What is Bullying?
Bullying is described as individuals or groups that do things with the intention of hurting someone or a targeted group. It comes in many forms physical, verbal,social,sexual, psychological and cyber bullying. Some statistics say that almost half of all students experience some form of bullying during their schooling years. However it is difficult to get accurate statistics since such a large number of bullying victims do not report it.
There is a higher rate of bullying amongst LGBT young people than non LGBT young people. A study conducted in 2004 showed that 38% of LGBT students felt that they had been treated unfairly because of their sexuality. This study also showed that, school instead of being a safe place, was the most dangerous place for them. Out of the surveyed LGBT students who indicated that they were experiencing bullying and or abuse, 75% indicated that it occurred at school. The reason why LGBT people are targeted is because society is yet to fully accept their lifestyle and some people still view homophobic bully as acceptable and not as bad as racism or sexism.
What does it look like?
Verbal bullying is the most common form of bullying. It involves saying hurtful remarks and things that are insulting and demeaning. Often this is done in front of others so that it embarrasses the victim and causes the most damage. Many of the insults used against LGBT young people is rooted in religious morality and stereotypes and not adhering to old social ideas about gender. Examples of verbal bullying that young people have experienced are “you fucking faggot”. “That’s a sin, you’ll go to to hell.”, ” man hating dyke.” In some cases it escalates to to threats such as “hope you get AIDS and die”: as well as “you need a good root, you should be raped straight.”
Physical bullying is more common amongst males and often involves a group. It however is the least commonly, reported. This could mean that most bullying doesn’t escalate to physical bullying or it could mean that a large amount of victims choose not to report it due to the fear the victim feels. Physical bullying against LGBT young people ranges from having clothes and possessions damaged to serve gang bashing, rape and hospitalization.
Social bullying is more manipulating and is more common amoungst females. It involves false or degrading rumors, ignoring or excluding someone or some group. LGBT young people often experience social isolation or exclusion due to their sexuality or perceived sexuality. For LGBT young people this can also occur more structurally as well; for example not being allowed to bring their partner to their formal and there not being any safe sex education with in their school. Another example of social bullying is not being able to join a club /sporting group because all of the members will quit if you join, because of your sexuality.
Sexual Bullying can range from unwanted touching and unwanted advances to blackmailing for sexual favours. It is any physical or nonphysical bullying behavior that is based on a persons sexuality or gender. An example of sexual bullying is using sexual words to put someone else down, such as slut, manwhore, hoe, slag, gigolo or pimp. Other forms of sexual bullying include gossiping about someones sexlife, toughing someone inappropriately and forcing someone to act in a sexual way or perform sexual acts. An LGBT young people specific example would be if a young person was only out to there partner and the partner blackmailed them saying “I will tell everyone if you don’t do these sexual favours for me.”
Psychological bullying is similar to social bullying, it involves the manipulation of relationships, stalking, intimidation and the victim being ostracized or isolated. Some LGBT young people are excluded from social groups or activities based on their sexuality. Some LGBT young people face intimidation to stop all behaviour connected to their sexuality; this can create an embedded sense of shame about their sexuality.
Cyber bullying is a more recent development than other types of bullying. Cyber bullying is any bullying that involves technology such as a phone or a computer. It has become rampant in some schools; fights or indecent photos are posted to the whole school, subjecting individuals to mass amounts of ridicule. To help prevent cyber bullying guard your contact information such as phone number and mail address. Also hide your number when calling and don’t leave your name on your voice mail.
Why is bullying bad?
Bullying can have many detrimental effects such as lowself esteem, lowself worth, post tramatic stress and a feeling of helplessness. It can result in a higher level of stress, anxiety or depression and illness. It can also effect a students ability to learn due to missing school or dropping out of school completely due to continued bullying. Not finishing their education diminishes there chances of going to university or getting a job; so it can have a long lasting effect on the victim. Feelings of social issolation and alienation experienced by young LGBT people can have long term effects such as struggluing to form and maintain friendships in their later life.
Bullying can also create feelings of shame towards the aspect of their identity that was the cause of the bullying. Some young people feel a need to suppress their sexuality; this often results in depression because their sexuality is so much a part of themselves. LGBT young people that have experienced bullying are more likely to self harm and engage in high risk behaviors such as drug taking and having unprotected sex. Young people who experience physical abuse because of their sexuality are three times more likely to self harm then those who are not abused.
About the Bullies
Students who bully are more likely to drop out of school, use drugs, excessive alcohol and to engage in criminal behavior. Statistics say that one in every four bullies have a criminal record before they reach thirty. Interestingly enough it is quite common for bullies to have low self esteem themselves. There could be violence at home or someone else could be domineering towards them; as a result they bully some one else in order to feel powerful and in control. Sometimes the reason why the bully chooses to bully a LGBT person is due to fear or ignorance about the LGBT community. Homophobia can also be a result of people around them displaying homophobic behaviors, such as parents or peers.
What can bystanders do?
Bystanders are friends and stranger that witness bullying. There are many ways bystanders can help and put an end to bullying. They can make it clear to the bully that they will not be involved and they do not support their actions. Respect everyone and value peoples differences (imagine how dull life would be if we were all the same). Be friendly towards people who are being left out and who might need someone. You can also support someone who is being bullied by encouraging them to get help. Some universities have a queer space specifically for LGBT people which can be welcoming and provides a safe social space; however most schools do not have any support specifically for LGBT young people. There will be a school nurse and a school councilor which you could suggest they see for help and support.
Queenland Education Policies
Education Queensland has a code of behavior which is based on five values, one of which is Respect: treating all people with respect and dignity. It also includes the right of all students to learn and to feel safe. The code also says that everyone in a school community including students, teachers and other staff are expected to behave in a way that is lawful, ethical, safe and a responsible manner that recognizes and respects the rights of others. However in a 2004 survey a LGBT young person expressed the following although I’ve had many experiences, I’ll just say this “The fact that homophobia is illegal in schools means SQUAT! The second the teacher’s back is turned all hell breaks loose. Until awareness and education is spread, and attitudes change, youth suicide statistics will soar and homophobia will continue to linger.” It is important to remember that you have a right to an education and to feel safe at school. Inquire about your schools policy on homophobic bullying. If they don’t have a policy suggest that your school create one and ask about how the school intends to enforce their anti homophobic bullying policy. Don’t give up, the key is perseverance.
What can I do?
In some cases especially verbal bullying the person could be unaware of the affect it’s having and might think it’s a joke and all in good fun. The first step might need to be letting them know in a clear way that you don’t like it and you want them to stop it.
If the bullying continues tell an adult that you trust maybe a parent, teacher or older sibling. It is unfortunate that a lot of LGBT young people have informed a teacher of an experience of bullying and nothing has been done about it. Some just don’t know what to do and in some cases they completely turn a blind eye to it, which is just as bad as encouraging it because it enables bullyies to get away with it without any consequences. If this happens try not to be discouraged and find an adult that is more supportive and tell them.
Bullyies tend to prefer areas where there is little or no supervision, so try to avoid these areas. Bullies also feed on knowing that they have hurt their victims so it is best not to get angry or respond to them. If you stop showing signs of getting upset of angry it takes the fun out of it for them, so they are more likely to cease bullying. Although in some circumstances this can be very challenging for the victim. All schools have a school councilor and nurse for young people to see. They are not always supportive, but in some schools they can provide a nice safe place and the support that young LGBT people need.