Being gay is okay: Information and advice for gay, lesbian, bisexual and unsure under twenty-fives.
How to deal with bullying (page 1 of 2)
It's normal to want to be liked at school and work, to enjoy yourself, have fun with your friends, and to expect a safe environment where people are equally valued and respected. Bullies can stop us from fitting in and feeling safe, and leave us lacking confidence and feeling very much alone.
I was bullied at secondary school for three years because I wasn't like the other boys. I didn't like football, preferred the company of girls, and was softly spoken. I was gay, and although not open about it, a group of pupils knew I was different and they bullied me because of it.
Why do people bully each other?
Bullies are people who enjoy, for one reason or another, abusing and undermining other people, often because their chosen victim is different in some way. This might be because the victim is gay, from a different racial background, or because they look different or behave a certain way. The bully may also feel that their victim is weaken than they are - physically, emotionally or both. Being bullied because you are gay is known as homophobic bullying.
People bully each other for many different reasons. A popular explanation is that bullies are insecure people who work out their problems and find the power and confidence they lack by bullying others. The bully may feel he has to act tough to impress his friends, who are bullies too. Maybe the bully has aggressive and unsympathetic parents. Growing up in a house where there is violence, a lack of love and positive influence can produce a very angry and aggressive person who communicates in the only way he or she knows how. Sometimes the bullies are victims of bullying themselves and have a lot of anger and hurt to deal with. It is also true – and seldom admitted - that some people simply get a kick out of humiliating and tormenting other people and this is all the justification they need.
Nobody deserves to be bullied and it’s not your fault.
Am I being bullied?
Bullying takes on many forms. It can range from name calling and verbal abuse to being physically attacked. Other forms of bullying include:
- Being deliberately excluded from a group.
- Having rumours spread about you.
- Having your possessions tampered with or stolen.
- Pranks that are performed on you that make you feel uncomfortable but others find amusing.
- Being pushed or intimidated into doing something you don’t want to do.
- Being undermined and made to feel less valued than others.
- Constant criticism.
What can I do to stop the bullying?
It’s a good idea to keep a record of the things that the bully does to you. This will be useful if you need to ask for help. Remember to save nasty emails and texts for the same reason. Stay in a group if you can, and lean on the support of your friends. You could try talking to the person who is bullying you, if he or she is approachable and you feel comfortable doing so. They may not realise how their actions are affecting you. If the person is receptive, a talk might be all that’s needed to get the bullying stopped. If this doesn’t work or if the bullying is more serious or you are being targeted by more than one person, then you need to seek outside help. Speak to a teacher or parent about what is happening to you. It may be a scary step to take but telling someone about the bullying signifies a shift in power and control: you’re taking it away from the bullies and claiming it back for yourself. Why should someone else get to decide whether you are happy or not, or how much you do or don’t enjoy your daily life? That’s your job.
What will happen after I speak up?
The bullies should be spoken to by a teacher and told that their behaviour is unacceptable. They should be asked to stop bullying you, and told that they will be punished if they persist. They may be punished at this stage if the teacher feels it's the right action to take. Threats of being suspended, or involving the parents will make the bullies think twice about bullying again, and in many cases the bullying stops at this point. Sometimes the bully won’t have realised how much he or she was hurting their victim and may feel embarrassed and guilty. Having adult intervention is a real wake-up call and can bring the bullies to their senses and stops things getting worse.
In my case, my Dad called a teacher and the three pupils who were bullying me were spoken to, though not actually punished. I was so scared at the time. I thought the boys would give me a harder time for speaking up. What actually happened though was that they left me alone after that. One of them even apologised to me. I was able to enjoy my final year in school. Sadly, I’d spent the previous two years being very unhappy and I wish I’d spoken up sooner.
If you are being bullied because of your sexuality but you don't want to tell your parents or teachers that you are gay
The fact that you are being bullied is the only relevant thing here, not why you are being bullied. Remember, there is no justification for bullying anyone. A large percentage of homophobically bullied pupils will never tell because they are scared that the person they seek help from will discover that they are gay. You don’t have to tell your parents or teachers that the bullies are using homophobic language or motives if you don’t want to, but if you choose to be more specific, it isn’t an automatic admission of your sexuality. Bullies use homophobic language on straight people too. Speaking up about homophobic bullying does not necessarily mean coming out at the same time. I didn't.
It's your wellbeing that’s relevant here, not your sexuality.