Homophobic, Biphobic and Transphobic (HBT) bullying behaviour occurs when people are targeted because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning their sexual orientation (LGBTQ+), are perceived to be LGBTQ+ or have LGBTQ+ friends/relatives.
The Diana Award’s definition of bullying behaviour is
"Repeated, negative behaviour that is intended to make others feel upset, uncomfortable, or unsafe".
Like other forms of bullying behaviour, HBT bullying behaviour can be verbal, indirect, or physical (VIP). According to research conducted by YouGov for Amazon in 2019, people experiencing bulling behaviour for identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is more common than bullying behaviour related to racism, sexism, or religion (BBC, 2019).
Examples of bullying behaviour targeted towards people who identify as LGBTQ+, are perceived to be LGBTQ+ or have LGBTQ+ friends/relatives can include:
- Making comments regarding a person’s gender identity or sexuality (or a friend’s/relative’s) that deliberately makes them feel uncomfortable
- Name calling or teasing
- Hitting, punching or hurting
- Ignoring or excluding someone
- Making sexual comments or asking sexual questions
- Directing comments towards someone online.
Bullying behaviour related to sexuality or gender identity is against the law and classed as a hate crime under the Equality Act 2010.
Terms & definitions
Sexual orientation is used to describe who a person is romantically and/or sexually attracted to, commonly based on gender. There is no set age that people must decide their sexuality and it could change over your lifetime.
Gender identity is how a person feels inside about their gender and who they are. They may identify as a man, a woman, both, neither or in another way. While biological sex and gender identity are the same for most people (this is called being cisgender), this is not the case for everyone.
Coming out is a term used to describe LGBTQ+ people living openly and telling people about their sexuality and/or gender identity. It’s a process – some people will be out in some places and to some people but not to others. Ultimately, it is your decision when and who you choose to ‘come out’ to.
Coming to terms with your sexuality or gender identity can be very difficult and it can take some time to get to a point where you feel comfortable and confident enough to have those conversations with people. However, it’s important to remember that regardless of what sexuality or gender identity you identify with, it is normal and you should be proud of who you are.
Top tips if you're experiencing this type of bullying behaviour
If you identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, you have the right to feel safe in your school, college, community or workplace. Bullying behaviour related to sexual orientation or gender identity is unacceptable. Below, the team at The Diana Award have outlined some of the steps you can take if you are experiencing this type of bullying behaviour:
If possible, make it an adult you trust such as a parent, guardian or teacher. You could also talk to a friend, Anti-Bullying Ambassador or support service. You can text DA to 85258 to access The Diana Award Crisis Messenger for free, 24/7 advice. If your school or local community has a Pride group, reach out to them for further support.
If you’re worried about bullying behaviour in the playground or walking home from school, you could hang around with people you know and trust. If the bullying behaviour takes place online, change your privacy settings and mute, block or report it.
You should always write down who has been saying what to you, the date, time, and location this has taken place and save/screenshot any messages received online.
4_Remember that it’s not your fault
You haven’t caused this bullying behaviour. It is based on unjust prejudice and you are not to blame. Remember that the sexual orientation and/or gender identity you identify with does not limit your worth and try to surround yourself with people who lift you up and celebrate you for who you are.
If the bullying behaviour you’re experiencing spills into threats or violence or if you’re not happy with the way your school, college, university, or workplace have dealt with incidents you have reported, then you should report it to the police as a hate crime. If you are ever in immediate danger, call the police on 999.
Top tips for tackling LGBTQ+ bullying behaviour
If you have experienced or witnessed bullying behaviour towards someone who identifies as LGBTQ+, is perceived to be LGBTQ+ or has LGBTQ+ friends/relatives in your school, there are lots of things you can do to tackle this problem and support the LGBTQ+ community.
Often, this type of behaviour stems from a lack of awareness surrounding the language we use. For example, some young people use words such as ‘gay’ as casual insults and may not realise the serious impact this can have on someone’s mental health. Furthermore, people who have same-sex parents may be targeted by others for appearing to be ‘different’. This can occur because they do not conform to society’s idea of a ‘traditional’ family unit. Awareness of different sexualities and gender identities can help to reduce prejudice and unfair stereotypes. You can do this through workshops or assemblies in your school. Additionally, providing education about the impact of this type of bullying behaviour can help to create an environment where this is not accepted. By implementing these actions, you will be fulfilling your responsibility in ensuring that your school is a safe and supportive environment to LGBTQ+ students and their friends/relatives.
You can encourage your school to record incidents of bullying behaviour by category, including HBT bullying behaviour. This ensures that your school tracks if this is a recurring issue and takes responsibility for changing this. Your school has a duty of care to students and should work to create an inclusive environment through education about the impact of HBT bullying behaviour.
A one-stop listening service for LGBTQ+ people on the phone, by email and through Instant Messaging.
A private and confidential service for children and young people up to the age of 19.
A charity providing support and advice on coming out, health and LGBTQ+ related issues.