Some basic definitions you need to know about homophobic bullying.

Here are a few definitions which you may find useful when thinking about tackling homophobic bullying and teaching about LGBT matters in schools. Please note that definitions change over time.

Binary Gender System
The classification of sex and gender into two distinct opposite and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine. It can describe a social boundary that discourages people from crossing or mixing gender roles, or from creating other third (or more) forms of gender expression altogether. It can also represent some of the prejudices which stigmatize intersex and certain transgender people.

Biphobia
Fear or dislike of someone because they are or are perceived to be bisexual.

Bisexual
Having the potential to be attracted to people of their own gender or another gender.

Gay bashing and gay bullying
verbal or physical abuse against a person who is perceived by the aggressor to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual, including persons who are actually heterosexual or of non-specific or unknown sexual orientation.

Gender
Refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviour, activities and attributes that a particular society considers appropriate for men and women. The distinct roles and behaviour may give rise to gender inequalities.

Gender dysphoria
A condition in which a person feels that there is a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity.

Gender Stereotype
The assumption that boys and girls must carry out distinct roles i.e all boys play football or all girls are physically weaker than boys.

Heterosexual
A person who is attracted to a person of the "opposite" gender within a binary gender system. "Straight" is often used to mean heterosexual.

Heterosexism
A system of bias attitudes and discrimination in favour of opposite-sex sexuality and relationships. Heterosexism is based upon the presumption that everyone is heterosexual or that opposite-sex attractions and relationships are 'normal' and therefore superior.

Homosexual
A person who is attracted to a person of the "same" gender.

Homophobia
Afear or dislike of someone because they are lesbian or gay, or who are perceived to be gay or who have family or friends who are gay.

Intersex
A general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. Intersex anatomy doesn't always show up at birth. For more information on Intersex please visit the UK Intersex Association website

LGBTQI
Stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, queer. The Q stands for 'questioning' and sometimes 'queer' and the I for 'intersex'.

Lesbian
A woman who is only attracted to other women.

Sex
Refers to the biological characteristics that define humans as female or male. The word 'sex' is often used to mean 'sexual activity', but for technical purposes in the context of sexuality and sexual health discussions, the above definition is preferred.

Sexuality
A central aspect of being human throughout life and encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships. While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed.

Stereotype
Refers to an over generalized belief about a particular group or class of people. By stereotyping we infer that a person has a whole range of characteristics and abilities that we assume all members of that group share. Stereotypes exist within different races, cultures and ethnic groups. Common stereotypes about homosexual people are that all gay men are effeminate and that all lesbians are masculine.

Straight
Commonly used to describe heterosexual people and can be used as an equivalent term to 'gay'.

Transman
A person who has been brought up as female, who sees themselves as male.

Trans person
A trans person is anyone who refuses to conform to, or doesn't fit within, a binary gender system. They may identify as a transman or a transwoman or as something else entirely - such as "genderqueer". There are many different trans identities, and "trans" does not only refer to people to have had (or want to have) gender reassignment surgery.

Transwoman
A person who has been brought up as male, who sees themselves as female.

Transphobia
Fear or dislike of someone who is, or who are perceived to be have changed their gender from male to female or female to male. Transphobia may also apply to someone who is difficult to categorise as male or female. For More Information on Trans People please visit the GenderedIntelligence website

Some key questions to think about when tackling homophobic bullying.

Why Do Homosexual People Call Themselves 'Queer' or 'Gay'
Many homosexual people use the term 'gay'. This may be because the terms 'gay' and 'lesbian' are seen as being less formal or negative than 'homosexual'. The term 'gay' is used to describe both homosexual men and lesbian women. The word gay is often used in the context of 'Gay Pride' or 'Gay Rights' and as such has become associated with encouraging a sense of pride in the homosexual community. In recent years the word 'gay' has entered common usage as a pejorative term to insult or to imply that someone or something is without value or worth. Some people are offended that the word gay 'used to mean something nice' but is now associated with homosexuals. However language changes over time, and many words have more than one usage; we should therefore be mindful of intent as well as word choice. Gay can mean many things.

Is homosexuality a mental illness?
Absolutely not; research has found there to be no link between any of these sexual orientations and mental illness. Both heterosexual behaviour and homosexual behaviour are normal aspects of human sexuality. Both have been documented in many different cultures and historical eras.

