Homophobic, transphobic and biphobic bullying takes place when someone is targeted because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, or that of someone within their family or friend group.
As with all types of bullying, it can involve name-calling, derogatory comments, spreading of rumours, isolation, and even physical or sexual abuse. Phraseslike “that’s so gay”, all-too-often dropped into casual conversation, can also be seen as bullying, because many people feel they are slurs against members of the gay, transgender, or bisexual communities.
Multiple initiatives and tools are now being developed to reduce instances of homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic bullying.
What are QSAs?
Queer-Straight Alliances (or QSAs) are groups where individuals from schools or communities come together – no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity – for support and to learn about each other.
QSA members report that QSAs provide safe environments where people are able to be themselves, without worrying that they will be targeted or bullied.
'You walk into the QSA and you can feel that the people there would be willing to accept your identity, no matter how diverse it is. In the outside world there's always that fear that someone won't accept you, and no matter how confident you are it can break you,” says Harold Coutts, former leader of Waimea College Alliance of Queers and Straights. “It's nice to feel like your identity won't be broken down and criticised.”
Connor McCleod, former leader of the Nayland Alliance of Queers and Straights (NAGS), says, “Being a queer person means being outnumbered and often misrepresented in society. But strengthening organisations [like QSAs] at schools and in communities is showing the world that our sexualities and gender identities are all just a little different, and that we can definitely express these without feeling ashamed of ourselves.”
There are many other simple ways to help eliminate discrimination based on gender or sexual identification, both within schools and in the wider community, such as:
- Speaking up when you overhear someone use the phrase “that’s so gay”, or other homophobic/transphobic slurs
- Including matters around sexual orientation and gender identity in any school policies around bullying
- Providing professional development training for all staff regarding sexual orientation and gender identity
- Engaging with organisations such as Rainbow Youth, School’s Out, and Family Planning, bringing their educators into the classroom to teach youths about sexual/gender diversity
- Running, and getting involved with, campaigns like Pink Shirt Day, Day of Silence, and the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
InsideOUT is a national organisation which works to make Aotearoa a safer place for all young people of diverse genders and sexualities. They work with young people, whānau, schools, youth service providers and communities to achieve their aims of decreasing and preventing homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, provide safer spaces and generally improving the health and wellbeing of young people.
InsideOUT supports young people in starting, strengthening, and sustaining QSAs and builds the capacity of QSAs to:
- Create a space where students can socialise in a safe environment
- Provide support for students who might be facing issues such as bullying, and
- Spread awareness about homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, gender identity, and sexual orientation issues within the school.