Homphobic Bullying

What is homophobia & biphobia?

Homophobia can be defined as an irrational dislike, hatred or fear of individuals that are, or are perceived to be lesbian or gay.

Biphobia can be defined as a fear or dislike of people who are bisexual/bi (attracted to more than one gender).

Both of these things can 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 ideas of masculine or feminine behaviour.

It is never ok for people to be treated badly because of their sexuality.

What is homophobic & biphobic bullying?

Homophobic and biphobic bullying are often present in an environment that fails to challenge and respond to homophobia and biphobia.

Like other forms of bullying, homophobic or biphobic bullying can be physical, verbal, indirect or online. Often it is the language that can distinguish it from other forms and the motivation of the bullies is specific.

Sometimes bisexuality is seen as being just a phase. Or that they should 'make their minds up'. But all of these ideas are biphobic.

There are lots of gay and bisexual people in the world, and it's perfectly normal. If someone is homophobic or biphobic, that's a form of discrimination.

I've heard a lot of gossip and horrible stuff people say about bisexuals (they're greedy, it doesn't make sense, pick one and pick the right one, etc.). There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding surrounding bisexuality in general (it's a phase, it's not real, etc).

Chris, 16 (Private single-sex secondary school, England, Stonewall School Report, 2017)

When does it take place?

Like any form of bullying it can occur at any time in a person's life however...

Most homophobic/biphobic bullying takes place at a time when young people 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' or 'a girl' and against the stereotype of what it means to be gay/bi. Homophobia and biphobia present themselves 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 or biphobically bullied?

Anyone can become a victim of homophobic or biphobic 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 young people who others think of as lesbian, gay or bisexual can come under similar attack.
  • 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, gay or bisexual parent can often be vulnerable to homophobic abuse from peers should their family situation become known.

I have short hair and I was told that I must be a lesbian (or lezza as they called it) because I have short hair.

Zoe, 12 (Secondary School pupil (England), Stonewall School Report, 2017)

How can homophobic & biphobic 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, gay and bisexual 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 or bisexual the problem?

It's not being gay or bi 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, gay and bisexual 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.

How can we address homophobic & biphobic bullying in schools?

Fewer than a third of bullied LGBT pupils (29 per cent) say that teachers intervene when they are present during the bullying. Just eleven per cent say that other school staff who are present intervene, while only eight per cent say that head teachers who are present do the same (Stonewall School Report, 2017).

Primary schools may want to introduce the issue of homophobic/biphobic bullying by exploring the concept of families being diverse and not, as history may suggest the nuclear 'ideal' of a mum, dad and 2.4 children! Stonewall have produced a very useful resource pack for primary schools, entitled Different Families. The materials will enable you to talk about all types of different families, including those with lesbian, gay or bisexual family members, in an age appropriate way in primary schools.

Stonewall have produced many easy to use resources for primary and secondary schools, to help challenge discrimination based on sexual orientation and celebrate different people and different families:

Schools should explicitly mention bullying based on sexual orientation within their anti-bullying policy.

Seven in ten LGBT pupils (68 per cent) report that their schools say homophobic and biphobic bullying is wrong.

In schools that say that homophobic and biphobic bullying is wrong, lesbian, gay and bi pupils are less likely to be bullied because of their sexual orientation than in schools that don't say it's wrong (42 per cent compared to 51 per cent). They are also less likely to worry about being bullied (38 per cent compared to 52 per cent), and more likely to tell someone if they are being bullied (60 per cent compared to 48 per cent).

At my current college, there is a policy in place that says that any bullying for reasons including sexuality, gender and gender identity is unacceptable and will be met with consequences.

Robert, 16 (FE College student, England, Stonewall School Report, 2017)

Responding to homophobic & biphobic language

It's been going on since before I came out because I acted 'gay'. No one tried to stop it or help when they saw it.

Brook, 12 (Secondary School pupil, England, Stonewall School Report, 2017)

Casual homophobic or biphobic language is common in schools but, if it is not challenged, pupils may think that homophobic bullying is acceptable. It is therefore important to challenge this language when it occurs:

  • Ensure that pupils know that homophobic and biphobic language will not be tolerated in schools. Make sure it is included in policies and procedures.
  • When an incident occurs, pupils should be informed that homophobic and biphobic language is offensive, and will not be tolerated.
  • If a pupil continues to make homophobic or biphobic remarks, explain in detail the effects that homophobic bullying has on people.
  • If a pupil makes persistent remarks, they should be removed from the classroom and teachers and staff should talk to them in more detail about why their comments are unacceptable.
  • If the problem persists, involve senior managers. The pupil should be made to understand the sanctions that will apply if they continue to use homophobic or biphobic language.
  • Consider inviting the parents/carers to school to discuss the attitudes of the pupil.

What can I do as a parent?

Coming out can be a stressful experience for many LGB young people and their parents. Although people today have plenty of sources of support when they choose to come out, few resources exist for parents of LGB young people.

Many parents worry about what being gay means for their relationship with their children and have all sorts of questions that they're sometimes afraid to ask for fear of saying the wrong thing. So You Think Your Child Is Gay? provides upbeat and straightforward advice to parents, which focuses on the most important thing of all – giving children love and support, whatever their sexual orientation.

Hate Incidents

A hate incident is any incident where you or someone else has been targeted because they or you are seen as being different. Anyone can be a victim of hate because of prejudice against their age, disability, gender identity, race, religion/belief or sexual orientation.

If you have been the victim of a hate crime, or wish to report one, there are various ways in which you can do this:

Homophobic & Biphobic Bullying - Resources

Stonewall have a wide range of useful resources for schools, young people and parents/carers to help support LGB young people and tackle homophobic and biphobic bullying. These resources are updated and added to regularly so please visit their website for the most up to date information:

Each (Educational Action Challenging Homophobia) also have some useful resources available on their website:

Websites/support services

Stonewall Logo
Leicester Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Centre (LGBT)

We provide information in a range of formats on a wide range of subjects that affect LGBT people's lives including signposting and referrals to other agencies.

Trade Leicester Logo

Trade is a local health charity for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGB&T) communities of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

We offer a range of free, confidential support and advice around health issues, mental health, HIV, and LGB&T wellbeing.

This includes a whole range of services; such as one-to-one emotional and practical support; support in 'coming out', sexuality and relationships; information on testing and sexual health; and a fully qualified counselling service.

You can find Trade at their city centre offices, 2nd Floor, 27 Bowling Green St., LE1 6AS, or by visiting www.tradesexualhealth.com. They're flexible and friendly and are more than happy to answer any queries you may have over the phone; 0116 254 1747.