Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia guidance.
"Pupils do not necessarily have to be lesbian, gay or bisexual to experience such bullying. Just being different can be enough."
Don't Suffer in Silence, DfE.
The equality and human rights commission published guidance on the Marriage (same sex couples) Act 2013 which extends marriage to same sex couples in England and Wales. It explains how the act affects teaching about marriage in schools and the implications of equality and human rights law in an education context.
This guidance is useful for schools, governors, parents, teachers, and non-teaching staff employed by schools.
Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia bullying
This is the bullying, persecution or harassment of people perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, irrespective of their actual sexual orientation or gender identity.
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.
It’s not only the pupils who become the targets of homophobic bullying but school staff too.
Homophobic bullying can also be a hate crime.
In the information provided the term homophobia also includes biphobia and transphobia.
Responding to homophobic language
Casual homophobic language is common in schools but, if it is not challenged, pupils may think that homophobic bullying is acceptable.
It's therefore important to challenge homophobic language when it occurs:
Ensure that pupils know that homophobic language will not be tolerated in schools. Make sure it's included in policies and procedures.
When an incident occurs, pupils should be informed that homophobic language is offensive, and will not be tolerated.
If a pupil continues to make homophobic remarks, explain in detail the impact 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 him or her 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 language.
Consider inviting the parents or carers to school to discuss the attitudes of the pupil.
Homophobia can be defined as an irrational dislike, hatred or fear of individuals that are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. It results in negative consequences ranging from damage to self-esteem to premature death.
Bullying can take place at any time
Like any form of bullying it can occur at any time in a young person's life, however, most homophobic 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 woman and against the stereotype of what it means to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight.
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'.
Anyone can become a victim of homophobic bullying
These can include:
- 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
- children of a lesbian or gay parent can often be vulnerable to homophobic abuse from peers should their family situation become known
- 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
- anyone irrespective of their actual sexual orientation or gender identity can become a victim of homophobic bullying
- brothers and sisters of homophobically bullied siblings are also often victimised
Most young people taunted about their sexual orientation are, in reality, too young to know what sexuality is.
How homophobic bullying can 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.
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.