WHAT IS HOMOPHOBIA?Homophobia is a resentment or fear of gay, lesbian and bisexual people. At itsmost benign it’s voiced as a passive dislike of gay people. At its most destructiveit involves active victimisation.Such attitudes can also impact upon anyone who is perceived to be gay, bisexualor lesbian, someone who has an association with gay people or one who doesnot conform to stereotypical expectations of masculine or feminine behaviour.Homophobia presents itself in young people as the fear of and the reaction to anissue about which they can have little understanding and to a person perceivedas “different”.Homophobic name calling and bullying is all too common in British schools.Teachers and others working in formal and informal settings tell EACH theyregularly witness verbal homophobic bullying. Few schools have fully inclusiveanti-bullying policies which address homophobic bullying.
WHAT IS HOMOPHOBIC BULLYING OR HARRASSMENT?Just like any form of bullying or harassment, homophobia can include verbal, physical andemotional abuse by an individual or group but it’s directed specifically at someone who islesbian or gay or thought to be by others. What makes it different from other forms ofbullying or harassment is the personal motivation that drives it.Most homophobic bullying takes place at a time when young people are unsure abouttheir own developing identity – subjected as they are to the confusing messages oursociety sends out about what it means to be “a man” or “a woman” and the stereotype ofwhat it means to be gay. Homophobia presents itself in young people as the fear of andthe reaction to an issue about which they can have little understanding and to a personperceived as “different”.Homophobic harassment of adults is unwanted behaviour which is offensive, causing theman or woman affected to feel threatened, humiliated or patronised. Such behaviour canseriously interfere with a person’s personal health, work performance and security,creating a threatening living or workplace environment.
WHO GETS BULLIED OR HARRASSED?Anyone can become a victim of homophobic bullying or harassment:•Teenagers who have misjudged their best friend by confiding in them only to findthemselves “outed” are the principal targets of this form of bullying.•Heterosexual girls and boys who others think of as lesbian or gay can come under similarattack. Most young people taunted about their sexual orientation are, in reality, tooyoung to know what their sexuality is.•Friends of lesbian and gay people are frequently forced to face up to their ownprejudices, fears and preconceptions whilst finding themselves the targets of homophobiaby being “guilty by association”.•Children of a lesbian or gay parent or brothers and sisters of those homophobicallytargeted can often be vulnerable to homophobic abuse from peers should their familysituation become known.•Adults at home, in the workplace or in the street can find themselves targetedhomophobically.
IS HOMOPHOBIA A MAJOR ISSUE?• One in five lesbian and gay people have experienced a homophobic hate crime or incident in the last three years.• 68% of those targeted did not report the incident to anyone.• Young people aged 18 to 24 are more likely to be the target of homophobic abuse.• One in six victims of homophobic hate incidents experienced a physical assault and almost one in six experienced a threat of violence. 88% of victims experienced insults and harassment.• Three in five victims experienced a hate incident committed by a stranger under the age of 25.• Nearly one in six victims were targeted by offenders who live in the local area, and one in ten were the victim of an incident committed by a work colleague. (Source: YouGov survey commissioned by the Home Office, 2008)
IS BEING GAY THE PROBLEM?It’s not being gay that makes some young people unhappy. It’s the negative reaction ofother people that they fear, coming to terms with being ‘different’ and coping with itthat’s difficult. It is even harder if this has to be done in secrecy from family, friends andteachers.Lesbian and gay people of all ages can find themselves emotionally exhausted by havingto reconcile how they are feeling inside with the problems others have in coming to termswith their sexuality.
WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY?Overall there is a clear legal framework for schools and other agencies to work within,backed up by national policy guidance:•Education Act 2011•Education and Inspections Act 2006•Equality Act 2010•Every Child Matters: Change for Children 2004 and Ofsted’s 2005 framework forreporting how a school is promoting the five outcomes•Sex and Relationship Education, DfES, 2000•National Healthy Schools Standard, DfES 1999•School Standards and Framework Act 1988•Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003