Thanks for getting in touch with us here about your friend. He’s very lucky to have you on his side. It sounds from what you’ve described that your friend is being subjected to homophobic bullying.
This is when people act or speak in a way which makes another person feel bullied either because of their actual sexuality or their perceived sexuality. People can be targeted for a variety of reasons: their appearance, behaviour, physical traits or just because they are a bit different. Also, people can be bullied because they have either friends or family who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Like all forms of bullying, homophobic bullying can be through name calling, spreading rumours, cyber-bullying, physical or sexual and emotional abuse. Sometimes people are also even the subject of hate campaigns. Being treated like this can have a devastating effect on the person being bullied. It can affect their self confidence, having an effect on their emotional health and wellbeing. It can also have an effect on a person’s physical health, causing weight loss/gain, tiredness through lack of sleep because of the worry and regular stomach aches. As a result, because of this it can also have an effect on their attendance and attainment. Have you noticed any of this in your friend?
There are however ways in which your friend can deal with the bullying he is experiencing. It is obvious that he has the support of a good friend in you. However he might need to also get the support of an adult. Has he thought about telling his parents, a teacher or another adult he trusts what is going on?
It would be a good idea if he keeps a diary of the bullying…what is said or done? Who said it? When did they say it? Also, if he’s being being bullied online or via social media, you could advise him to take screenshots and keep them as evidence to show his parents, the school or the police.
Do you think ignoring the bullying is an option for him? He could try to be assertive and let the bully know that they are the ones looking stupid and ignorant. Sometimes, if the bully does not get the reaction they want they soon bore and stop trying. However, this doesn’t always work of course so it’s important that he doesn’t put himself at risk.
Of course, if the bullying consists of threats or violence then your friend should report it to the police as a hate crime. Lots of police forces have special units to deal with these types of incidents.
Another thing either you or your friend could do would be to ask the school to do some work on LGBTQ bullying within your school. Sometimes educating others can help bullies realise the consequences of their actions. Assemblies, tutor group times and Citizenship lessons are a good opportunity for subjects like this to be broached. There are a number of organisations which can provide free teaching resources for your teachers to use. These include Stonewall, Diversity Role Models and Schools Out.
Your school should of course also have procedures in place for dealing with bullying and in particular, homophobic bullying. Perhaps you could support your friend to ask to see the relevant policy. If they haven’t got one, your friend could ask why not and insist that they write one as a matter of urgency. All schools have a duty of care to their pupils. They also have a legal obligation to deal with homophobic bullying under the Education and Inspections Act 2006. If the bullying doesn’t stop, go to your Local Education Authority and demand action. It might help your friend to know that he’s got the law on his side!
I hope that’s been some help.
If either you or your friend needs any more support with this matter you could contact the Meic helpline. The Meic helpline is for children and young people in Wales up to the age of 25. They offer information, advice and advocacy ( speaking on your behalf to someone else to make sure your voice is heard ). You can contact them from 8am to 12pm every day by text, IM or phone…I’ve put a link to their website below for you to check them out.
Take Care (of yourself as well as your friend!)