Homophobic Bullying

What is Homophobia and Homophobic Bullying?

In school, work or a domestic setting, homophobia can occur in a variety of forms however the m

Homophobia describes a range of negative feelings or behaviours towards anyone who is attracted to the same sex. The most commonly experienced form of homophobia is 
the use of homophobic language and other verbal abuse on the basis of someone’s sexual orientation. Homophobia can occur at school, at work, in sport and in domestic settings

As well as having an impact on people who are gay, lesbian or bisexual, homophobia can also affect heterosexual people who others believe are same sex attracted, as well as those who have family members or friends who are same sex attracted.

Transphobia describes a range of negative feelings or behaviours towards anyone who is transgender or gender diverse. Transphobia, and fixed ideas about gender, can affect a lot of people, including those that have transgender friends or family members.

Most commonly practiced and experienced bullying is verbal.

Verbal homophobic abuse can be the single or collective practices of:

  • Teasing, name calling, spreading of rumours associated with a persons gender or sexuality, suggestive remarks and social isolation through verbal means e. g “No you cannot join in because, you are gay.”

Homophobic bullying can include physical violence, threats, damage to personal belongings, social exclusion and cyber bullying.

Impact of Homophobic Bullying 

The practice of homophobic and transphobic bullying can be both physically and emotionally detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the victim.

Research into young people’s experiences of homophobia and transphobia show that

  • 61% of same sex attracted or gender diverse young people in Australia have experienced verbal abuse.
  • 18% of same sex attracted or gender diverse young people in Australia have experienced physical abuse.
  • 80% of these homophobic and transphobic incidents take place in schools.

Experiences of homophobic and transphobic abuse on both an individual and systematic level result in same sex attracted and gender diverse people rating significantly lower in almost all health outcomes later in life when compared with the heterosexual population.

An individual experiencing homophobic bullying could demonstrate the following:

An individual experiencing homophobic or transphobic bullying could demonstrate one or many of the following attitudes and behaviours:

  • Low self-esteem and confidence;
  • Signs of stress or depression;
  • Absenteeism or presenteeism;
  • Poor academic and/or work performance;
  • Lack of engagement with peers;
  • Scared, worried, anxious, emotionally hurt, upset, physically weak, irritated, ashamed, sad, angry, disconnected, socially isolated, withdrawn;
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Poor concentration.

Regardless of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, homophobic and transphobic bullying can leave scars and have long term affects on the victim and their friends. Individuals that experience homophobic bullying could permanently cease to attend school, engage in risky sexual and physical behaviours, abuse drugs and alcohol, experience suicide ideation and/or commit self-harm.

Barriers to support feelings of helplessness

Schoolyard assumptions of heterosexuality and gender norms make victimised students feel frightened, helpless and alone. Such feelings and emotions can lead the victim to believe that their school or peer group are unable to provide support, as it would require them to self identify or ‘come out’ as same-sex attracted or gender diverse.

Examples of Homophobic Bullying

Homophobic and transphobic bullying can be direct, targeted at an individual, or indirect, passive use of homophobic and transphobic language.

Direct

  • Name-calling, ‘jokes’, rumours and abusive words associated with a person’s gender or sexual orientation, such as ‘fag’, ‘dyke’ or ‘tranny’.
  • Social isolation and exclusion on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity; not allowing someone to participate in an activity ‘because they’re gay’, ‘no fags allowed’ etc.

Indirect

  • The use of phrases such as ‘that’s so gay’, ‘what a homo’ and ‘gay as’, that compare same sex attraction to words like ‘crap’. These may be perceived as harmless amongst students and work groups if not directed against an individual, but such statements imply that people who are same sex attracted or gender diverse are inferior.

Both direct and indirect homophobic and transphobic language and remarks are hurtful and its use has tangible ramifications. Failing to intervene and prohibit the use of homophobic language generates further discrimination as such remarks can exacerbate homophobic bullying into other non-verbal means of harassment.

Homophobic and transphobic behaviour can also include abusive threats or actual physical violence, damage to personal belongings, sexual harassment and deliberately excluding someone because of their sexual orientation.

Homophobia and transphobia can happen face to face, at school, online or even by text message or phone call. All homophobia and transphobia is bullying.

How to prevent Homophobic Bullying?

School staff, employers, work colleagues and parents must raise awareness of homophobic and transphobic bullying. Early intervention to address the issue and determine preventative measures applicable to each individual case is paramount:

  • Make it clear that your school, service or workplace will not tolerate homophobic or transphobic bullying by displaying posters and other anti-bullying messages;
  • Understand and discuss why homophobic language is harmful, and outline why the effects on the victim are indifferent to racial and/or physical bullying;
  • Educate employees, teachers and students that being same sex attracted or transgender is not a disease, nor a form of inferiority;
  • Make it clear that both direct and indirect homophobic and transphobic remarks are offensive, regardless of the sexual orientation of the individual; and
  • Call out homophobic and transphobic bullying when you witness it.

Bully Zero Australia Foundation has a zero tolerance policy to all forms of bullying, including homophobia and transphobia. Bully Zero encourages victims and witnesses to bullying to be assertive and speak up against homophobic and transphobic bullying. No one deserves to be treated differently because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.