Homophobia, Bi and Transphobia notes

Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia notes
What training participants have come up with when asked to define
What causes homophobia, bi and transphobia?
What fuels homophobia?
What different forms do homophobia, bi and transphobia take?
Growing up
Homophobic bullying survey reported (ITV news 2007)
Homophobic bullying and its effects on young people
Addressing LGBT health inequalities an educational resource 2007
Definition and Roots
Homophobia is the irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Homophobia is the
hatred, hostility, or disapproval of LGBT people, or cultures, or presumed sexual
behaviours and is generally used to assert bigotry. People who are homophobic
generally attempt to justify their aversion to LGBT people through stereotyping
and dehumanising LGBT people.
Stereotypes which have the purpose of dehumanising are based on ignorance
and false assumptions about LGBT people. Homophobia is basically a fear of
any behaviour, belief or attitude which does not conform to rigid gender-role
stereotypes. It is this fear that enforces sexism and heterosexism. Homophobia
has its roots in heterosexism and sexism (see Heterosexism fact sheet for
further information on heterosexism).
How Homophobia Manifests
Homophobia manifests itself in many ways, from so called “jokes” in the office,
to insults, tirades of verbal abuse, or actions like graffiti, or even extremes of
violence, including the nail bombing of a gay bar called the Admiral Duncan in
Soho, London in 1999 and other violent attack and murder.
A survey of 924 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Scotland in
2002 showed that 68% of respondents had been verbally abused or threatened
by someone who assumed they were LGBT, and 23% of respondents had
experienced a physical assault by someone who assumed they were LGBT1.
Laughing at homophobic jokes, or even remaining silent in the face of
homophobia, reinforces homophobic attitudes in society and will be interpreted
as acceptance.
Beyond Barriers, FMR; First Out, A Report on the Findings of the Beyond Barriers Survey of Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual and Transgender People in Scotland, 2002.
Addressing LGBT health inequalities an educational resource 2007
Impact and Health Consequences of Homophobia
Homophobia hurts everyone. Like sexism, racism and other forms of prejudice,
homophobia makes society a much more unsafe and restrictive place for people
to live.
Some lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people experience harassment
and bullying at school, in work, rejection from family and friends, and even when
using services such as the NHS. (expand this section)
What You Can Do About Homophobia
Homophobia can be challenged by refusing to collude with homophobic
comments and so called jokes, by challenging them and by refusing to tolerate
such discriminatory attitudes. (expand this section)
Addressing LGBT health inequalities an educational resource 2007
Definition and Roots
Biphobia is the irrational hatred, intolerance and fear of people who are
bisexual. It is important to distinguish biphobia from homophobia and to
acknowledge bisexuality as a valid identity in its own right. Even although bi
people can be as adversely affected by homophobia as lesbian and gay people
are, bi people still experience prejudice specifically because they are bi.
How Biphobia Manifests
Sometimes biphobia comes from lesbian and gay people just as much as
heterosexual people. This is usually, if not always, based on stereotypes and
assumptions about bi people being “untrustworthy” or “greedy”, or that bi people
are always looking for sex with someone else when they are in relationships.
This is nonsense. Betraying trust and looking for sex with other people when in
relationships happens no more or no less with bi people as it does with any
other sexual orientation. It's often naïvely assumed that homophobia affects bi
people only when they are in same-sex relationships. This is equivalent to
suggesting that homophobia has no effect on lesbians or gay men who aren't
currently in relationships.
Impact and Health Consequences of Biphobia
There has been a lack of research aimed specifically at the health and wellbeing
of people who are bi. However, it is well known that social exclusion adversely
impacts on health and wellbeing. Workshops held in Scotland in 2004 with bi
people showed that the most significant issues included feeling their identity was
‘invisible’ and ‘not fitting in’ with either lesbian and gay or heterosexual groups.
The fact that there is a lack of research reinforces the notion that bisexuality is
not a valid identity in its own right and further marginalises people who are bi.2
Biphobia aims to silence bi people and contributes to the invisibility of bi people.
Laird.N; Exploring Biphobia; A report on participatory appraisal research workshops in Glasgow and
Edinburgh, 2004.
Addressing LGBT health inequalities an educational resource 2007
Fear of rejection from heterosexual and lesbian and gay people can lead to
some bi people feeling isolated and unable to ‘fit in’. It is often assumed that bi
people are confused and are either “really gay” or “really straight” when in a
For example, a bi man in a monogamous relationship with a woman is still bi if
he identifies as bisexual, even if he never has sex with another man.
What You Can Do About Biphobia
Challenging biphobia means acknowledging bisexuality as a valid identity, not
colluding with derogatory comments and jokes, challenging them and refusing to
tolerate such discrimination.
