Homophobic Bullying

What it is and who's affected

Homophobic bullying is motivated by prejudices against lesbian, gay or bisexual people. Stonewall’s research The School Report shows that more than half of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people experience homophobic bullying and ninety eight per cent hear the words ‘That’s so gay’ or ‘You’re so gay’ in school. However, it is not just gay young people who are targeted. The Teachers' Report, based on the answers of over 2,000 primary and secondary school staff, found that young people who don’t conform to ‘traditional’ gender stereotypes (i.e. a boy who is not good at football, a girl who is) and those perceived to be gay also experience homophobic bullying as do those with gay friends or family. In fact anyone perceived as different may be targeted. Primary as well as secondary school teachers identify homophobic bullying as the most common form of bullying after bullying because of weight.

Homophobic bullying can occur in different forms such as verbal abuse (including spreading rumours and using “gay” as a derogative term), cyber bullying and physical abuse and even death threats (The School Report). 

The challenges

Half of secondary teachers say the vast majority of homophobic incidents go unreported. This is maybe not surprising as half of teachers fail to respond to homophobic language when they hear it. But then the great majority of teachers have never received training on how to prevent and respond to homophobic bullying or how to talk about lesbian and gay issues in class and many also seem to lack the support and confidence necessary to provide support and advice to lesbian, gay and bisexual young people. Out of those secondary teachers who have addressed gay issues in the classroom, ninety five per cent of secondary teachers would do so again (The Teachers' Report).

The consequences

If homophobic bullying goes unchallenged, it can have severe negative consequences for young people. Three in five lesbian and gay young people say homophobic bullying affects their school work and many have skipped school because of it (The School Report). Homophobic bullying also impacts on young peoples' self-esteem and ambitions and Stonewall’s lesbian health survey Prescription for Change shows that lesbian and bisexual young women are more likely to self-harm and contemplate suicide.

Case studies

Read personal accounts of different people who have been affected by  homophobic bullying. 

Top 10 recommendations 

It does not have to be difficult to prevent and challenge homophobic bullying and language and to create an inclusive environment if you follow the top ten recommendations below. See The School Report and The Teachers' Report for more details.

1 Acknowledge and identify the problem
2 Develop policies and tell young people about them
3 Promote a positive social environment
4. Address staff training needs
5. Provide information and support
6. Integrate sexual orientation into the curriculum
7. Use the outside experience
8. Encourage role models
9. Don’t make assumptions
10. Celebrate achievements

What the law says

It’s important to realise that section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act never actually applied to schools and was repealed in 2003; Teachers are free to discuss homophobic bullying and lesbian, gay and bisexual issues in the classroom and schools have a legal duty to respond to all forms of bullying. Read more 

Resources and research 

Stonewall has produced a great range of research, resources and guidance. For a full list and to download or order, click here.

What Stonewall does

Find out more about Stonewall's Youth Volunteering Programme and Stonewall's Education Champions programm for local authorities.

 Get more involved

Find out about what you can do to support Stonewall and ways to get more involved in our Education for All campaing. If you have watched FIT or used it in a youth or education setting, tell us about it and if you have experienced homophobic bullying yourself, you could volunteer to become a media case study.


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