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Homo/Transphobic Bullying

I began my academic career in the early 1990s conducting the U.K.’s first study of what is now known as ‘homophobic bullying’. From 1993 until 1997 I collected data from 190 lesbians and gay men who described to me (in great detail) their experiences of school. Subsequently, I conducted a follow-up study focusing upon the mental health, well-being and resilience of 116 former victims of homophobic bullying, together with a series of interviews with 16 participants. The results from this study were published in various national and international journals and I contributed to some very early anti-bullying resources published in the U.K., U.S., Canada, and Australia.

Although my original study came to an end in 1997, one subsequent study focused on the school experiences of children raised by same-sex and opposite-sex couples (download a pre-print copy here). Most recently I undertook a case-control study of 53 young people who indicated that they were attracted to members of the same-sex with 53 young people who reported being attracted to members of the opposite sex (participants in each group were matched on a number of demographic characteristics). A pre-print copy of this article is available here.

In 2011, Oxford University Press (New York) published, Homophobic Bullying: Research and Theoretical Perspectives. This book is a synthesis of the primarily research on homophobic bullying I have conducted over the last two decades, and offers a theoretical basis to understanding why homophobia exists.

Over the next few weeks I hope to build up the resources and links to this page, so please check back often.

U.K. research and resources

Stand Up For Us was originally published in 2004by the Health Development Agency which had bought the rights to revise, update and extend Colours of the Rainbow by health worker Sandra Mole. Originally intendend to include lesson plans for teachers from Key Stage 1-4, it was edited down to a slim volume of 32 pages providing generic guidance for schoolson how to combat homophobic bullying. Alas some of the resources that were once available on the web are no longer accessible.

In 2007, the then Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) published guidance on embedding homophobic bullying into anti-bullying work. The report (available here) provides advice to governors of schools about their legal responsibilities, to head teachers and school staff about their responsibilities and tell-tale signs that it is going on in their schools.

In 2007, Stonewall published The School Report focusing upon  homophobic bullying. They found that almost two thirds (65 per cent) of young lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils  experienced bullying at school rising to 75% for those attending faith schools. Ninety eight per cent heard phrases such as  “that’s so gay” or “you’re so gay” at school, with four fifths hearing such comments often or frequently. Only 23% of young gay people have been told that homophobic bullying is wrong . In those schools that have said homophobic bullying is wrong, young LGBs are 60 per cent more likely not to have been bullied.

In 2009, Stonewall published The Teachers’ Report: Homophobic Bullying in Britain’s Schools which outlined key findings from a survey of teachers’ experiences of homophobic bullying.  Overall, 9 out of 10 secondary school teachers and more than two in five primary school teachers reported that, regardless of sexual orientation, pupils experienced homophobic bullying, name calling or harassment in their schools. Secondary school teachers reported that homophobic bullying is the second most frequent form of bullying after bullying because of a pupil’s weight and three times more prevalent than bullying due to religion or ethnicity. Overall, 95 per cent of secondary school teachers and approximately three quarters of primary school teachers reported hearing  ‘you’re so gay’ or ‘that’s so gay’ in their schools. Eight out of  ten secondary school teachers and two out of five primary school teachers said words such as ‘poof’, ‘dyke’, ‘queer’ and ‘faggot’ were commonplace. The majority of teachers and staff (9 out of  10 in secondary and primary schools) had never received any specific training on how to respond to homophobic bullying.

School Report 2012In 2012, Stonewall produced their second School Report. Based upon data collated by the University of Cambridge on over 1,600 young LGB people. According to this report, homophobic bullying continues to be widespread in Britain’s schools. More than half (55 per cent) of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils have experienced direct bullying (although this has dropped from 65% in the 2007 report). Stonewall also claim that the use of homophobic language is endemic. THe report’s authors indicated that 99 % gay young people hear the phrases  ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘you’re so gay’ in school and 96% of gay pupils hear homophobic language. Other key findings include:

– 3/5 LGBy pupils who experience homophobic bullying say that teachers who witness the bullying never intervene

– 50% LGB pupils report that their schools say homophobic bullying is wrong, even fewer in faith schools (37 per cent)

– Homophobic bullying has a profoundly damaging impact on young people’s school experience: 32%  said bullying changed their future educational plans and 3/5 said it impacted directly on their school work.

