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What is homophobia?

The word homophobia comes from the Greek 'homo' (meaning 'same') and 'phobia' (meaning 'fear'). It is used to describe a fear or a negative attitude towards gay people.

It can take many forms including insults, discrimination or more extreme levels of intimidation and even violence.

With 2 out of 5 victims of homophobic bullying attempting or contemplating suicide this is a very serious issue.

Homophobia can be subtle. You may feel you're being ignored or treated with less respect than your peers. It can also be very obvious.

It's a sad truth but if you're gay, you may encounter homophobia at some point. Being picked on for your sexuality can be upsetting and embarrassing but remember you're not the problem, they are.

It may be comforting to know that the majority of homophobes act out of ignorance and fear. Often it's a question of immaturity.

Like bullies, homophobes get satisfaction and power from putting others down.

You could try taking the wind out of their sails by refusing to rise to the insult, e.g. "Yes, I'm gay. So what?"

As with bullying, you shouldn't suffer in silence. Secrecy is likely to empower them in their mistaken belief that being gay is something to keep quiet about.

Seek out support from anyone you trust and let them know what's going on. They may be able to intervene or just help you feel supported.

It's not always as easy to ignore or laugh off verbal insults as some might suggest. But do try.


If you act with confidence the average homophobic bully will get bored of trying to annoy you and give up.

What can parents do?

Parents and carers can play an important role in tackling homophobic bullying, says Stonewall’s Chris Gibbons. He suggests:


Talk to your child. Ask how they are feeling and if everything is OK at school, rather than if they are being bullied. They may be embarrassed and worried that you will think they are gay, so might choose not to say anything.

Remember that homophobic bullying can affect any young person, regardless of their sexual orientation. Just because your child is experiencing homophobic bullying does not necessarily mean that he or she is lesbian, gay or bisexual.

Be supportive. Your child needs to know that if they do decide to talk to you about bullying, you will listen and that they can trust you with what they tell you. Let them tell you in their own time, and ask them how they want to proceed. Preferably approach the school together.

Check with the school what procedures they have in place for dealing with bullying and in particular, homophobic bullying. Involve your child in any decisions that are taken on how to tackle the bullying. If you are not satisfied with how your child’s teacher responds, talk to the head teacher or bring it to the attention of the school governors - including your child at every stage.

Sue Allen of FFLAG advises that you check that the school has a separate anti-homophobic bullying policy and not something tacked on to their general bullying policy. Ask to see it, and if they haven’t got one, ask why not and insist this is remedied.


Go into the school and challenge them. They have a duty of care to all children. Research shows that in schools where children are explicitly taught that homophobic bullying is wrong, rates of such bullying are dramatically reduced, and pupils feel safer.

If the bullying doesn’t stop, go to your Local Education Authority and demand action. Changing schools can work in some cases but often a vulnerable child is vulnerable wherever they go.


Encourage your child to take up judo or another form of self-defence. This will boost their confidence that they can defend themselves if necessary.

homophobia
ho·mo·pho·bi·a
noun
unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality.

Homophobia is the irrational hatred, intolerance, and fear of lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

These negative feelings fuel the myths, stereotypes, and discrimination that can lead to violence.

People brought up in a homophobic society can often internalize these negative stereotypes and develop varying degrees of low self-esteem and self-hatred, often described as 'internalized homophobia'.

The word homophobia was constructed by the heterosexual psychologist George Weinberg in the late 1960s. He used homophobia to label heterosexuals’ dread of being in close quarters with homosexuals as well as homosexuals’ internalized oppression. The word first appeared in print in 1969.