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HBT bullying

What is HBT bullying?

Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying is the targeted abuse of an individual who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or someone who is questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity (LGTBQ).

Research by Stonewall shows that more than half (53%) of gay pupils experience verbal homophobic bullying, almost a quarter (23%) experience cyber bullying and one in six (16%) experience physical abuse.

Types of HBT bullying

As with most kinds of bullying, there are five main types of HBT bullying that can occur. A series of incidents can involve all five types, or the sustained use of just one type.

  • Physical – hitting, kicking, pinching, punching, pushing, scratching, spitting or any other form of physical or sexual violence. Damaging or taking things that belong to another person can also be classed as physical bullying.
  • Verbal – bullying that is spoken or said. This can include using words such as ‘faggot’ or ‘tranny’. Statements that threaten or tease others can be verbal bullying, even if they don’t involve these kinds of words (see below).
  • Indirect – bullying that does not directly involve the person being targeted. This can include spreading rumours about someone, or purposefully excluding them from an activity because of their sexuality or gender identity.
  • Mental – bullying that involves threatening or actually ‘outing’ someone to another individual or a group of people; public humiliation, sabotaging friendships and academic achievements.
  • Cyber – bullying that is carried out using electronic means. This includes sending texts, calling people to verbally abuse them, sending videos or picture messages, sending emails, using social media or instant messaging (IM) apps, or writing malicious posts on online forums or blogs. This can also include sending threatening messages or death threats.

Bullying of any kind is always serious and should be reported. It can make young people feel humiliated, vulnerable and embarrassed. If bullying is not challenged, it can result in substance misuse, self-harm and even suicide attempts.

Tackling HBT bullying

We advise that you adopt a zero tolerance approach to HBT bullying. A clear policy will enable teachers and non-teaching staff to consistently challenge HBT bullying in a united way. There should be clear and consistent consequences for students, in line with how you would respond to other kinds of bullying.

Bullying behaviour often comes from a lack of understanding, ignorance and fear. Incorporating lessons around gender and sexuality into PCHE can help to increase understanding and awareness. It can generate safe spaces for open discussions where students can explore and challenge each other’s attitudes safely.  

In addition to tackling HBT bullying, it’s also important to tackle general language and attitudes which can lead to other types of HBT behaviour, for example physical incidents, cyber bullying and excluding young people from groups and activities.

Embedding the LGBTQ community within the school curriculum can encourage tolerance, acceptance and diversity. This could involve introducing LGBTQ relationships, characters and themes into the examples, stories and scenarios used in lessons. You may also want to design specific lessons to teach young people about gender and sexuality.  

See our useful resources section for more information.

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