Healthy lives for young people
Sexuality

Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying

Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying are the official terms that describe bullying motivated by prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or non-binary (LGBT) people.

Whatever the official terms and whatever form it takes, bullying is always wrong and is never your fault.

What counts as bullying?

Bullying of any kind can include anything from name-calling and spreading rumours to physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

The simple rule is, that if it’s making you feel upset or threatened, it’s probably bullying. The ways someone can bully another person are many and varied but here are some common signs that you’re being bullied:

  • Teasing and name-calling
  • Making threats
  • Being put down or humiliated
  • Inappropriate hand gestures or groping
  • Being ignored or made to feel left out or excluded
  • Hitting, pinching, biting, pushing and shoving
  • Kicking, punching or being physically hurt
  • Stealing your belongings or money
  • Making things up to get you into trouble
  • Threats and intimidation
  • Making silent or offensive phone calls
  • Posting or sharing insulting messages, rumours or photos online
  • Sending offensive text messages
  • You are receiving threats to ‘out’ you and tell your friends and family about your sexuality or gender
  • Being compared to LGBT celebrities or characters that portray particular stereotypes of LGBT people

YOUR RIGHTS

Behaving in an insulting or intimidating way towards someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is unacceptable and you have the right to report it to the police.

Why people bully

As hard as it might sound, you need to work hard to tell yourself this is not your fault. Bullies often look for a target and don’t care who they are attacking. And they often use a ‘difference’ in you to make you believe the bullying is your fault.

Bullies are often people who feel bad about themselves and they attack others as a way of hiding or distracting themselves from their own problems. Chances are they themselves have been made to feel rejected, different or inadequate and may be under stress or pressure.

These are never excuses for bullying another person but if you are the victim of bullying and you are taking what the bullies say to heart, it can be a useful reminder that it probably doesn’t really have anything to do with you or your gender or sexuality.

How bullying can make you feel

Bullying is very upsetting and can really affect your mental and physical health. Bullying can leave you feeling worried or anxious, depressed, lonely, low in self-esteem and even scared. This can result in missing school or college or avoiding the place or places where the bully exists.

Bullying can also often result in LGBT people hiding or denying their sexuality, ridiculing themselves to gain acceptance amongst peers, feelings of dislike of other LGBT people or feelings of shame, anger or bitterness. This is referred to as internalised homophobia – in other words, you can end up attacking yourself.

If you’re having any of the feelings described above, you know it’s time to take action to beat the bullies.

How to deal with bullying

You have a right to express your sexuality and your gender and you should not be bullied or discriminated against simply because you are lesbian, gay, bi, trans or non-binary.

Some simple ways you can stop bullying before it gets out of hand include dismissing them, being assertive or challenging them on their remarks. If they see you are not an easy target or if you cause them to reconsider their views, they may back away. Kidscape has some brilliant simple tips on ways you can practice assertiveness through what you say and your body language. ChildLine also have some great videos which give advice on being assertive and how to build your confidence after online bullying.

However, if you don’t feel able to do this, don’t worry, that is perfectly normal and there is no shame in not fighting back. It may be that it isn’t possible or safe for you tackle the problem on your own.

If you feel like bullying is getting out of control, here are some simple steps you can take:

  • Tell a friend. Friends are key, both to support and distract you from what’s happening
  • Tell a parent or guardian. Even if you’re not ready to tell anyone else, their support could make all the difference
  • Tell a teacher: if you’re at school, your teachers have a duty to help you. By law schools must have bullying and equal opportunities policies for staff and pupils so ask to see their anti-bullying policy which should outline what steps they take to tackle bullying
  • Keep yourself safe: whether it’s staying in a group or walking or traveling a different way home, find ways to avoid the bullies
  • Keep a diary or a record of the remarks or behaviour
  • If the bullying is happening online, visit our page on cyber bullying which includes advice on taking screenshots, keeping a digital record and blocking bullies from contacting you
  • If you are being bullied by phone or text, block the bully’s number
  • Don’t reply to abusive messages as this could make things worse and more upsetting. But keep the messages so you can show them to an adult

If you are being bullied and don’t know what to do about it, you can contact ChildLine who are there to help you and provide advice. Call to speak to one of ChildLine’s counsellors for free on 0800 1111 or use online chat.

Content reviewed by Kirstie McEwan – Lead tutor in Gender Studies, Cambridge Institute of Clinical Sexology, accredited therapist and trustee of the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists.

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