See Transphobia by Dr Surya Monro
Addressing LGBT health inequalities an educational resource 2007
What training participants say when asked to define homophobia
What is Homophobia?
Irrational fear that spans a range of
behaviours from discomfort to hatred,
aggression and violence
Lack of knowledge, understanding,
Discrimination, treating people
differently Prejudice, unfounded,
Fear of homosexuals
Queer/gay bashing
Victimisation/harassment against
‘homosexual’ behaviour
Association with fear of intimacy
Portraying/devaluing LGBT people and
their relationships as ‘lifestyle choices’
It’s their own fault (blaming)
Translates into a dislike (i.e. nothing
against them as long as they keep
away from me
Can result in persecutory acts
Ignorance plays a part
Irrational fear of LGB people
Dehumanising views of LGBT people
Devaluing of one’s own orientation
Discomfort with sexual orientations to
what someone considers ‘normal’
Focus on same-sex stereotypes
While most participants will have heard of Homophobia, they may well not have
heard of Biphobia or Transphobia, which mirror homophobia in the various ways
that they manifest.
They differ in that they describe the stigma, prejudice and discrimination faced
by bisexual and transgender people.
Biphobia centres on a devaluing of bisexual identities (i.e. emotional and sexual
attraction to people of the same and opposite gender), in which bisexual people
are portrayed as ‘emotionally immature’, ‘sitting on the fence’ or ‘wanting the
best of both worlds’. People can hold positive views of lesbian and gay people
but not see Bisexuality as a valid sexual identity.
Addressing LGBT health inequalities an educational resource 2007
Transphobia centres on discomfort through to hostility, aggression and violence
directed at people whose gender identity and gender expressions do not
conform to society’s ‘norms’. See Sex and Gender and Stereotyping
Others can view lesbian, gay and bisexual people positively, but regard
transgender people as sick or mentally ill.
Beyond superficial notions that all LGBT people are accepting of each other, it is
also important to acknowledge that some lesbian and gay people can hold and
express biphobic and/or transphobic views. Similarly, bisexuals may view
lesbian or gay people less favourably, and transgender people (particularly if
they identify as straight) may have discomfort with LG and B people.
What causes homophobia, bi and transphobia?
Heterosexism as a system has stereotyped, pathologised, legislated against and
prosecuted, persecuted and (often with the complicity of the Media) variously
dismissed, belittled, ridiculed, stereotyped and even actively campaigned
against LGBT rights and the struggle for equality.
Society’s institutions have historically reflected and reinforced this (e.g. the Law,
Medicine, the Church, Education) and although anti-discriminatory and
equalities Legislation is now in place critics of LGBT equality remain.
Legislation and Social Policy has changed in recent years and there is
increasing focus on including the needs of LGBT people in service delivery and
However, a drip-feed of salacious, sexualised, stereotyping portrayals of LGB
people in the media as abnormal, unnatural, perverse, deviant continues to this
See Power of the press case studies
Addressing LGBT health inequalities an educational resource 2007
What fuels Homophobia?
This is an interesting perspective from an American-based faith organisation,
‘Religious Tolerance’ www.religioustolerance.org
The desire to discriminate against gays and lesbians, and thus to reserve
special privileges to heterosexuals, appears to have many causes. Some are:
Inability or unwillingness to change the information received during childhood
Fear of people who are different
Promotion of homophobia by a religious group
A heterosexual's natural feeling of repulsion at the thought of engaging in
same-sex activity. Realizing that homosexual behavior is ‘unnatural’ for them,
some people generalize this feeling into the belief that homosexuality is
wrong for everyone
Actual homosexual feelings that a person cannot acknowledge or handle
Low self esteem leading to a need to hate other group(s).
Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia span a wide range of attitudes and
behaviours. While the most extreme forms can involve aggression and violence,
subtler aspects – such as the jokes that are commonplace in ‘workplace banter’
- can be every bit as damaging and can be more difficult to identify and
Addressing LGBT health inequalities an educational resource 2007
What different forms do homophobia, bi and transphobia take?
When asked how homophobia manifests, training groups have identified the
What different forms can homophobia, bi and transphobia take?
Flipchart work from LGBT training participants
Unsolicited, unwelcome and/or hurtful
‘joking’, banter, teasing
Comments, tittle-tattle, ‘whispering’
campaigns, rumour-mongering
Not including, leaving out,
marginalising, ignoring, excluding
Ridicule, lampooning, mimicking,
Stereotyping; e.g. ‘all lesbians look
Discrimination in employment, training
Name-calling, verbal abuse
Bullying, persecution, victimisation
Emotional, psychological abuse
Threats and acts of exposure, ‘outing’
people or the threat of ‘outing’
Physical threats, aggression, violence
Queer or gay-bashing
Rejection (from family, friends, peers at
school, colleagues)
Growing up
Homophobia, bi and transphobia have an insidious and pervasive impact on
LGBT people that often starts early in life. The following extract is from a
research report commissioned by the Scottish Executive into the experiences of
young people, in partnership with LGBT Youth Scotland and the Centre for
Education for Racial Equality (CERES) at the University of Edinburgh.
