Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia guidance for schools in Derbyshire.
"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 of 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.
How we address homophobic bullying in schools
Nine in 10 secondary school teachers and more than two in five primary school teachers say pupils, regardless of their sexual orientation, experience homophobic bullying, name-calling or harassment.
Those affected include boys who apply themselves academically, girls who 'behave like boys', pupils with gay parents, and often anyone simply seen as different.
The government has prioritised tackling homophobic bullying. The 2010 schools white paper highlighted the problem of homophobic bullying, stating explicitly that headteachers should take incidents of prejudice-based bullying such as homophobic bullying especially seriously.
Ofsted updated their exploring the schools actions to prevent and tackle homophobic and transphobic bullying guidance in January 2014, replacing the older September 2013 version.
Primary schools may want to introduce the issue of homophobic 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, called Different Families. The materials were sent to all primary schools in 2013 and a limited number of packs are still available from Stonewall.
Stonewall have also produced some easy to use resources for secondary schools, included is the feature length DVD FIT which is a perfect way to talk about sexual orientation and homophobic bullying. These resources can also be ordered from Stonewall.
Challenging homophobia in primary schools, written by Andrew Moffatt and produced by Birmingham local authority as part of their Stonewall education champions work, this resource contains lesson plans for reception to year six and recommends storybooks that focus on valuing diversity and recognising that families are different. Andrew updated the resource in January 2016 which includes lesson plans and a book list.
Neil Hunt, headteacher of Ladycross Infant School has produced an information chart for making your primary school diversity friendly for families.
The Church of England Archbishops’ council education division has written guidance for Church of England schools on challenging homophobic bullying.
The guidance represents the action and commitment that the Church of England is taking to stamp out homophobic stereotyping and bullying for the children and young people educated in their schools.
National services offering support
There are a number of national websites offering advice and support:
The teacher support network is a confidential telephone counselling, support and advice service for teachers tel: 08000 562 561.
A day in the life of a trans man is a short animation that looks at a day in his life and explains the personal anguish and feelings of self-loathing that can be experienced by a young transgender person.
The following hand-outs for young people around LGBT are attached to this page:
- Am I gay?
- Coming out to others
- What is coming out?
- How to support a friend who comes out
- What does it mean to be transgender?
- Homophobic bullying lesson plan by Cyber mentors
- I want to say gay flowchart
- Trans inclusion toolkit by Brighton and Hove City Council
- Top tips for working with trans and gender questioning young people - written by the young people of Allsorts Trans Youth Group
The following resources can be found on Stonewalls education resources section:
- challenging homophobic language
- effective school leadership
- equality act made simple
- including different families
- supporting LGB young people
- tackling homophobia in schools
- spell it out
e-learning course - caring for gender nonconforming young people
A new e-learning course will help healthcare and education staff understand the experiences of gender nonconforming young people and obtain continuing professional development credit.
Children and young people do not always identify as boys or girls in a way that matches the sex registered on their birth certificate.
Where this sense of being a boy or a girl (gender identity) is at odds with the sex appearance, they may be described as gender variant or gender non-conforming. These terms include those who do not necessarily identify as one gender or the other but may be somewhere in between on the gender spectrum (non-binary).
These young people can feel isolated and vulnerable. Coming into contact with health services and schools can exacerbate these feelings, particularly as many services are provided in settings which reinforce traditional gender roles.
The course is free, is easily accessible online and takes around 45 minutes to complete. It is designed for healthcare staff of all levels and disciplines (not just those working in mental health), as well as also suitable for people working in education. It provides an optional test, as well as a certificate of completion that enables users to earn continuing professional development points.
The course aims to raise awareness about these challenges and train staff as to how to support these young people in a more sensitive and informed way. It includes an introduction to gender non-conformity, advice on how to create supportive environments for gender non-conforming young people and critical information about medical interventions and front line support.
Working in partnership with GIRES (the Gender Identity Research and Education Society), Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has created an e-learning course to help healthcare and other staff understand the needs of these young people.