What is Homophobic Bullying?
Homophobic bullying is defined as bullying behaviours that are motivated by prejudice against a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. You don’t have to be a sexual minority to become a target. In fact, most homophobic bullying targets anyone who is perceived as different or outside of the “norm”.
Homophobic bullying is bullying with a theme. Bullies who hide behind homophobic beliefs and attitudes are still bullies. In fact, law enforcement may consider homophobic language and bullying to be a hate incident – something that’s against the law.
The school years are tough to navigate under the most ideal circumstances. For Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans-identified, Two-spirited, Queer, and Questioning (LGBTQ) students, the road can be even rougher. Imagine sorting through your sexuality in a hostile school environment and then returning home to family who may not be supportive either.
Studies show that between 30 to 50 per cent of LGBTQ youth have experienced some form of homophobic harassment in their school (Warwick, Chase, & Aggleton, 2004). Because of this harassment, the youth report:
- more emotional and behavioural difficulties;
- higher symptoms of depression and withdrawal;
- more hostile school environments and experiences of victimization;
- greater rates of bullying, school dropout, and sexual harassment; and
- less social support in both their family and peer group contexts when compared with their heterosexual peers (Rivers & Cowie, 2006; Sawyc, et al., 2007).
Homophobic bullying can have serious and long lasting effects. Daily taunts, teasing, and abuse is a scary experience that no one should have to suffer through. People can’t learn if they don’t feel safe. If you find yourself the target of homophobic bullying you might feel: alone, ashamed, embarrassed, angry, sad, or stressed. As a defense mechanism, you might even become a bully yourself. These are all normal and natural feelings to have, but remember you can always reach out for help to break the cycle of abuse. If a bully is making your life miserable, chances are, they’re also hurting other people too. You don’t have to feel alone. If you’re being bullied speak out until someone helps you.
Retrieved from, Government of Alberta Child and Youth Services. http://www.b-free.ca/home/527.html. (2011)
If you find yourself the target of homophobic bullying you might feel: alone, ashamed, embarrassed, angry, sad, or stressed. As a defense mechanism, you might even become a bully yourself. These are all normal and natural feelings to have, but remember you can always reach out for help to break the cycle of abuse. If a bully is making your life miserable, chances are, they’re also hurting other people too. You don’t have to feel alone. If you’re being bullied speak out until someone helps you.
Standing up to homophobic bullying
Sometimes people don’t take homophobic bullying seriously. How many times have you heard the phrase “Don’t be such a fag”! Comments like that may seem innocent, but they can have devastating effects. Often LGBTQ youth won’t reveal their identities until it’s safe to do so. Homophobic comments, jokes, and bullying all contribute to the development of a negative or hostile environment. Imagine if all you heard about your identity were negative comments. How would that make you feel!?
“That’s So Gay!” – Challenging Homophobic Bullying
Words hurt. “Fag talk” and associated phrases like “That’s so Gay” have become so commonplace that many youth describe them as being meaningless. Words always have meaning and they have the power to hurt, exclude, and humiliate. Maybe your mother was right: You should choose your words carefully!
The majority of bullying starts with teasing, name-calling, and put-downs. When bystanders ignore, excuse, or fail to intervene in homophobic language and stereotypes, words can quickly turn into actions. When we don’t speak out we contribute to the problem.
When you hear homophobic bullying:
- Name it and claim it. Call people on their actions. Ask them to say what they mean. If they think something is “stupid”, then don’t call it “gay”!
- Treat ALL people with respect.
- Take action. Learn about other people and who they are. Consider starting a dialogue about homophobia and homophobic bullying in your school or community.
- Report the behaviour. If the name-calling or online bullying doesn’t stop, record it and report it to your parents, teacher and/or school administration.
- Stand proud. Believe in who you are.
- Ignore or minimize the behaviour.
- Get trapped into the media stereotypes that portray sexual minorities in particular ways.
- Be afraid to say something or intervene when it’s safe to do so.
- Be part of the problem by being a bystander or by spreading gossip or rumors
Government of Alberta Child and Youth Services (2011). Retrieved March 14, 2011 from: http://www.b-free.ca/home/527.html.
For every queer youth bullied 4 others are bullied because they are perceived to be gay, or homophobic slurs are used to be degrading and suggest the other is inferior.