Addressing LGBT health inequalities an educational resource 2007
Homophobic bullying survey reported
“Around 150,000 gay pupils have been targeted by school bullies with some
even receiving death threats, a survey has found.
Equality organisation Stonewall said two-thirds of lesbian and gay pupils have
experienced homophobic bullying, ranging from verbal abuse to violence with
some pupils claiming that their teachers even joined in with the abuse.
The study of 1,145 gay, lesbian and bisexual young people found that 41 per
cent had experienced physical abuse, 17 per cent had received death threats
and 12 per cent had been sexually assaulted. And the study claimed around 50
per cent of teachers failed to intervene when children used homophobic
language like "dyke" or "queer".
Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill said the figures suggested about
156,000 pupils had suffered homophobic bullying in Britain's schools. He
"These deeply disturbing figures should serve as a wake-up call to everyone
working in education. This is a damning legacy of Section 28, which deterred
schools from tackling anti-gay bullying for so long."
Mr Summerskill added: "This remains one of the few sorts of bullying about
which too many schools still take no action. It blights the lives not just of gay
children but of thousands of pupils perceived to be lesbian or gay too."
Almost all the pupils surveyed said they heard derogatory phrases in school,
such as "poof", or "that's so gay", the report said.
Stonewall said three-quarters of gay pupils in faith schools were bullied over
their sexuality while around 70 per cent of victims said homophobic bullying
affected their school work.
A Department for Education spokesman said:
Addressing LGBT health inequalities an educational resource 2007
"All forms of bullying are unacceptable. We are pleased that Stonewall
have highlighted this important issue and we look forward to continuing to
work with them in the future.
"It is important that pupils tell someone when they are being bullied and
that teachers take firm action.
That is why we have given new powers to teachers to ensure they can do
so. No pupil should suffer the torment of bullying."
Source: ITV news, 26th June 2007
Homophobic bullying and its effects on young people
Homophobic bullying is when individuals are victimised as a result of being
LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender), being perceived to be LGBT or
having LGBT parents, relatives or friends. It is said to have taken place: … when
general bullying behaviours such as verbal and physical abuse and intimidation
is accompanied by or consists of the use of terms such as gay, lesbian, queer or
lezzie by perpetrators. (Douglas et al., 1997)
In the school setting, homophobic bullying can be expressed through namecalling, social isolation, public ridicule, the spreading of rumours, teasing, having
belongings stolen and being sexually assaulted. This can take place in all areas
of the school and its surrounding areas but ‘low level’ bullying such as namecalling is thought to take place most frequently in the classroom and the
corridors (Rivers, 2000).
Constant victimisation may mean that young people internalise these
homophobic attitudes and the names or labels repeatedly used become an
integral part of their identity at school (Rivers, 1998). It is unsurprising then that
many LGBT young people feel unable to ‘come out’ at school, a decision which
can leave them isolated and unsupported.
This isolation is often compounded by a fear of rejection from parents and other
family members. ‘Coming out’ is not only a task for the individual who identifies
Addressing LGBT health inequalities an educational resource 2007
as LGB or T, the process also has an impact on the collective identity of the
As the majority of heterosexual parents assume that their children will also be
heterosexual, the family is often an inadvertent source of negative attitudes
towards, and stereotypes of, lesbian and gay sexualities long before young
people identify as such (Valentine et al. 2003). Indeed, a UK survey found that
61% of violent acts committed against lesbians and gay men were carried out by
family members (Hunter, 1990).
Rejection from the family home also puts many LGBT young people at risk of
homelessness and risk taking behaviours (O’Connor and Molloy, 2001).
A life of secrecy and lies can hinder young people's emotional development,
reinforce their own homophobia, undermine their self-esteem and confidence,
and inhibit them from connecting with the lesbian and gay `community'.
(Valentine et al., 2003)…
In addition, long-term mental health issues can be triggered by bullying and
continue into adult life; suicide and attempted suicide are far more likely in those
young people who identify as LGB or T than in the general youth population. In
one study, over 50% of LGB people who had been bullied at school had
considered self-harm or suicide and 40% had attempted self-harm at least once
(Rivers, 2001, Remafedi et al. 1996, Remafedi, 2002)…
From Guidance on dealing with homophobic incidents LGBT Youth 2006
Also see Transphobic Bullying in Schools
Addressing LGBT health inequalities an educational resource 2007