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Tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying for disabled children and young people and those with special educational needs – EACH

April 14, 2016

A survey of UK LGBT youth found that two thirds of disabled children and those with SEN had experienced homophobic bullying”

Compared to their peers, disabled children and those with SEN are twice as likely to report being bullied at school” – so this report was written.


The Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) spoke to disabled young people, including young people with physical, learning, and sensory impairments, deaf young people, young people with SEN, and young people who had experienced emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties. We use ‘disabled young people’ or ‘young people’ throughout this briefing to refer to all of the young people we spoke to.

The young people we spoke to also identified as trans, non-binary, lesbian, gay and bisexual, and young people who had or were questioning their sexuality or gender identity.

We also spoke to disabled young people who identified as heterosexual.

Young people told us their views and ideas about:

sex and relationships education in school and what they learnt about LGBT+ issues, where else they got information about this, and their ideas for how disabled young people should be given better LGBT+ information.

what schools could do to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying for disabled young people and young people with emotional or mental health dfficulties.

Sex education for disabled young people is c**p. There is none. In the whole 7 years I was at secondary school I had no sex and relationships education at all.”

Disabled young people said they had received little or no sex and relationships education (SRE) at school and:

what little SRE they had received was limited and narrowly focused on heterosexual sex, safe sex and there was little focus on developing healthy relationships.

they had learnt little or nothing in SRE about disability or being LGBT+ – and nothing at all that related to being LGBT+ and disabled.

that they were often withdrawn from SRE lessons to be given additional learning or health support.

“Mine was ok. They covered a few things but not much detail. Just safe sex. Nothing about disability or LGBTQ.”

“Just generic – boys and girls in different rooms. A video, ‘this is a penis…’ and not much else.”

“Nothing related to disability or LGBTQ.”

“Condom on a banana, a leaflet about puberty. That was it.”

“What sex education there is, is all physical. There’s nothing about healthy relationships.”

“In our [faith] school, the only sex education we got was ‘if you have sex before marriage, you’re bad and god will hate you.”

“People didn’t talk to me about sex, relationships because of my visual impairment. They didn’t think I would be attracted to anyone because I couldn’t see them, as if all attraction is visual.”

“People think disabled people are asexual as it is, so they don’t talk to you about any relationships, let alone about being or acknowledging that you are LGBT.”

Many disabled young people said they were not believed when they reported bullying and that this was even more of an issue if you were also LGBT+. Young people said that being a disabled young person meant they were often not believed on two counts:

when they reported being bullied.

about being LGBT+

“I got bullied for being gay. I told a teacher I trusted and they just said it was a phase I was going through. As if it being a phase made the bullying OK, or any less bad. They didn’t do anything about it. They treated it like it was nothing. It really affected me and how I felt about being gay. I thought it must be something bad.”

‘Disablist and HBT bullying –  It’s a double whammy…’

Young people told us that they experienced both HBT and disablist bullying in schools and that “If it’s not one thing it’s the other. If you’re not bullied for being disabled, you’re bullied for being gay. Or both”

“I was badly affected by my autism at school – that’s what most of my bullying came from. I wasn’t out as trans then, I was trying to hide it, but people also bullied me for being effeminate.”

“Lots of LGBT young people are much more likely to have mental health issues.”

“The teachers understood my autism, but the students were unbelievably harsh.”

“Even in the gay community, they can be stigmatising about disability.”

“Imagine, you have not one but two stereotypes to contend with! It’s a double whammy.”

“I’m not out as trans at school. But people think I’m gay and bully me because of that.”

Young people said that they often have to come out twice, as they have to come out as a disabled person and come out as LGBT+. They said this was made worse by poor attitudes towards disability, sexuality, and gender identity all of which made them worry about how people would react.

Make sure SRE covers issues that are important to disabled young people. This may include peer advice or support, so that they can learn and ask questions about some of the specific issues disabled people may experience. For example, this may include body confidence and self-esteem, or managing relationships when you have a personal assistant.

Support school staff to understand homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying and disability. This is important so that they understand:

that disabled young people can be LGBT+ too.

what the issues are for LGBT+ disabled young people.

what to look out for and how to approach a young person that is struggling or being bullied.

what they can say or do to tackle bullying or challenge homophobic, biphobic, transphobic or disablist language.

The report is online here


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