What Does 'Coming Out' Mean?
The phrase 'coming out' is used to refer to when a LGBTQI person chooses to tell one or a few people about their true identity. Many people hesitate to come out because of the risks of meeting rejection, prejudice and discrimination. Some choose to keep their identity a secret; some choose to come out in stages; some decide to come out in very public ways. In areas of the world where homosexual acts are penalized or prohibited, gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people can suffer negative legal consequences for coming out or even face death.

How are sexual orientation and gender identity determined?
Scientists still don't fully understand how sexual orientation and gender identity are determined but genetics, biology, psychological and social factors all play a part. For most people, sexual orientation and gender identity are shaped at any early age, hence the recent expression 'Born This Way'.

Is it my fault as a parent that my child is gay?
Absolutely not.

If my child is taught that LGBTQI people exist will it make them gay?
There is no evidence to support this.

Does a school have to talk about gay sex to tackle homophobic bullying?
No it does not.

This may vary from person to person and words change over the years, but the following words may cause hurt and upset:
  • faggot/fag
  • bender
  • poof
  • shirt lifter
  • fudge packer
  • queer
  • batty boy
  • lezzie
  • lezzer
  • ponce
  • dyke
  • sissy
  • Gaylord
  • gay boy
  • lesbo
  • AIDS boy
  • The use of the word 'gay' to mean something is without value

What the law says about homophobic bullying.

The Equality Act 2010

The new public sector equality duty, which includes sexual orientation for the first time, came into force from 5 April 2011. The Act updates the complex existing framework of anti-discrimination laws and makes it simpler for individuals, businesses and organisations to understand and access the law in one place.

From October 2010, the new Equality Act replaced the existing legal protections covering employment - the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 - and businesses and services, including schools - the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. Importantly however, people continue to have the same level of protection in these areas.

The Act also introduces important new measures, including an 'equality duty' on public bodies to proactively promote equality - from April 2011 - and permitting civil partnerships in religious buildings, where religious denominations wish to do this.

A single public duty Sections 149 – 157

The new public sector equality duty complements existing legislation in employment and goods and services with a more proactive approach to tackling discrimination.

From 5 April 2011 public bodies need to ensure they comply with the general equality duty. Under the general duty, in Section 149 of the Equality Act, all public bodies need to have due regard to:

  1. eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the Act
  2. advance equality of opportunity between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and people who do not share it – for example, heterosexual people and gay people
  3. foster good relations between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and people who do not share it.

This means that public bodies must now actively show they accommodate the needs of their gay service-users in the design and delivery of public services like education, policing and housing. Public bodies will have to think in advance about the needs of different service users, involving and engaging local gay people, and set out what they're doing to address those needs.

The Specific Duties

The Government recently announced that they are reviewing the Specific Duties, which help public bodies comply with their responsibilities under the General Duty.

Download and read the Act here (link opens in a new window)

OFSTED and Homophobic Bullying.

The Equality Act 2010

Under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful for any education provider, including a private or independent provider, to discriminate between pupils on grounds of disability, race, sex, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, religion or belief, or sex. Discrimination on these grounds (known as "protected characteristics") is unlawful in relation to prospective pupils (admissions arrangements), pupils at the school including absent or temporarily excluded pupils, and former pupils who have a continuing relationship with the school.

The Act protects pupils from discrimination and harassment based on 'protected characteristics'.

The protected characteristics for the schools provisions are:

  • Disability.

  • Gender reassignment.

  • Pregnancy and maternity.

  • Race.

  • Religion or belief.

  • Sex.

  • Sexual orientation.

The framework for OFSTED (the school inspection body for maintained schools) school inspections updated in March 2012 forms the statutory basis for inspection and summarises the main features of school inspections carried from January 2012. Particularly relevant criteria are highlighted in bold.

Inspectors are required to report on the quality of education provided in the school and must, in particular, cover:

  • the achievement of pupils at the school

  • the quality of teaching in the school

  • the quality of leadership in and management of the school

  • the behaviour and safety of pupils at the school.

In reporting, inspectors must also consider:
  • the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils at the school

  • the extent to which the education provided by the school meets the needs of the range of pupils at the school, and in particular the needs of disabled pupils and those who have special educational needs.

