

There is also something called internalized homophobia, which refers to the process where we unconsciously accept the homophobia of our families and of society and make it our own, which can leave its mark on our own feelings and thoughts, leading us to feel ashamed, fearful, not confident, even loathing ourselves and others. When we internalize homophobia, we accept being mistreated or rejected as if we thought we deserved it, without questioning it.

All this can affect how much we care for ourselves as well as the way in which we interact with and treat other members of the gay community, including our own friends and even boyfriends.

What the facilitators should say at the conclusion of the activity

We used this activity to facilitate the discussion of how these experiences affect us and how, at times, we may internalize society’s negative attitudes toward us without even being aware of it and of the damage they do to us.

  • How did it feel to participate in this exercise?
  • What do you think you have learned from it?
NOTE: In order to not leave participants feeling down, you should find the time to conduct this activity should be done back to back with the next activity (Figure 2.2-From Rejection to Celebration), which celebrates being gay. 

Mpowerment Training Newark NJ | 7.2014


Figure 2.2 – From rejection to Celebration (Estimated time 45 minutes) pg. 65


The object of this activity is to explore how certain life events may affect one’s self-esteem and even become a source of internalized homophobia. At the same time, this activity provides an opportunity to consciously celebrate our present lives. Another objective is to emphasize how often we ask for mere tolerance instead of demanding a celebration of our sexuality. Developing self-esteem and pride in who we are is another objective, as is an exploration of the coping skills and survival strategies that participants have used and found helpful.


Note: Several days before the activity are needed to preparation.
• A stack of blank cards (of two different colors) • Pencils or pens
• A box for collecting and keeping the cards in

For the activity itself:
  • A board with the “Tolerance Scale” (see instructions below)
  • Markers of different colors
Instructions for the facilitators

For at least one week prior to the activity:

  1. Ask any guys who frequent the Project Space to write brief accounts of powerful memories they have of life-changing situations and/or experiences that had to do with their sexual orientation, or the expression of their masculinity, or of their femininity. (Let the guys know that these cards are anonymous and so they should not name names.)
  2. Each person should receive two cards and relate both one positive experience on one card and one negative experience on the other. (Positive experience on yellow cards, for example, and negative experiences on white cards; the color doesn’t really matter as long as you can easily separate positive from negative experience when the time comes.)
  3. Facilitators collect all cards in a box and keep them ready for the activity.
For the activity itself
  1. During the activity, the facilitators read out loud an equal number of cards from the positive and the negative decks and ask participants to classify the story in one of three columns: Rejection, Tolerance, Celebration. These columns have been previously drawn on a board for all to see.
  2. The facilitators will guide a group discussion of what happened in this activity (see below for a list of questions to be used in small groups). The goal is to encourage participants to engage in a thoughtful debate of the impact of oppression and homophobia at various levels: personal, social, and sexual.
  3. Participants will be asked to share with the entire group what strategies they have adopted in their lives to confront negative situations similar to those that emerged in the stories read in the course of the activity. But, at the same time, they will also be asked what they have done to move forward with their lives and gain acceptance and celebration from the people who surround them. (See questions below to facilitate the discussion.)
  4. Bring the discussion to a close by exploring the ways in which one’s sexual and/or gender identity can be celebrated in everyday life, as well as the ways we can support each other—after this activity and outside of the Project Space—in developing the strength to resist or face negative situations in a healthy manner and to feel good in our skin and celebrate our sexuality and who we are.
Questions for facilitating the discussion
  • How have people’s reactions to your sexual orientation (and/or gender identity) affected your life? What strategies have you used to deal with these reactions?
  • Which of these strategies did you find useful?
  • Do you have any strategies for dealing with rejection and homophobia in your life that you could recommend to others? 
What the facilitators should say at the conclusion of the activity
  • We all have used different ways to confront different situations. What’s important is how we fight back and react. In order to not let these experiences damage our self-esteem, we should develop a sense of inner strength and ability to resist, which will also help us take care of ourselves in a loving way.
  • It is also important to discover ways to celebrate our sexuality and identity, as well as way to support each other.
  • This is truly one of the main goals of these activities, and although we cannot devote much time to these topic here, we hope that we can continue these discussions outside of this Project Space, and use them to initiate conversations on these topics with our friends outside of here. 
Haven Mpowerment Project | Springfield MO


via United Black Element (U-BE) Adaptation of the Mpowerment Project to Young Black MSM.  There are more exercises in the adaptation manual. It is a free download when you register at

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