What is Homophobic Bullying?

The consequences of homophobic bullying can be both physical and mental. Also, it's important to consider that, although they affect the victim to a greater extent, they have an impact on the entire environment.
What is Homophobic Bullying?
Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 25 February, 2023

School bullying has always been a challenge for coexistence in educational institutions, as schools are key to the promotion of a more egalitarian and tolerant society. Consequently, homophobic bullying represents an additional challenge, due to the numerous episodes of violence that occur. Let’s see what it’s all about.

Sexual-affective diversity, what we’re talking about

Sexual diversity refers to the plurality of emotional, affective, and sexual practices and manifestations, whether toward people of the same gender, different gender, or both. Therefore, all people are part of diversity.

However, according to some authors, such as Pecheny et al., not all diversities are respected, as only one model of experiencing the body, sexuality, and affectivity is legitimized and recognized. And this has to do with the cis-heterosexual model. In other words, a person who’s interested in or feels attraction for the opposite sex or gender and whose identity coincides with their genitality or reproductive apparatus.

All other existing gender expressions or identities aren’t considered hegemonic, which is why they’re sometimes the object of mockery, aggression, and violence. In this regard, one of the ways in which this violence is manifested is homophobic bullying.

Know what homophobic bullying is

Homophobic bullying refers to all behaviors persistent over time that aim to humiliate, harass, or cause feelings of inferiority to a person. This can be because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or behaviors that are considered inappropriate for their gender, among others.

What’s more, discrimination and violence can be based on causes that are real or simply apparent. In the latter case, for example, the teasing of men who have more feminine gestures or attitudes is frequent.

Also, family members or children of same-sex couples may be teased. Therefore, homophobic bullying can be expressed in different ways. Among them are the following:

  • Exclusion and marginalization
  • Insults and verbal aggression
  • Humiliation
  • Physical aggression
  • Threats, blackmail, and manipulation
  • Sexual abuse or harassment
  • Damage to the victim’s belongings

You may be interested in: How to Detect and Deal with Bullying

A lesbian teen couple.
The fact that patriarchy and the paradigm of cis-heterosexuality exist as “standards” of what’s normal creates spaces in which other ways of experiencing sexual-affective diversity are considered outside the norm.

The characteristics of homophobic bullying

Homophobic bullying has certain particular characteristics. Among them we can mention the following:

  • Because in many places sexuality and diversity are still taboo subjects, sometimes people who are bullied don’t report it. The same happens with other passive bystanders, who, although they don’t participate directly, by not reporting the situation, become accomplices.
  • In the school environment, in many cases, the teaching staff isn’t informed or sensitized regarding the different realities experienced by the LGBTIQA+ community. Therefore, when a situation arises, they don’t know how to act, and the schools don’t have a protocol to do so.
  • Most people are socialized based on patriarchy and androcentrism, so other diversities are made invisible and are considered outside the norm.
  • The LGTBIQA+ population is in a more vulnerable situation when there’s rejection by their family members.

How to detect a situation of homophobic bullying

Some of the following characteristics allow us to understand if we’re facing a situation of homophobic bullying:

  • There’s deliberate intentionality on the part of the aggressor to humiliate, harass, or cause harm to the victim.
  • It occurs in the context of an asymmetrical or power relationship. For example, even if they’re peers, one of the persons has greater power or is in a position of advantage.
  • The situation of harassment, aggression, and/or violence must be persistent and repeated over time in order to be considered bullying.
  • The harassment action is directed toward someone, although it can be perpetrated by one or many people.

You may be interested in: What Are the Causes of Bullying?

What are the consequences of homophobic bullying?

The consequences of homophobic bullying can be both physical and mental, but it’s important to take into consideration the fact that, although they affect the victim to a greater extent, they also have an impact on the entire environment. Let’s take a look at the main consequences:

  • It affects self-esteem.
  • It harms school performance.
  • It gives a feeling of fear and insecurity.
  • It can lead to mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or panic attacks.
  • In some cases, it can end in suicide.

At the same time, it’s important to bear in mind that not only the victim is affected, but also the rest of the student body, as it has an impact on school coexistence. Likewise, the person or people who do the bullying won’t benefit either. Rather, they learn that force and violence are the only means to get what they want and set the basis for asocial, negative, and defiant behaviors.

A boy who's suffering homophobic bullying.
In cases of homophobic bullying, violent and aggressive situations are naturalized and, at the same time other ways of experiencing the body, sexuality, and affection are made invisible.

Can we talk about homophobia?

The most well-known term to talk about this constant situation of humiliation, aggression, or harassment is homophobic bullying. However, the truth is that many authors prefer to speak of homonegativity, as a phobia is a disorder, as opposed to hatred and prejudice, which are the driving force behind “homophobia”.

How to prevent homophobic bullying?

The responsibility for preventing homophobic bullying is a collective one. Moreover, given that in most cases it occurs in school environments, it’s important to involve all the actors involved. In this regard, it’s possible to curb this phenomenon of violence that affects school coexistence.

It’s not only necessary to repair through specific action measures, but also to prevent through awareness and training for the entire educational community, including families. In this reagrd, it’s important to take into account that many of these behaviors are learned at home. At the same time, it’s also a good idea to promote LGBTIQA+ people as references.

It’s necessary to create spaces for dialogue with students so that they can feel confident and come forward to ask for help. Finally, teachers must be trained to detect potential cases of harassment and understand how to act. Choosing to do nothing is equivalent to taking a clear position that there’s no sanction in the face of violence.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Diversidad sexual y derechos humanos: sexualidades libres de violencia y discriminación; dirigido por Javier Alejandro Bujan. – 1a ed . – Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires: Instituto Nacional contra la Discriminación, la Xenofobia y el Racismo – INADI, 2016.
  • Pichardo Galán, J. I. (2009). Entender la diversidad familiar: Relaciones homosexuales y nuevos modelos de familia. Barcelona: Bellaterra.
  • Pecheny, Mario. (2013). Desigualdades estructurales, salud de jóvenes LGBT y lagunas de conocimiento: ¿qué sabemos y qué preguntamos?. Temas en Psicologia, 21(3), 961-972. https://dx.doi.org/10.9788/TP2013.3-EE10ESP

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.