Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying is bullying directed at someone who is or is perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans (LGBT).
ABA have written a Dos and Don'ts list for school about homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying. It's had input from EACH and the PSHE Association. It may be that you want to work with staff in your school or college to come up with your own list – or to use this list as part of a staff training exercise.
- Celebrate difference in all its many forms. There are many, many opportunities to celebrate difference in all its forms on a daily basis within schools. Cherish diversity in your students and make it absolutely possible for any student – regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, faith, disability or special educational need to thrive in your school environment. Test it. Ask students what the barriers are – and break them down one by one.
- Ensure the school curriculum contributes to preventing all forms of bullying. Use your PSHE education curriculum to equip students with the knowledge, understanding, skills and attributes they need to keep themselves and others safe from bullying, and to recognise and challenge bullying in all its forms. Preventative education and the development of protective characteristics are an essential element of the whole-school approach.
- Challenge gender stereotypes. Think about whether your school community perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes. For example, is there a culture that girls don't play sports or that boys aren't supposed to show emotion?
- Listen. Be a talking school where anyone can speak out and feel supported if they face discrimination or bullying. Listen to how your pupils feel about bullying including those pupils who are LGBT or questioning their sexuality.
- Challenge all forms of discriminatory and derogatory language. All forms of prejudice should be tackled – and that includes verbal comments and harmful attitudes related to sexuality, sex and gender identity.
- Lead from the front. There are always individual teachers that are passionate about tackling bullying but they need the support of a strong, united senior leadership team that takes all forms of bullying seriously, and are not afraid to take risks and challenge the status quo if it means all students feel valued and supported.
- Ask what would make a difference. Every incident of bullying is an opportunity to learn or do something differently. Consider what needs to change. Or even better – do this before any bullying happens. What would it take for anyone to be able to walk into this school or college and feel valued and supported?
- Involve the whole community. This is everyone’s issue. Make sure that students, parents and carers, staff and the wider community all know that you take a strong position when it comes to tackling bullying – whether it happens in school or online. Make sure your anti-bullying policy is inclusive and shared far and wide, and that it includes tackling HBT+ bullying.
- Create forums for support and discussion. Help young people to set up their own support groups in school. These groups should then influence school direction and strategy in relation to homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.
- Know where to get advice. Find out what local services are available for LGBT young people, young people who are questioning their sexuality or gender identity and staff in your local area and share this information.
- Set clear ground rules for any anti-bullying lessons: these should include taking a non-judgmental approach, listening to one another, making no assumptions, avoiding offensive language, keep the conversation in the classroom (the table below sets out how these can be translated into accessible language for pupils).
- Assume you know what’s going on. In schools there is so much that goes on under the radar. Take time to survey students and staff about how they feel about school– and that includes how inclusive the school environment is and whether or not it keeps all students – and staff safe.
- Exclude anyone from sex and relationships education. All young people deserve good quality health, sex and relationships education. the language and tools they need to enjoy positive and safe relationships.
- Say ‘if only you weren’t so gay…bi…trans….so DIFFERENT’. It is simply not a solution for children to act more ‘straight’. Young people must be supported to be comfortable in their own skin. Go for short term solutions to long term problems. Children and young people that are bullied want the situation to change long term. That means taking time to understand whether the behaviour is just down to an individual (who will need support to change) or influenced by a wider culture of prejudice and disrespect. If it’s the latter – it’s time to go back to the Dos and work to change the school culture.
- Make it impossible to access information. Put up posters, hand out leaflets and ensure sources of support are clearly signposted through PSHE education lessons, including teaching about how to access support and what will happen if they do, rather than simply listing sources of support that exist.
What does the research tell us?
The limited research available suggests that disabled children and those with SEN are at an increased risk of experiencing HBT bullying.
A survey of UK LGBT youth found two thirds (66%) of disabled children and those with SEN had experienced homophobic bullying, compared to 55% among the sample as a whole.
A study found that among LGBT adolescents in the US, almost 20% had been verbally bullied because of a real or perceived disability, and 7% physically harassed.
Some smaller studies have also found that among victims of homophobic bullying, over a third reported being bullied because of a disability or SEN.
For references please see guides at the bottom of this page.
It’s important for disabled young people to learn about LGBTQ too. They might not be able to access information in the same way as non- disabled young people
Disabled young person
ABA Consultation (2017)
The disabled young people we spoke to told us:
That being a disabled young person meant they were often not believed when reporting bullying and when they said they were LGBT+
That teachers in school had a poor understanding about disability and LGBT+ issues, which a ected young people’s willingness and ability to report bullying.
That they experienced both HBT and disablist bullying in school. “It’s a double whammy”
That they often have to come out twice. Once as a disabled person and as LGBT+.
That they had seen HBT and disablist bullying ignored in school and that it a ected their con dence and their willingness to report bullying.
That the use of HBT and/or disablist language in school was rife and that it was rarely challenged in schools.
That they were made to feel that bullying was their own fault because of being disabled or LGBT+.
That bullying made them not feel able to come out and/or try to hide their impairment.
It’s like people think you can be disabled or LGBT – but not both.
Disabled young person
ABA Consultation (2017)