Uniting Niagara's Sexual and Gender Diverse Community

Homophobic Bullying In Schools Still Runs Rampant

Oct 08, 2013

“Discrimination means differential treatment of an individual or group of individuals which is based, in whole or in part, on one of more of the prohibited grounds for discrimination, and which thus has an adverse impact on the individual or group of individuals.” Prohibited grounds include age, ancestry, citizenship, colour, creed, ethnic origin, family status, handicap, marital status, place of origin, race, receipt of public assistance, record of offenses, sex and sexual orientation.

Given the knowledge of the above, it may or may not be surprising that in Canadian schools (elementary, secondary and post-secondary) the frequency of incidents of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity are very high, which we refer to as homophobic bullying.

What exactly is homophobic bullying? And who does it happen to? Homophobic bullying is defined as bullying behaviours that are motivated by prejudice against a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. This type of bullying happens to both male and female students, but the statistics indicate that male students are more likely to engage in this activity than female students. This often happens in locker rooms and washrooms in schools out of the watchful eye of adults. That being said, there are reports of teachers and school staff making homophobic comments and also ignoring these comments when they occur on school property.

There are generally considered to be 4 types of homophobic bullying:

  1. Verbal – name-calling, spreading rumors, or gossiping that someone is gay; making threats; unwanted sexual comments of jokes; suggesting that someone or something is stupid and therefore “gay”.
  2. Social – may include many forms of exclusion, isolation, public humiliation or intimidation.
  3. Physical – may include obscene gestures, hitting, punching, poking, kicking, choking, chasing, stalking, or threatening someone with physical harm; destroying or stealing belongings; unwanted sexual touching, teasing or harassment.
  4. Cyber – using the internet, instant messaging and cell phones to intimidate, put down, spread rumors, make fun of, threaten, or exclude someone because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

How does homophobic bullying impact the individual?

LGBTQ youth and adults experience higher rates of violent victimization, including sexual , assault, robbery, and physical assault and general rates of discrimination “three times higher than that of heterosexuals” (Statistics Canada, 2008). LGBTQ youth are more likely to have run away from home in the past year, to be sexually experienced, to be current smokers, to have tried alcohol, or to have used drugs and to have reported emotional distress, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

Homophobic Bullying Strategies for Self-Protection

  • I. Tell someone you trust – talk to a teacher, parent, relative, youth worker, counsellor, coach or faith leader. You do not have to suffer in silence.
  • II. Know your rights – Find out what your schools bullying prevention policy is. Also explore the Code of Student Conduct.
  • III. Stay safe – Don’t fight back. Bullies want attention and fighting back gives them what they want. If you fight back, you may get hurt or make the situation worse.
  • IV. Write everything down – Keep a detailed record of incidents, including date, time, location and what was said or done and by whom. Do not delete email messages. Print them as this is your evidence.
  • V. Remain calm – You do not have to reveal your sexual orientation or gender identity to seek help. Caring and trusting adults are available to help and support you.
  • VI. Find support in your community – search for an LGBTQ youth group. Consider enrolling in a school that has a gay-straight alliance or diversity club.

If homophobic bullying is not addressed, it reinforces to everyone affected that it is okay to discriminate. Stand up, speak out and be free from bullying!

- By Dave Neary 

Dave Neary is a counsellor.



Martin, Nick, Winnipeg Free Press, “Study finds startling new data on homophobia in Canadian classrooms”, May 12, 2011. Statistics Canada, 2010, “Hates crimes motivated by sexual orientation often result in physical injury” Statistics Canada, April 12, 2012, “Police-reported hate crimes, 2010” McMaster University, Human Rights Office, Anti-Discrimination Policy, October 10, 2001 www.care2.com   Be the change: 5 Simple Ways to Fight Homophobia www.b-free.ca   Homophobic Bullying www.antibullying.net   Is homophobic bullying a problem in schools? www.stonewall.org.uk   Employment and the workplace


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