Homophobic bullying is when people behave or speak in a way that makes someone feel bullied because of their actual or perceived sexuality. People may be targeted because of their physical traits, because they have friends or family who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) or just because they are seen as different.
Homophobic bullying in schools can be a problem in a number of ways:
- Children may experience disruption of their education. They may be unable to concentrate on lessons and their self-confidence may be damaged which may result in a direct impact on their attainment and aspiration.
- It may have a long lasting impact on their emotional health and development, particularly for those who are confused or unsure of their sexuality. It may also lead to mental health issues, self harm and even suicide.
- Schools that ignore it, or deny its existence, are not helping young people to develop concern for the tolerance of difference which is one of the five British values currently under scrutiny in school settings.
Who is affected?
Anyone can become a victim of homophobic bullying:
- Children or young people who have confined in a friend who has not maintained their confidence.
- Heterosexual girls and boys who others think of as gay or lesbian.
- Friends of lesbian and gay young people who are seen as 'guilty by association'.
- Brothers and sisters of siblings who are being victimised.
- Children of a LGBT parent can often be vulnerable to abuse should their family circumstances be known.
- Staff members.
- LGBT parents/carers of pupils.
How to respond to homophobic language
Homophobic language is often used in schools but, if it is not challenged, it can become and accepted norm by children. Challenging at the time of it occurring is important to ensure swift action is taken to ensure that homophobic language is offensive and will not be tolerated.