Telling kids homophobia is wrong won't stop bullying in schools

Telling kids homophobia is wrong won’t stop bullying in schools
Teaching kids that homophobia is wrong won’t necessarily stop sexuality or gender bullying. Flickr/Kurt Lowenstein Education, CC BY-SA

There is no doubt that homophobic bullying is a problem in Australian schools. The latest Writing Themselves in report published by Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria reports 80% of young gay, lesbian or questioning teens experience gender and sexuality-based bullying in the form of physical and verbal assault while at school.

So how should schools respond to incidents of teasing and bullying related to and sexual identity? In an article Challenging homophobic bullying in schools, Daniel Monk draws attention away from therapeutic or disciplinary responses to bullying, arguing we should understand as part of a broader politics related to childhood and .

He challenges the idea that an educative response to such bullying is to try and stamp it out by educating young people about why it is wrong. While this approach acknowledges the harms caused by violence, it also silences other experiences of .

We gave students the scenario below of a young boy with feminine qualities being bullied, and asked what they thought he should do. Students we spoke to were in years 9 and 10 and attended public schools in Australia and New Zealand. The following is a response from a female student at a Melbourne outer suburbs high school:

A new boy has started in your class at school and he has been teased by other students because they think he is a sissy-boy, his name is Joshua but he prefers to be called Jo. He mainly hangs out with a few girls and he likes to wear make-up to school. His parents don't care what he wears or how he looks as long as he is happy. For as long as his family can remember he has enjoyed dressing up, wearing jewellery and putting on shows for his family.

Q: What advice would you give Jo about being teased?

Bisar: If he doesn't care what people think, just don't think about them. If he wants to be like that, he can be like that, but if he actually gets offended at what people say, he should actually take it into consideration and try fixing it. So, he'll either ignore it, or he's got to fix it.

Q: You think it's worth fixing it if he wants to?

Bisar: Yeah, if he wants to, he can fix it. If he wants to actually get a girlfriend and be like a man, he's got to fix it. But if he likes the way he is, who cares?

One reading of this exchange is that Bisar has the wrong answer - there is a suggestion here that Jo is broken because he is transsexual and needs fixing. One could respond by educating Bisar that this is the wrong way to think about gender and bullying.

But in responding to bullying related to gender and sexuality we want to suggest the need for a response that doesn't fix Jo, or Bisar, but rather thinks more about about the politics of what it means for schools and students to respond well to bullying. We want to resist the impulse to immediately correct Bisar's thinking about Jo - because such a response individualises the problem as Bisar's transphobia or homophobia and fails to recognise how homophobia is shaped by cultural and religious difference.

Schools need to be having conversations that recognise that students don't all think about gender and sexuality in the same way.

Stating that we need to do something about gender, sexuality and bullying therefore involves first grasping how students think about gender and sexuality. Where did Bisar get the idea that Jo needs fixing? And where did she get the idea that Jo might not need fixing, that he might like the way he is - and that it is okay?

Misconceptions about sexuality, gender and bullying

Common misconceptions exist about sexuality, gender and bullying, and how schools should cope with these issues. Some of these include:

  • That we can agree on what homophobia and transphobia are - and that this is stable over time
  • That there is a "right way" to respond to homophobia and transphobia
  • That teachers and students should all challenge homophobia and transphobia
  • That people who are homophobic and transphobic will benefit from anti-bullying education that illustrates why such beliefs are wrong

If an aim of anti-bullying education is to create spaces in which young people who are lesbian, , bisexual or trans identified may be safer, can we assume that saying homophobia and transphobia are wrong will have this desired effect?

This strategy attempts to shift responsibility away from individual students and onto schools and teachers, and to use sexuality education to explore historical, cultural and religious roots of homophobia and transphobia.

Classrooms should be a place for conversations about sexuality, homophobia and transphobia that recognise ' diverse backgrounds.


Explore further

New study suggests gender gap around homophobic bullying

Provided by The Conversation
Citation: Telling kids homophobia is wrong won't stop bullying in schools (2014, September 16) retrieved 25 August 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-09-kids-homophobia-wrong-wont-bullying.html
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Sep 16, 2014
Kids are smart. They know the schools are just promoting the homosexual lifestyle by using anti-bullying programs. The kids also know that the gay propaganda anti-bullying programs do nothing to prevent real bullying and in fact make it worse.