The report also indicated that those LGBs who are bullied are at a higher risk of suicide, self-harm and depression. Overall, 41% had  attempted or thought about taking their own life directly because of bullying and the same number said that they deliberately self-harmed as a result of being bullied.


Ditch The LabelIn  2013, the not for profit organisation Ditch the Label reported on their online survey of 1,843 young people aged 16-26. This report focused on respondents experiences of bullying, including sexual orientation and gender identity in primary, secondary schols as well as college. Overall, they report’s authors found that 57% of respondents were dissastisfied with theDitch the Label 2013 Survey support services they were offered, and those young people with disabilities (physical, learning and mental health) and those from sexual minorities were most at risk. However, a small group 8% were also targetted by bullies because they came from more affluent families. Overall, the report founds that 69% of respondents had been the victims of bullying at school or college. The report can be downloaded here, and the variable spreadsheet here.

PediatricsAlso in 2013, Joseph Robinson, Dorothy Espelage and I published our analysis of the longitudinal data collated by the Department of Education in the UK. This is perhaps the first study to map, longitudinally the educational experiences of LGB students from 2004 until 2010. In total of the 4135 participants with data in all seven waves, we were able to track 187 who identified as LGB at age 16. An edited and amended version of the abstract is provided below.

We found that LGB victimisation rates decreased in absolute terms. However, trends in relative rates were more nuanced: Gayand bisexual-identified boys became more likely to be victimised compared with heterosexual-identified boys (they were twice as likely to be bullied in wave 1; and nearly four times as likely in wave 7), whereas relative rates among girls were similar between waves 1 and 7, suggesting different LGB–heterosexual relative victimization rate trends for boys and girls. Early victimisation and emotional distress explained about 50% of later LGB–heterosexual emotional distress disparities for both boys and girls.

We concluded that the victimisation of LGB youth decreases in absolute, but not necessarily relative, terms. This suggests that addressing LGB victimisation during adolescence is critical to reducing LGB–heterosexual emotional distress disparities.


Robinson, J.P., Espelage, D.L. & Rivers, I. (2013). Does it get better? Longitudinal trends in peer victimization and mental health in LGB and heterosexual youth: Results from a nationally repreresentative prospective cohort study. Pediatrics, 131(3), 423-430. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-2595.

ABS 2014In 2014, Ditch the Label, the national charity, reported on a survey 3600 young people between 13 and 18 years. They found that 45% of young people experience bullying before the age of 18. 26% of those bullied have experienced bullying on a daily basis. 40% of respondents reported being bullied for personal appearance 36% reported being bullied for body shape, size and weight. 39% have never told anybody that they are being bullied. 51% were not satisfied with the bullying support that they got from teachers. 34% reported being bullied for prejudice based reasons (homophobia/ racism/religious discrimination/disability discrimination/cultural discrimination/transphobia). 63% of respondents with a physical disability were bullied, and were more extremely socially excluded. 61% of respondents have been physically attacked. 30% have gone on to self-harm as a result of bullying. 10% have attempted to commit suicide as a result of bullying. 10% of respondents reported been sexually assaulted. 83% said bullying had a negative impact on their self-esteem. 56% said bullying affected their studies. 41% of those who had never been bullied achieved A or A*grades in English. 30% of those who had been bullied in the past achieved an A or A* in English. 26% of those being bullied achieved an A or A* in English. The trends were similar across Science and Maths. The full report can be downloaded here.


on the 12th May, 2014,  JustCofE Guidancein Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury  launched a report drafted by the Education Division of the Church of England entitled, “Valuing All God’s Children: Guidance for Church of England Schools on Challenging Homophobic Bullying.” Following the same-sex marriage debates in the Houses of Commons and Lords,  Archbishop Welby recognised that the world had indeed changed and made a commitment to combat bullying in Church Schools

The guidance (which can be downloaded here) is being sent to all Church of England schools, and  provides 10 key recommendations which should be adopted by schools in challenging homophobic bullying. It provides sample policies for primary and secondary schools as well a survey questions.

