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LGBTQ+ Bullying

LGBTQ+ Bullying

Getting bullied at school because of your sexual orientation or gender identity is wrong. Everyone has the right to be educated without fear and your school has a duty to look after you.

However as many people know all too well, the reality is that prejudice and bullying against LGBTQ+ people still goes on, and it can take its toll on young people’s mental health.

On this advice page we’ll explain what LGBTQ+ bullying is, how it can affect people and what support is available.

LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and “plus” – which represents all other sexual identities.

If you want to find out more about these terms you can visit MindOut’s LGBTQ+ glossary.

Being a young person can be tough, and it can be even harder for those who are part of the LGBTQ+ community in Scotland.

Unfortunately, bullying and prejudice still exist in schools, and it can be a challenging time for you if you are someone who is experiencing this. But it’s important to remember that you are not alone and there is support available to you.

Everyone deserves to feel safe and accepted for who they are, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Bullying is never okay and should not be tolerated. Everyone has the right to be educated without fear and your school has a duty to look after you.

What is LGBTQ+ bullying?

Homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying can happen when other people use a person’s real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity to exclude, threaten, hurt, or humiliate them.

Like other forms of bullying, LGBTQ+ bullying can happen face-to-face or online.

It can make people feel threatened, frightened and left out and can stop pupils from learning.

Bullying can take place in or out of school. If you aren’t sure if something you’ve experienced might count as LGBTQ+ bullying, here are some of the things this might look like:

  • Name calling or spreading rumours
  • Physical attack
  • Excluding someone from conversations, activities and games
  • Stealing from someone or damaging their property with homophobic, biphobic and/or transphobic messages
  • Threatening someone or spreading rumours through texts or social media
  • ‘Outing’ or threatening to ‘out’ someone
  • Gestures, or looks
  • Harassment or intimidation
  • Asking invasive questions about your body and/or relationships
  • Using the wrong name and/or pronoun on purpose. This is different from people trying their best and making a mistake.
  • Anything else that makes you feel threatened, frightened and left out.

How can Bullying affect your learning?

If you are being bullied it can have a negative impact on your education. Bullying is not only hurtful emotionally, but it can affect your ability to learn too.

We do our best learning when we feel safe and relaxed.

When you’re being bullied, it can be incredibly difficult feel settled and concentrate in school.

This might be because:

LGBT Youth Scotland are the national charity for LGBTQ+ young people. They spoke to LGBTQ+ young people about their experience of school in Scotland:

58% of bisexual participants, 70% of gay and lesbian participants and 57% of trans participants experienced homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in school.

70% of participants said that homophobia, biphobia and transphobia had a negative impact on their educational experience.

*Reference: Cronie, K., (2022) Life in Scotland for LGBT Young People. LGBT Youth Scotland.

These numbers demonstrate how LGBTQ+ bullying is affecting pupils in Scotland.

If you are one of those affected, it’s important to remember that education is your right. You deserve an environment where you can learn and grow without fear.

If you are experiencing bullying or prejudice at school, it’s important to talk to someone you trust. This could be a friend, family member, or teacher.

To find out more about LGBTQ+ young people’s experiences of school check out the LGBT Youth Scotland Education Report.

How can my school help?

Some of the ways school can support you:

  • Taking the time to talk with you. Your school should listen to any concerns that you have as well as any suggestions that you think could help make things better.
  • Your school should have anti-bullying policies that they follow. These are there to protect all pupils and staff.
  • There is also guidance available to teachers in Scotland about creating an LGBT inclusive curriculum and supporting transgender pupils in schools. These are informed by children’s rights and the UNCRC.
  • By signing up to the LGBT Education Charter. This is a programme designed to support schools to  proactively include LGBTQ+ people.
  • Taking note of and using your preferred pronouns.
  • Making sure there are suitable facilities, such as toilets or changing rooms available and that work for you.
  • Having a gender-neutral option for school uniform.
  • Some schools will have LGBTQ+ support groups that you can join.

These are just some of the ways that your school can support you. You have the right to have your say and shape your support. If there is something else that you think would help then you can suggest it to your school.

If you are 12-15 and finding it difficult to speak to your school, an organisation called My Rights, My Say can help.

You can contact them by hitting the button below.

Who else can help?

You can also reach out to organisations that support the LGBTQ+ community, such as LGBT Youth Scotland or the LGBT Helpline Scotland.

LGBT Youth Scotland are the national charity for LGBTQ+ young people. They work with 13–25 year olds across the country. As well as offering digital support they run fun, social youth groups for young people across Scotland. They also offer support via text and the Live Chat on their website.

LGBT Helpline Scotland provide information and emotional support to LGBTQ+ people in Scotland. This includes the families, friends and supporters of LGBTQ+ people.

You can call them on 0300 123 2523.

Switchboard is a phone line available for all people looking for LGBTQ+ support.

You can call them on 0800 0119 100.

If you are struggling with your mental health or need someone to talk to, there are also resources available to you.

SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) has a range of support services. These include a helpline and online resources to help you take care of your mental health and wellbeing.

If you need urgent help, you can text YM to 85258 to contact YoungMinds. Their website features stories from other young people and has great advice about looking after your mental health.

An image with a transparent background and the Childline logo - the word 'Childline' in blue. Blue text below this reads 'Online, on the phone, anytime.

If you’re struggling and feeling stressed, Childline has online 1-to-1 counselling and information to help. You can also call Childline on 0800 1111. If you are deaf you can use SignVideo.

What else can I do?

It’s important to surround yourself with positivity and support, as much as you can.

Try to find people who share your values and interests, and who make you feel good about yourself.

If you are currently experiencing bullying of any kind remember that you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you are any less than who you are.

Be kind to yourself and reach out for help if you need it.

Looking for more Info?

An image of the RespectMe logo which consists of the word 'Respect' in pink and 'Me' in blue. Below blue text also reads 'Scotland's anti-bullying service. Above the letter 'M' is a circle with various circles inside it that are yellow, blue, red, light green and pink.

You can visit RespectMe for more practical advice and guidance on dealing with bullying behaviour.

RespectMe is Scotland’s anti-bullying service and has information and advice about bullying for young people.

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