The Impact of Homophobia and Transphobia
Those who are subjected to bullying are significantly more vulnerable to the risks of sexual exploitation. Bullying has an immense impact on people's mental health, leading to low self-esteem, damaging behaviour (such as self-harm, eating disorders and drug & alcohol abuse) and isolation.
If young LGBTQ people are not getting the support they need, and deserve, then they are more likely to seek 'positive' environments (such as gay venues for example pubs, bars and clubs) in orderto explore their sexual or gender identity without the fear of bullying.
There is a risk that young people will be vulnerable to sexual exploitation if they are seeking support in adult environments, where other older people are using drugs and alcohol. Young people may also be using drugs and alcohol, which further increases their risk of sexual exploitation, and harm.
PACE implores all schools and youth organisations to seek to ensure their environment is safe and welcoming to all LGBTQ young people, so that they don't feel like they have to explore their identities in unfamiliar, and unsafe environments.
How Can We Make Our Environment Safer for LGBTQ Young People?
It is important for all youth professionals to reflect all of the young people their service works with. This could be talking about issues that are relevant to young LGBTQ people, talking about LGBTQ role models, and displaying posters which refer to LGBTQ people and issues.
What is Homophobia & Transphobia?
Homophobia is the irrational fear, hatred or disliking of, and negative behaviour towards someone who is lesbian, gay or bisexual (or who is thought to be lesbian, gay or bisexual).
Transphobia is the irrational fear, hatred or disliking of, and negative behaviour towards someone who is transgendered (who identifies as a different gender to that which they were assigned at birth).
Homophobia and transphobia can be presented in many different ways, and all homo/transphobic incidents have devastating consequences for the victims. Amongst other things, these forms of bullying can include:
- verbal abuse
- physical abuse
- sexual assault
- isolation from groups
- damage to property
- spreading rumours
It is important to realise that homophobia and transphobia doesn't just affect LGBT people: People who are thought to be LGBT, families and friends of LGBT people, and people who are simply thought of as 'different' could all be subjected to homophobic or transphobic bullying.
It is highly important that such bullying is challenged promptly, and confidently in order that a consistent message is sent that bullying (in all it's forms) is unacceptable and damaging to victims.
How Can I Support LGBTQ Young People
Youth workers are in an ideal position to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer (and questioning) young people through their exploration of their sexual or gender identity. As key adults in young peoples' lives, who young people look up to, youth workers can challenge myths associated with LGBTQ identities, offer reassuring advice, and support young people to achieve a positive identity.
Ways to support young people could be:
- stating that it is normal toLGBTQ
- stating that they are not the only person who is LGBTQ
- offering advice on sexual health (which is relevant to LGBTQ people)
- offering information on LGBTQ youth groups, where young LGBTQ people can meet other LGBTQ young people
- challenging all forms of homophobic / transphobic bullying confidently, and immediately
- discussing LGBTQ issues openly and positively
- referencing LGBTQ role models