What is homophobic bullying?

Advice on LGBTQ bullying

Estimated read: 8 minutes 

Homophobic bullying is when people behave or speak in a way which makes someone feel bullied because of their actual or perceived sexuality. 

Key points:

  • If this bullying spills over into threats or violence then it should be reported to the police as a hate crime
  • Check that the school has a separate anti-homophobic bullying policy and not something tacked on to their general bullying policy
  • If you're being bullied in this way you need to tell your parents, an adult you trust or report it to a teacher. Keep a diary of the remarks or behaviour as this can help when the bullying is investigated
homophobic bullying advice

People may be a target of this type of bullying because of their appearance, behaviour, physical traits or because they have friends or family who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning or possibly just because they are seen as being different. 

Like all forms of bullying, homophobic bullying can be through name calling, spreading rumours, cyberbullying, physical or sexual and emotional abuse. Young people have described to us how they have been subjected to hate campaigns against them which can start off within the classroom and then moved onto social media. This has devastated those being bullied in this way and some have moved schools and had their lives disrupted because of the actions of the bullies.

Not only does this affect a young person’s self-esteem, emotional health and wellbeing but it also can have an effect on their attendance at school and their attainment. This type of bullying can also include threats to 'out' you to friends and family about your sexuality, even if you are not gay, lesbian or bisexual. 

Dealing with LGBTQ bullying

If you're being bullied in this way you need to tell your parents and report it to a teacher. Keep a diary of the remarks or behaviour. If you feel unable to speak to your parents or a teacher, perhaps you can approach another adult you can trust to get some help. Hopefully if you have good friends, they can give you support to help get it stopped too.

If you feel able to, ignore the bullying so you are not giving the bully the reaction they are looking for. You can also be assertive and let them know that they are the ones that are looking stupid and ignorant. It is important to note, that if you feel they could get aggressive, then do not put yourself at risk as your safety is more important.

If this bullying spills over into threats or violence then it should be reported to the police as a hate crime. Many police forces have specialist units to deal with these incidents.

If you are being bullied online or via social media, take screenshots and keep them as evidence to show your parents, the school or the police.

Ask the school to do some work on LGBTQ bullying within your school if you feel able to, sometimes educating others can help enormously in making them realise their actions and consequences.

In many cases the people who are picking on you are projecting their prejudice on to others. They may also hear homophobic remarks being used by other people who hold outdated attitudes and think it is acceptable to act in this way when clearly it is not. This can often show their ignorance and closed minds.

What can parents do?

Parents and carers can play an important role in tackling homophobic bullying and some ways you can help is by:

  • Talk to your child. Ask how they are feeling and if everything is OK at school, rather than if they are being bullied. They may be embarrassed and worried that you will think they are gay, so might choose not to say anything
  • Remember that homophobic bullying can affect any young person, regardless of their sexual orientation
  • Be supportive. Your child needs to know that if they do decide to talk to you about bullying, you will listen and that they can trust you with what they tell you. Let them tell you in their own time, and ask them how they want to proceed. Preferably approach the school together
  • Check with the school what their policies are for dealing with bullying and in particular, homophobic bullying
  • Involve your child in any decisions that are taken on how to tackle the bullying. If you are not satisfied with how your child’s teacher responds, talk to the head teacher or bring it to the attention of the school governors - including your child at every stage

Check that the school has a separate anti-homophobic bullying policy and not something tacked on to their general bullying policy. Ask to see it, and if they haven’t got one, ask why not and insist this is remedied. Go into the school and challenge them. They have a duty of care to all children. Research shows that in schools where children are explicitly taught that homophobic bullying is wrong, rates of such bullying are dramatically reduced, and pupils feel safer. Schools have a legal obligation to deal with homophobic bullying under the Education and Inspections Act 2006.

If the bullying doesn’t stop, go to your Local Education Authority and demand action. Changing schools can work in some cases but often a vulnerable child is vulnerable wherever they go. 

What should schools do about homophobic bullying?

Schools should deal with homophobic bullying by including it in their policy and procedures. Stonewall have an educational toolkit that can be used to raise awareness, educate and help to prevent this form of bullying. 

Further resources 

It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at askus@familylives.org.uk or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker. You can also speak to SwitchboardLGBT for support and advice. 

This page was updated on September 2021

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