People who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender often face discrimination because of their sexuality or gender identity.
This is known as homophobia or transphobia and the consequences of this prejudice can be very serious, causing people to experience low self-esteem and to suffer verbal and physical attacks.
Homphobia means the hatred, dislike or fear of gay, lesbian, or bisexual people, and transphobia applies to the hatred, dislike or fear of transgender people. These feelings are not rational and there is no reason why anyone should be discriminated against or treated differently because of their sexuality or gender identity. If you are faced with discrimination or bullying it is important to remember that the people with the prejudice are the ones with the problem, not you.
Lots of young gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people face bullying at school and this can have a big impact on them as they grow up. Being bullied can cause people to not want to go to school, to feel depressed and have low self-esteem, or even to self-harm or commit suicide.
Even if someone is not directly bullied because of their sexuality, homophobic language is often used in schools, such as using the word ‘gay’ in a derogatory way to describe something that is lame or stupid. Whilst some people may think this is harmless, things like this can make it difficult for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people to tell others about their sexuality and cause them to feel isolated.
Since 2003 is has been illegal for employers to discriminate against someone because of their sexuality. Under the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, workers are protected from direct and indirect discrimination, victimisation and harassment.
Transgender people are also protected under the Sexual Discrimination Act 1975 against harassment on the basis of their gender reassignment and the Gender Recognition Act 2004, which provides transsexual people with legal recognition of their chosen gender.
If you are being bullied because of your sexuality or gender identity it is really important that you speak to someone about this. If it is happening within school tell a trusted teacher or staff member, as they will be able to support you and hopefully stop the bullying from continuing.
If it is happening at work there are a number of sources of support, including colleagues, managers and your Human Resources department. If you raise a grievance, your employer has a duty to investigate this If the matter is more serious or you don’t feel you are getting the support from work you would like then it is important to get support and advice from other organisations, such as your trade union, the Citizens Advice Bureau or a Law Centre. Additionally, EACH – Educational Action Challenging Homophobia – is a charity that employers and organisations committed to realising and equal and safe working environment.
If a person is verbally or physically attacked because they are, or their attacker thinks they are, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, this is classed as a hate crime. If you feel the matter is serious enough you have the right to go to the police and report what has happened. Your local police force should have a team which have been trained to deal with hate crimes that can give you advice and investigate what has been happening.
Most importantly, if you feel that you've been the victim of homophobia we'd like to help, so get in touch with THT Direct on 0808 802 1221.