A few weeks ago a 14-year-old boy from New York, who warned in internet postings that he felt suicidal because of homophobic bullying, was found dead outside his home.

Jamey complained that he was being viciously abused.

“People would keep sending me hate, telling me gay people go to hell,” he said.

“Jamie is stupid, fat, gay and ugly. He must die!,” one post said.

In Australia, homophobic bullying also leaves same-sex attracted or gender questioning (SSAGQ) young people vulnerable. Furthermore, a survey of regional Victorian students showed that young straight people can also be damaged by homophobia. “They’ll call each other ‘faggots’ and use homophobic language to monitor behaviour.”

Will Field, a young man who dropped out of two high schools due to homophobic bullying, says he wishes there had been support when he was a student.

“I had no idea what to do and I’d come home crying every day because I had no one like me and people were saying I was a girl,” he said.

Bullying is any form of repeated violence. It can involve name-calling, harassment, threats, physical attacks, intimidation or cyberbullying aimed at making someone feel powerless..Homophobic bullying, no matter who it’s directed at, is a form of vilification and is unacceptable.

The 2010 Writing Themselves In research noted that 61 percent of young Australian SSAGQ people had experienced verbal abuse, 18 percent physical abuse and 69 percent ‘other’ forms of homophobia.

It noted that 58 percent of young SSAGQ people had experienced rumours, 46 percent had tolerated homophobic language, 39 percent experienced social exclusion and 32 percent had been humiliated.

Schools were the most common site of homophobia, with 80 percent of all abuse occurring there. This was up from 69 percent in 1998, and 74 percent in 2004.

The good news is that the proposed New South Wales Proud Schools program pilot has been set up to tackle homophobic bullying head on. It will be trialled at 12 high schools and is an extremely welcome initiative.

ACON’s Anti-Violence Project is here to provide information and support. If you or someone you know feels unsafe, is attacked or harassed, call 02 9206 2116 or 1800 063 060, email avp@acon.org.au or send us a report of what happened: http://www.acon.org.au/anti-violence/What-We-Do

We track and document anti-LGBT incidents and use this information to educate about healthy relationships, safe cruising, recognising abuse, and safer community spaces. We also work to change public attitudes that encourage or condone hate-motivated violence: www.thisisoz.com.au

In Victoria, the Anti-Violence Project Victoria is the peak LGBT community organisation leading discussion on violence and its impacts within and against the community. The group has a reporting service for victims of prejudice and hate motivated crime. Details: www.antiviolence.info

INFO: www.acon.org.au/anti-violence

By ROBERT KNAPMAN, Anti-Violence Project (NSW)

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