Like any form of bullying it can occur at any time in a person’s life. However most homophobic bullying takes place at a time when young people are unsure about their own developing identity - subjected as they are to the confusing messages our society sends out about what it means to be ‘a man’ and against the stereotype of what it means to be gay. Homophobia presents itself in young people as the fear of and the reaction to an issue about which they can have little understanding and to a person perceived as ‘different’.
Unfortunately the use of homophobic language is widespread amongst young people, and though it is often not directed at individuals, it helps create a climate in which LGBTQ young people often feel unsafe.
Who Gets Bullied?
Anyone can become a victim of HBT bullying.
Teenagers who have misjudged their best friend by confiding in them only to find themselves ‘outed’ are often the targets of this form of bullying. Heterosexual girls and boys who others think of as lesbian or gay can come under similar attack. Many young people taunted about their sexual orientation are, in reality, too young to know what sexuality is.
Friends of lesbian and gay young people are frequently forced to face up to their own prejudices, fears and preconceptions whilst regularly finding themselves the targets of homophobia by being ‘guilty by association’.
Brothers and sisters of bullied siblings are also often victimised.
Children of a lesbian or gay parent can often be vulnerable to homophobic abuse from peers should their family situation become known.
How Can Homophobic Bullying Affect Young People?
Young people can have their education disrupted. They may not participate in lessons appropriately due to feelings of fear or anger.
Pupils’ self-esteem is often severely affected and, as a result, their academic potential is not fulfilled.
Young people whose fears and confusions are not adequately dealt with in their youth too often go on to develop problems in adulthood including depressive disorders or dependencies upon alcohol and drugs.
HBT bullying is widespread and schools which don’t actively address the problem are not helping any of their young people to develop a concern for the well-being of others and an understanding and healthy acceptance of people’s difference.
LGBTQ young people can find themselves seriously stressed by having to wrestle with their own feelings about themselves and the problems other people have in coming to terms with their sexual orientation.
Too many victims of homophobic bullying are driven to self-harm and suicide.