The teenage years are a challenging time for many young people. But for those who think they might be gay, lesbian or bisexual, it can be even more bewildering. According to a new study published on Tuesday by the gay equality organisation Stonewall, 55% of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people experience homophobic bullying at school; 96% say they hear words like “poof” or “lezza” in the classroom, something that can be “hugely damaging” to children who are trying to come to terms with their sexuality, says the charity’s chief executive, Ben Summerskill.
The problem was highlighted in a report on bullying published by Ofsted last month, which drew attention to pupils’ casual use of the word “gay” as an insult. Stonewall’s research, called The School Report, is based on an online survey of more than 1,600 lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGBT) young people between the age of 11 and 18 and is the second in a long-term study commissioned by Stonewall and carried out by the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge.
While there are encouraging signs – reports of homophobic bullying are down from 65% in the 2007 survey – homophobic comments and language are just as common as five years ago. And what is most striking in the latest report is the number of children who have self-harmed as a result. Almost one in four of those surveyed said they had tried to take their own life at some point (compared to 7% of all young people) and 56% said they had self-harmed – deliberately cutting or burning themselves, for example.
3rd July 2012