The 10 key recommendations are as follows:

  1. Schools should ensure that their Christian ethos statement emphasises an inclusivity that welcomes all, and reveres and respects all members of the diverse community as individuals who are known and loved by God.
  2. All school staff should be trained to recognise and understand how to challenge all types of bullying including homophobic language and behaviour. They should also be trained to offer pastoral support in the context of the issues surrounding sexual identity and homophobic bullying.
  3. Schools should ensure that their behaviour policies include clear expectations that homophobic behaviour and language will not be tolerated and that there can be no justification for this negative behaviour based on the Christian faith or the Bible.
  4. In Collective Worship, themes and values that play a part in challenging bullying in all forms should be explored.
  5. Opportunities should be offered for pupils to explore why some people seek to bully and that bullying can take the form of homophobic bullying. Strategies of how to protect yourself and others from bullying should be taught and pupils should be confident that if they report bullying it will be taken seriously.
  6. Systems for monitoring and analysing incidents of bullying should include homophobic bullying as a category and the school should regularly review the effectiveness of its curriculum, strategies and ethos in this regard.
  7. Governors should take responsibility for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of anti-bullying strategies and ensure that regular reports about bullying and wellbeing are part of the cycle of governors’ meetings. On all governing bodies there will be a nominated lead governor on safety and behaviour which will include bullying.
  8. Within the secondary phase sexual orientation is included as an aspect of Sex and Relationships Education, ensuring that the official Church of England view is taught clearly alongside other viewpoints held by Anglicans, other Christians, and different faith perspectives and world-views.
  9. Anti-bullying procedures and outcomes should be included as a performance indicator of a Church school that is distinctive and effective and included in the SIAMS framework for inspection.
  10. Diocesan Boards of Education and Diocesan Multi-Academy Trusts should monitor incidents of bullying in their schools and develop systems to monitor schools’ strategies for inclusion and bullying, supporting effective implementation.

NUS ReportOn the 12th May, 2014, the National Union of Students published a report entitled Educating Beyond the Straight and Narrow detailing the experiences of over 4,000 LGBT students attending 80 universities in the UK together with smaller qualitative studies at a sample of universities. This report, which details the methodologies used in some depth, can be downloaded here.


It should be noted that LGB+ refers to those who describe themsevles as lesbian, gay, bisexual or  or another way  (e.g. queer, questioning or unsure).
Key findings (taken from executive summary):

20 per cent of LGB+, and a third of trans respondents, have experienced at least one form of bullying or harassment on campus.

Only one fifth of trans students felt completely safe on campus – less than half the proportion of their heterosexual counterparts.

51% of trans respondents have seriously considered dropping out of their course.

LGB+ students are more likely to consider dropping out than heterosexual students: 25 per cent of heterosexual have seriously considered dropping out of their course compared to 27.7 per cent of gay, 26.6 per cent of lesbian, and 30 per cent of bisexual.

56% of LGB+ respondents cited the feeling of not fitting in as the main reason for considering dropping out.

LGBT students who have experienced a form of homophobic or transphobic harassment are 2–3 times more likely to consider leaving their course.

A focus group with trans students found that the main difficulties faced on campus for trans students are the lack of gender-neutral toilets and facilities, the lack of policies to update their name and gender in the student register, issues with university security services; and the prevalence of transphobia.


U.S. research and resources

In 2004  the California Safe Schools Coalition in conjunction with academics at the University of California, Davis published results from the California Healthy Kids Survey) which involved 237, 544 school students in grades 7-11 (7.5% of whom had been bullied because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation). The final report, Safe Place to Learn, demonstrated that, when compared to those students perceived to be heterosexual, those identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual were more likely to report a grade C average or lower (24% versus 17%), were more likely to report having missed school in the last month (27% versus 7%), were more likely to be threatened by someone holding a weapon (28% versus 5%) and were more likely to carry a weapon to school (19% versus 5%).

