the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity


'That's so gay': practical guide for teachers on challenging homophobic language

  • First in a series of guides to restore teachers’ confidence


Stonewall has released a plain English guide for teachers on how to challenge homophobic language in schools. The guide is aimed at secondary and primary schools and education and youth professionals in Britain.

This is the first in a series of education guides for teachers on different specific aspects of tackling homophobic bullying. Each Stonewall education guide will contain practical advice as well as information on policy, legislation and real case study examples of how schools are already combating the problem. The best practice examples come from members of Stonewall’s Education Champions Programme, which enables Local Authorities to work with Stonewall and each other to tackle homophobic bullying in their local schools.

Research conducted by YouGov for Stonewall this year has shown that homophobic language and bullying is commonplace in schools, but teachers are massively under-resourced to tackle the problem. 95 per cent of secondary school staff and three quarters of primary school staff reported hearing the phrases ‘you’re so gay’ or ‘that’s so gay’ in their schools. Eight in ten secondary school teachers and two in five primary school teachers reported hearing other insulting homophobic remarks such as ‘poof’, ‘dyke’ and ‘queer’.

Nine in ten primary and secondary school teachers have never received any training on how to prevent and respond to homophobic bullying.         

Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill said ‘Every day in schools homophobic language undermines the confidence and self-esteem not just of young gay people but of any student deemed different. Challenging homophobic language doesn’t have to be time-consuming or difficult. Stonewall’s education guides are designed to restore confidence to teachers who, until now, have been under-equipped in creating an environment where all young people can learn free from discrimination and bullying.’    


Challenging homophobic language - PDF 

Contact: Gary Nunn, Communications Officer, 020 7593 1856 / 07985 439 660






Stonewall is the gay equality charity founded in 1989.
Observations from teachers surveyed for Stonewall’s The Teachers’ Report, released this year: 

“I think the term ‘you’re so gay’ is very commonly used to express dislike or scorn. Usually when challenged about these comments, pupils are either embarrassed or defiant, expressing their views that to be gay is ‘gross.’” (Kim, teacher, secondary school – Yorkshire and the Humber)

“I teach primary age children who use the terms ‘poof’, ‘queer’, etc when name-calling.” (Emily, teacher, primary school - East Midlands)

Read The Teachers’ Report in full here: 

Challenging homophobic language - BRILLIANT!

My school is GREAT at LGBT rights. We have a well integrated system where issues to do with sexuality are taught through Citizenship, and transmitted around the school. Positive posters (including the "Some people are gay, get over it!" ones) are up around the school. But just recently a group of students seem to be using more and more homophobic words. I have been doing some training with staff again - and when I found THIS it made everything SO much easier. THe flow chart on page 8 is GREAT for giving teachers who might feel nervous or disempowered a script to deal with issues EVERY time they arise - and to react APPROPRIATELY. So, Thank you! We have started another LGBT support group as there is a need for it again. (Our old one fizzled out when some key members left school). Do you have any resources that could be used???

Rob T, 15 December 2009

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