Homophobic and Transphobic Violence in Education
Violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in educational settings, sometimes referred to as homophobic and transphobic violence, is not a vague nor distant problem. It is happening right now and is denying millions of children and young people the fundamental human right to education. It is directed at students who are perceived not to conform to prevailing sexual and gender norms, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI).
This violence - which includes bullying - has significant, lasting negative impacts on students’ lives. Research reveals these students often feel unsafe at school, avoid school activities, miss classes or drop out of school entirely. They are at increased risk of anxiety, depression, self-harm and even suicide.
The education sector plays a key role here. With a comprehensive approach in place, involving effective policies, relevant curricula and training materials, training and support for staff, and support for students, families and communities, the education sector can respond to and even prevent the violence.
Violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression is directed at lesbian, gay and bisexual students (homophobia) and transgender students (transphobia), and others whose gender expression does not fit into binary gender norms, such as boys perceived as effeminate and girls perceived as masculine. As such, it is a form of gender-based violence.
It includes physical, sexual and psychological violence and bullying. A student is bullied when exposed repeatedly over time to aggressive behaviour that intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort through physical contact, verbal attacks, fighting or psychological manipulation.
The education sector as a whole can also produce ‘implicit’ homophobic and transphobic violence, also referred to as ‘symbolic’ or ‘institutional’ violence. It consists of education policies and guidelines that embed negative stereotypes related to sexual orientation and gender identity, including in curricula and learning materials.
Like other forms of school-related gender-based violence, homophobic and transphobic violence in educational settings can occur in classes, playgrounds, toilets and changing rooms, on the way to and from school and online.