GLSEN 2013In October, 2014 GLSEN published the findings from their 2013 National School Climate Survey of 7,898 students between the ages of 13 and 21 attending schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia. Overall, 55.5% of LGBT students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, and 37.8% because of their gender expression. 71.4% heard “gay” used in a negative way (e.g., “that’s so gay”) frequently or more often at school, and 90.8% reported that they felt distressed because of this language. 64.5% heard other homophobic remarks (e.g., “dyke” or “faggot”) frequently or more often. 56.4% heard negative remarks about gender expression (not acting “masculine enough” or “feminine enough”) frequently or more often.

One third (33.1%) heard negative remarks specifically about transgender people, like “tranny” or “he/she,” frequently or often. 51.4% of students reported hearing homophobic remarks from their teachers or other school staff, and 55.5% of students reported hearing negative remarks about gender expression from teachers or other school staff. 74.1% of LGBT students were verbally harassed (e.g., called names or threat­ened) in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 55.2% because of their gender expression.

36.2% were physically harassed (e.g., pushed or shoved) in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 22.7% because of their gender expression. 16.5% were physically assaulted (e.g., punched, kicked, injured with a weapon) in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 11.4% because of their gender expression. 49.0% of LGBT students experienced cyberbullying. 56.7% of LGBT students who were harassed or assaulted in school did not report the incident to school staff, most commonly because they doubted that effective intervention would occur or the situation could become worse if reported. 61.6% of the students who did report an incident said that school staff did nothing in response.

The full report can be accessed here.

GLSEN‘s 2011 National School Climate Survey was again published. 2011 Climate ReportOverall,  a total of 8,584 students between the ages of 13 and 20 took part from all 50 states and the District of Columbia and from 3,224 unique school districts. The results showed that  84.9%  heard “gay” used in a negative way (e.g., “that’s so gay”) frequently or often at school, and 91.4% reported that they felt distressed because of this language. Additionally, 56.9% of students reported hearing negative remarks about gender expression from teachers or other school staff.
In terms of safety, 63.5% felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation, and 43.9% because of their gender expression. In terms of victimization, 81.9% were verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation in the past year, and 63.9% because of their gender expression. 38.3% were physically harassed because of their sexual and 27.1% because of their gender expression. One fifth (18.3%) were physically assaulted
because of their sexual orientation and 12.4% because of their gender expression. Of concern, 55.2% of LGBT students experienced cyberbullying.

Many LGBT students avoid classes or miss entire days of school rather than face a hostile school climate with 29.8% saying that skipped  class at least once in the past month.Students who experienced higher levels of victimization because of their sexual orientation were three
times as likely to have missed school in the past month than those who experienced lower levels (57.9% vs. 19.6%). Furthermore, students who experienced higher levels of victimization because of their gender identity were more than twice as likely to have missed school in the past month than those who experienced lower levels (53.2% vs. 20.4%).

GLSEN also reports that experiencing victimization in school hinders LGBT students’ academic success and educational aspirations. For example, students who were frequently harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender expression had lower grade point averages than students who were less often harassed (2.9 vs. 3.2) and were less likely to consider college or further study.

Finally, experiences of harassment and assault were related to poorer psychological well-being for LGBT students with high levels of depression reported by those who experienced most harassment.

In 2009, GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey illustrated that of the 7,261 middle and high school students that took part, 9 out of 1GLSEN0 LGBT students had experienced harassment at school in the past year and nearly two-thirds reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation. Almost one third of students said that they missed at least one day of school in the past month because of concerns for personal safety. While the results showed that since 1999 there has been a gradual reduction in the frequency of overheard homophobic comments, experiences of severe forms of bullying have remained constant.

The 2007 National School Climate Survey is also available here. Of the 6,209 middle and high school students surveyed it found that 86.2% of LGBT students experienced harassment at school in the past 12 months with 60.8% reporting  feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation. Overall, 32.7%  missed a day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe.

The 2005 National School Climate Survey can be found here.1,732 students aged between 13 and 20 years took part. 75. 4% reported that they had heard derogatory comments (e.g. “faggot” or “dyke”) frequently or often at school. Nearly 90% (89.2%) reported hearing comments such as, “that’s so gay”, or “you’re so gay”  (inferring stupidity or worthlessness) frequently or often. Just over a third (37.8%) said that they had experienced physical harassment because of their sexual orientation and 26.1% as a result of their gender expression. One-fifth (17.6%) said they had been physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation with11.8% reporting have been assaulted because of their gender expression.