Sep 16, 2014
"Homophobia" is an expression of verbal terrorism used to attack, demean, and silence those who believe marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman. Understanding biology and the complementary nature of the male and female genders is not a neurotic phobia.
The best thing you can do is tell the children the truth and that is no one is born gay it is a chosen lifestyle chosen by a few folks by their environment, solicitation, by other gay lifestyles. The anti American gay lifestyles are known for telling lies and misleading news articles. This is why the gay lifestyles are losing public support for their agenda. They use as we see here children, women, for ammo to push their agenda down the publics throats because they can no longer win at the ballot boxes.

Sep 16, 2014
There is no "gay propaganda", unless you consider asking people to not be cruel to each other to be propaganda. No one is telling people that they can't believe in marriage as being between one man and one woman. You are free to live and believe as you wish. You just can't force everyone else to believe it and live it. No one is telling you that you have to marry someone of your gender. You are telling other that they can't marry a person that they love. That really isn't your business. The only people with an agenda are those telling others who they can't love and who they can't marry.
The truth is that people are born gay, lesbian, transgender, dual gendered, androgynous, and all other ways. God has created a variety of people, you just refuse to believe that they naturally exist.
The truth is that accepting each other is winning at the ballot box. 19 states in America have legalized and recognized gay marriage. Nothing more American than voting.

Sep 17, 2014
Kriggens, Truth is that Homosexuals activists are forcing their beliefs on others. If you are a christian baker, wedding facility owner, printer, lawyer, school, teacher, you are forced to accept homosexual marriage or risk your job, business and livelihood. You are forced to provide flowers, facilities, print homosexual propaganda, bake cakes.

The truth is, there is no proof that people are born homosexual. Truth is homosexuals make up only between 1-3% of the population. Truth is homosexuals are more likely to be criminals, abuse children, to be mentally ill.

The truth is, only by using deception, threats, bigotry, and ignorance is homosexual marriage gaining acceptance. Truth is homosexual marriage is only a ruse, used to propagate the attack against free speech, Christianity, and freedom. The two percenters and their supporters are now the bullies.

Sep 21, 2014
Kriggens, Truth is that Homosexuals activists are forcing their beliefs on others. If you are a christian baker, wedding facility owner, printer, lawyer, school, teacher, you are forced to accept homosexual marriage or risk your job, business and livelihood. You are forced to provide flowers, facilities, print homosexual propaganda, bake cakes.

The truth is, there is no proof that people are born homosexual. Truth is homosexuals make up only between 1-3% of the population. Truth is homosexuals are more likely to be criminals, abuse children, to be mentally ill.

The truth is, only by using deception, threats, bigotry, and ignorance is homosexual marriage gaining acceptance. Truth is homosexual marriage is only a ruse, used to propagate the attack against free speech, Christianity, and freedom. The two percenters and their supporters are now the bullies.


Spoken by a true ignorant bigot.

Sep 21, 2014
bigots are the ones promoting the homosexual lifestyle and forcing others the agree with it under force of law, to accept and promote it under force of law.


Sep 26, 2014
The suggestion that there is nothing wrong with being transgendered is a foolish idea and flies in the face of science.

For a man to think he is a woman is no more correct than a man thinking he is a dog or a chicken. If a man with all the required anatomical parts to think of himself as a women indicates there must be some disconnect or crossed wires in the brain.

If a person declares himself to be Jesus we generally label him as crazy yet when a man declares himself to be female when all anatomical evidence shows him to be male somehow that is considered OK?

It's obvious there is a problem in the brain if you deny the existence of your own penis.

Something went wrong somewhere.

This however does not give license for others to treat such people with hatred or discrimination, but it defies logic to say that there is nothing wrong with transgendered people.

Telling kids that recognize the problem with gender mis-identification that they are in the wrong is morally repugnant.

Sep 26, 2014
"The suggestion that there is nothing wrong with being transgendered is a foolish idea and flies in the face of science."

Sounds more like a moral argument than a scientific one. Do you have any links to back your statement?

Sep 26, 2014
" it defies logic to say that there is nothing wrong with transgendered people."

It might seem a trivial on part to object to the use of "wrong" in describing transgengered people but "wrong implies a value judgement, not a scientific one. Since there many competitive ideas among scientists on the causes of gender identity confusion and treatment I think that is what students should be told. And there should be no stigma attached.

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