School can be challenging for any pupil, but many LGBTQ+ young people face an alarming amount of bullying and harassment. Homophobic and biphobic bullying is where people are discriminated against and treated unfairly by other people because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or questioning or perceived to be. People who are not lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or questioning can also experience homophobic and biphobic bullying if someone thinks that they are.
Transphobic bullying is where people are discriminated against and treated unfairly by other people because their gender identity doesn’t align with the sex they were assigned at birth or perhaps because they do not conform to stereotyped gender roles or ‘norms’.
(The above definition was taken from the LGBT Foundation )
Like all forms of bullying, homophobic bullying can be through name calling, spreading rumours, online bullying, physical, sexual or emotional abuse and can include:
Homophobic bullying is the most frequent form of bullying after name calling.Research by Stonewall shows that:
The language used against LGBTQ+ students is unacceptable. LGBTQ+ pupils, like any other pupils, deserve to be treated with respect, tolerance and dignity because the reality is, it should never matter what your sexual orientation or identity is.
Despite the scale of the issue, not enough schools are challenging LGBTQ+ prejudice. Only half of LGBTQ+ pupils report that their schools say homophobic bullying is wrong and even fewer in faith schools, at 37%.
If you’re being bullied in this way you need to tell someone; your parents, another family member/trusted adult or a teacher. Hopefully if you have good friends, they can give you support to help get it stopped too. Keep a diary of the remarks or behaviour. If you are being bullied online or via social media, take screenshots and keep them as evidence to show your parents, the school or the police.
If you feel able to, ignore the bullying so you are not giving the bully the reaction they are looking for. It is important to note, that if you feel they could get aggressive, then do not put yourself at risk as your safety is more important.
One of the key things to remember is how hurtful homophobic, biphobic or transphobic language can be. It is very important to deal with derogatory terms used to describe LGBTQ+ people, but casual comments said in passing, such as describing a negative situation as ‘gay’, can also be very damaging.
This is incredibly widespread – 90% of young people have, at least once, used the word ‘gay’ in a negative context. The presence of homophobic language is strongly linked to bullying. In schools where students frequently hear homophobic language, 68% of gay pupils are bullied, as opposed to 37% in schools where homophobic language is rarely or never heard.
Often children and young people may not realise how offensive this kind of talk can be. But throwaway comments can seriously undermine gay pupils’ self-esteem, with more than 4.5 gay students reporting they feel distressed when they hear the word ‘gay’ used in this way.
If you hear someone use this kind of language, challenge it. Ask them why they chose to describe a situation like this and not by using another word, such as ‘annoying’ or ‘bad’. This can make them realise how inappropriate the word is in this context. If they don’t have a problem with gay people, why would they associate the word gay with such negative connotations? Of course, you also need to be aware of your own language and if you have used this kind of language yourself, it is important to realise the damage it can do and stop using it now.
There are other ways that language can be insensitive, including words that are suggestive of gender stereotypes, such as telling someone to ‘man up’ or ‘grow a pair’ can also be upsetting, especially when directed at someone transgender. Again, challenge the use of this sort of language – as many people have never thought about how it might be hurtful and damaging.
Coming to terms with being gay or trans and coping with it can be difficult enough for many young people. It can be even harder if this has to be done in secret because of they fear the negative reaction from other people.
LGBTQ+ people of all ages can become emotionally exhausted by having to deal with how they are feeling inside plus having to cope with the problems other people have in coming to terms with their sexual orientation.
Everyone should be able to be who they are, to love who they love and to live their lives without judgement or fear.
All statistics have been taken from Stonewall’s The School Report