In the 2003 National School Climate Survey (which can be found here), 887 students aged 13-20 years from 48 states participated. In this report LGBT youth who reported being victims od verbal harassment were twice as likely to report they did not intend to go to college. Additionally, their GPAs were significantly lower (2.9 vs. 3.3). 84% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation with 82.9% reporting that teachers never or rarely intervened even when present.

In the 2001 National School Climate Survey 904 LGBT students participated (report can be downloaded here). Overall, 83.2% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed (name calling, threats, etc.) because of their sexual orientation. 48.3% of LGBT students of colour reported having been verbally harassed because of both their sexual orientation and their race/ethnicity. 65.4% reported having been sexually harassed (74.2% of lesbian and bisexual young women and 73.7% of transgender students reported being sexually harassed). Nearl half, (41.9%) of LGBT students reported being physically harassed because of their sexual orientation with 21.1% being punched, kicked, injured with a weapon.

The very first National School Climate Survey conducted by GLSEN in 1999. 496 LGBT youth from 32 states completed the survey. Over 90% reported that they sometimes or frequently heard homophobic remarks at school, and almost all reported that these remarks came from other students. 69% reported experiencing some form of harassment or violence, and 13.7% reported physical assault. Nearly half  said they did not feel safe in school, and over one third said they did not feel comfortable speaking to school staff about issues associated with their sexual orientaton or transgender status.

On the 7th October, 2010, launched the Safe Space Kit to counter homophobic bullying in U.S. schools. The kit  has a  simple slogan and objective: “Every student deserves a safe space”. Follow the hyperlink for the 2016 version.

On the 15th October, 2010, the Society for Research on Child Development (SRCD) published Issue 4 of its 2010 SocialPolicy Report which focused on Safe Schools Policy for LGBTQ Students. The report was written by Stephen T Russell (University of Arizona), Joseph Kosciw (GLSEN), Stacey Horn (University of Illinois at Chicago), and Elizabeth Saewyc (University of British Columbia, Canada). Commentaries were written by Ian Rivers (Brunel University, UK), Susan M Swearer (University of Nebraska- Lincoln), Daniel O’Donnell (New York State Assembly), and Marko Liias (Washington State Representative).

The National Lesbian and Gay Task Force together with the National Center for Transgender Equality published, on 3rd February, 2011, Injustice At Every Turn: The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, with evidence collated from 6,450 trans or gender non-confoirming citizens in the U.S.  Overall, the results showed that the majority lived in extreme poverty with 41% reporting having attempted suicide and 78% having experienced harassment (one sixth having left school because of it). Participants who had been harassed by teachers at school were found to have  “dramatically” worse health outcomes when compared to those who had not experienced harassment.


Out ONlineGLSEN has recently published a report entitled, ‘Out Online: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth’ on the Internet. The report is based upon the responses from 1,960 youth (13-18 years old). Highlights from the report include:

Online Bullying
LGBT youth were nearly 3 times more likely that non-LGBT youth to report that  they had been bullied or harassed online (42% vs. 15%) and twice as likely to report that they had been bullied via text message (27% vs. 13%).

Civic Engagement
•LGBT youth indicated high rates of engagement online, including having taken part in online community activities that support a cause or issue (77%), had distributed information about a cause or issue (76%),  had written a blog or posted comments on another blog about a cause or issue (68%), and used the Internet to participate in or recruit people for an event or activity (51%).

Sexual Harassment
32% of LGBT respondents reported that they had been sexually harassed online in the past year. 25% said they had been sexually harassed via text message.

Online Friendships
LGBT youth reported knowing substantially more online friends than non-LGBT youth: 50% of LGBT respondents reported having at least one
close online friend, compared to only 19% of non- LGBT youth. LGBT youth rated their online friends as more supportive than non-LGBT youth rated their online friends. 62%  had used the Internet to connect with other LGBT people in the past year.

‘Coming Out’
14% of LGBT youth said that they had first disclosed their LGBT identity to
someone online. 29% were more out online than in person. 52% of those who were not out to peers in person had used the Internet to connect with other LGBT people.

A Copy of the report can be found here.

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