School PE lessons hotbeds of homophobia

School PE lessons hotbeds of homophobia
Image: Image provided by Minus18.

FOUR out of five school students have experienced casual homophobia in PD/H/PE lessons while a quarter have been physically abused by classmates during school sporting activities, new research into depression and anxiety has found.

The findings, by Melbourne’s Victoria University, have been labelled as “troubling” by mental health organisation beyondblue, who commissioned the research.

Almost 400 gay and gender-diverse young people were asked to share their experiences of homophobia at school.

More than 80 per cent said they were distressed upon hearing terms such as “you’re so gay”  even if it wasn’t meant as a directly homophobic slur  while nearly 60 per cent had been the subject of deliberately homophobic remarks such as “faggot” and “dyke.”

PD/H/PE lessons and school sports events were the most common school environments where young people experienced homophobia.

Research leader Dr Caroline Symons said direct and indirect homophobia caused distress to many young people who took part in sport.

“This homophobia and transphobia tells them `you are not welcome here’, which can prevent them from enjoying the physical, mental and social benefits of participation for years to come,” she said.

The research was funded by beyondblue in conjunction with the Victorian Government.

Beyondblue chief executive Georgie Harman said the results were troubling as many young people were at an age and stage when they were exploring their identity and sexuality.

“Sport and teamwork can help bind people together. Homophobia in the schoolyard or on the sports field is unacceptable and can have a lasting impact,” she said.

“Throw away lines  whether intended to hurt or not  stay with kids and can affect their ability to be open about the feelings they’re having.”

Harman said teachers, parents and kids themselves “can learn from this research and say `this is not acceptable’, and do something about it”.

Students who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and gender diverse reported moderate levels of depression and moderate to severe levels of anxiety.

The survey also revealed one in 10 secondary students had experienced a physical assault, such as being hit, in school sports in the past year.

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