Homophobic bullying

It is not only lesbian, gay or bisexual young people who experience homophobic language and bullying - anyone perceived as different can be targeted.

What is it and who's affected

Homophobic language and bullying are 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 nine 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 or 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) and teachers explain why homophobic language should be tackled.

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). LGB people who have been bullied are also at a significantly higher risk of suicide, self-harm and depression. One in four (26 per cents) lesbian, gay and bisexual young people have tried to take their own life and more than half deliberately harm themselves.

What you can do

It doesn't have to be difficult to prevent and challenge homophobic bullying. Stonewall has produced a number of training, teaching and awareness raising resources to support teachers and schools create an inclusive environment like for example the film FITThe School Report and The Teachers' Report also provide a list of top ten recommendations every school can implement.

Legislation places a duty on schools to prevent and challenge homophobic bullying and Stonewall, commissioned by the Department for Education, wrote guidance on preventing and challenging homophobic bullying which includes advice for teachers, head teachers and school governors. There is also good practice on preventing and tackling homophobic bullying and language. 

Find out what you can do to support the Education for All campaign and if you have watched FIT or used it in a youth or education setting, tell us about it.  

What Stonewall Scotland does

Stonewall Scotland provides advice and guidance, training and resources to schools and local authorities, helping school staff to understand and stop homophobic bullying. We can arrange training sessions for groups of teachers or other staff members, either in-house or at our Edinburgh offices - please contact us to book a session.

We also work closely with certain local authorities through the Education Champions programme.


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