Behaviour and safety of pupils at the school

When evaluating the behaviour and safety of pupils at the school, inspectors consider:

  • pupils' attitudes to learning and conduct in lessons and around the school

  • pupils' behaviour towards, and respect for, other young people and adults, including freedom from bullying and harassment that may include cyber-bullying and prejudice-based bullying related to special educational need, sexual orientation, sex, race, religion and belief, gender reassignment or disability

  • how well teachers manage the behaviour and expectations of pupils to ensure that all pupils have an equal and fair chance to thrive and learn in an atmosphere of respect and dignity

  • pupils' ability to assess and manage risk appropriately and to keep themselves safe

  • pupils' attendance and punctuality at school and in lessons

  • how well the school ensures the systematic and consistent management of behaviour.

Overall effectiveness

Inspectors evaluate the quality of the education provided in the school. In doing this, they consider the evidence gathered to support their evaluations of the four key judgements:

  • the achievement of pupils at the school

  • the quality of teaching in the school

  • the quality of leadership in and management of the school

  • the behaviour and safety of pupils at the school.

They also consider:

  • the extent to which the education provided meets the needs of the range of pupils at the school, and in particular, those who have a disability as defined by the Equality Act 2010 and pupils who have special educational needs

  • how well the school promotes all pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development by providing positive experiences through planned and coherent opportunities in the curriculum and through interactions with teachers, other adults and the local community.

How Does This Look in Practice?

Alfred Salter Primary School was inspected in November 2011 and here is what the OFSTED report had to say about our equalities work:

'Alfred Salter school provides a good standard of education and care for its pupils. A significant strength of the school is its commitment to equalities. This is demonstrated through ensuring that pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities have specialist resources and provision to achieve as well as their peers and through its work on anti-bullying particularly in relation to tackling homophobia. Pupils say, 'this is the best school ever' and one parent commented that, 'I feel it is a privilege to have my child attend this school.' The overwhelming response from parents and carers is that their children enjoy coming to school, feel safe and are healthy. These aspects are outstanding. Pupils feel exceptionally safe and say so. '

'Pupils' contribution to the school and wider community is outstanding. They are proud to take on responsibility, for example through their participation in the school council, eco council, fundraising and buddy systems. Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is good. Social and moral aspects of this are outstanding. A strong sense of moral purpose permeates the school and underpins the strong relationships between pupils and adults. Many displays show the significant emphasis placed on pupils' understanding about themselves and the backgrounds of their peers, as well as the local and global communities. Pupils are typically polite, welcoming and self-aware.'

In January 2012 OSTED issued the following guidance for inspectors visiting schools to inspect:

Exploring the school's actions to prevent homophobic bullying Briefing for section 5 inspection

Exploring the school's actions to prevent homophobic bullying

Inspectors should make sure that questions are age appropriate and asked in the right context.

With primary pupils inspectors might explore whether:

  • pupils ever hear anyone use the word 'gay' when describing a thing and whether they have been told by teachers that using the word 'gay' to mean something is rubbish is wrong, and why it is wrong


  • pupils ever get picked on by other children for not behaving like a 'typical girl' or a 'typical boy'


  • pupils have had any lessons about different types of families (single parent, living with grandparents, having two mummies or two daddies)

With secondary pupils inspectors might explore the above, and whether:

  • there is any homophobic bullying or name calling in school or on social media sites


  • if a gay pupil was 'out' in school, they would feel safe from bullying


  • they have learned about homophobic/transphobic bullying and ways to stop it happening in school


  • they learn in school about different types of families - whether anyone is, or would be, teased about having same-sex parents


With senior leaders and when looking at documentary evidence inspectors might explore:

  • whether they are aware of any instances of homophobic or transphobic language in school, if this is recorded and how it is acted upon


  • whether the school's equalities, bullying and safeguarding policies address gender identity and sexuality


  • if training has been provided for staff in how to tackle homophobic/transphobic bullying including language


  • whether the school has taken any action to ensure provision meets the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pupils for example in Sex and Relationships Education and other aspects of PSHE including providing age appropriate advice and guidance


  • how the school seeks to support LGBT pupils and those from LGBT families


  • whether policies promote safety for all groups of pupils regardless of sexuality or gender identity, including the use of language


  • if there is specific mention of gender identity and sexuality in the equality, diversity, behaviour and bullying policies


  • whether policies include reference to carers as well as parents

With governors inspectors might explore:

  • how the school meets its statutory duty to prevent all forms of prejudice based bullying including homophobia and transphobia?


  • whether they are aware of any homophobic/transphobic bullying or language in school and whether are incidents followed up effectively


  • how they ensure that sexuality and gender equality are covered within the school's behaviour guidelines and policies