Homophobic bullying is often present in an environment that fails to challenge and respond to homophobia. Like other forms of bullying, homophobic bullying can be physical, verbal or indirect. Often it is the language that can distinguish it from other forms and the motivation of the bullies is specific.
What is Homophobia?
Homophobia can be defined as an irrational dislike, hatred or fear of individuals that are, or are perceived to be lesbian, gay or bisexual. It results in negative consequences ranging from damage of self-esteem to premature death.
Such attitudes can also affect anyone who does not conform to stereotypical standards of masculine or feminine behaviour.
When does it take place?
Like any form of bullying it can occur at any time in a person's life however...
Most homophobic bullying takes place at a time when young people, particularly boys, are unsure about their own developing identity - subjected as they are to the confusing messages our society sends out about what it means to be 'a man' and against the stereotype of what it means to be gay. Homophobia presents itself in young people as the fear of and the reaction to an issue about which they can have little understanding and to a person perceived as 'different'.
Who gets homophobically bullied?
Anyone can become a victim of homophobic bullying:
- Teenagers who have misjudged their best friend by confiding in them only to find themselves 'outed' are the principal targets of this form of bullying
- Heterosexual girls and boys who others think of as lesbian or gay can come under similar attack. Most young people taunted about their sexual orientation are, in reality, too young to know what sexuality is
- Friends of lesbian and gay young people are frequently forced to face up to their own prejudices, fears and preconceptions whilst regularly finding themselves the targets of homophobia by being 'guilty by association'
- Brothers and sisters of homophobically bullied siblings are also often victimised
- Children of a lesbian or gay parent can often be vulnerable to homophobic abuse from peers should their family situation become known
How can homophobic bullying affect young people?
Young people can have their education disrupted. They may not participate in lessons appropriately due to feelings of fear or anger. Pupils' self-esteem is often severely affected and, as a result, their academic potential is not fulfilled.
Young people whose fears and confusions are not adequately dealt with in their youth too often go on to develop problems in adulthood including depressive disorders or dependencies upon alcohol and drugs.
Schools who dismiss the problem are not helping any of their young people to develop a concern for the well-being of others and an understanding and healthy acceptance of people's difference.
Lesbian and gay young people can find themselves seriously stressed by having to wrestle with their own feelings about themselves and the problems other people have in coming to terms with their sexual orientation. Too many victims of homophobic bullying are driven to self-harm and suicide.
Is being gay the problem?
It's not being gay that makes some young people unhappy, it's the negative reaction of other people that they fear, coming to terms with being 'different' and coping with it that's difficult. It is even harder if this has to be done in secrecy from family, friends and teachers.
Lesbian and gay people of all ages can find themselves emotionally exhausted by having to reconcile how they are feeling inside with the problems others have in coming to terms with their sexual orientation.
Bullying of LGB and Trans Children with SEN
The Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA), hosted by leading children’s charity National Children’s Bureau, is publishing new resources for school staff to help tackle the homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying of disabled young people and those with special educational needs (SEN).
- Stonewall - Stonewall work for equality and justice for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals
- Broken Rainbow - Broken Rainbow is the first and only UK organisation dedicated to confronting and eliminating domestic violence and abuse within and against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans communities
- Doncaster Pride - Doncaster Pride is a registered Charity that works for and on behalf of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in Doncaster