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People of diverse genders and sexualities more likely to be bullied

Thursday, May 17, 2018


Bullying, whether online or in the real world, is a serious issue. And with all of us living more and more of our lives online, cyberbullying is more and more of an issue.

People of diverse sexualities and gender identities are three times more likely to experience bullying and harassment than cis-gendered or straight individuals, and they are often discriminated against specifically for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

This International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB, 17 May), we are raising awareness of the increased challenges and discrimination that affect those who identify as trans, gay, lesbian or bisexual.

In a survey conducted in 2015, The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found that 55.5% of LGBT* students in the United States felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, and 37.8% felt unsafe because of their gender expression.

GLSEN also found that 42% of LGBT youth have experienced cyberbullying and are three times more likely to experience cyberbullying than their straight peers. In addition, 33% report sexual harassment online, 27% do not feel safe online, and 20% report receiving harassing text messages from other students.

A New Zealand research report on bullying had similar findings.

  • Almost one-in-five same/both-sex attracted students reported being bullied at school on a weekly or more frequent basis (16.5%).
  • Of students who experienced bullying, 46.1% reported they were bullied because they were gay (or because people thought they were gay) – over eight times the rate their opposite-sex attracted peers were bullied (5.4%).
  • Most same/both-sex attracted students had been afraid that someone would hurt or bother them at school in 2012.

Unfortunately, studies found that between 2001 and 2012 there has been no improvements in relation to school bullying for same/both-sex attracted students (or opposite-sex attracted students).

Know where you can get help

New Zealand online safety organisation Netsafe exists just for this reason – to help keep users safe online. They have advice and info on online issues such as bullying and online abuse, sexting, revenge porn, and safe online relationships.

Ask your school or education provider if they have a support/rainbow group or a safe space where you can feel more supported. Seeking support and advice from trusted teachers, adults and friends can also be helpful.

What you can do

Netsafe has some tips for how you can combat bullying.

  1. Don’t reply: Especially to messages from phone numbers, profiles or people you don’t know.
  2. Don’t attack the person back: Avoid giving the bully the satisfaction of a reaction.
  3. Have a conversation: If it’s safe, try talking to the person privately about what they’ve said or done.
  4. Talk to someone: Talking to friends or whānau can make you feel better – or you can reach out to YouthlineLifeline or other networks.
  5. Save messages and images: Take screen shots of the bullying in case you need evidence later. Find out how here.
  6. Cut off the person bullying you: Block their phone number, or block them on social media.
  7. Report it: If the online bullying is happening on social media, you can find out how to report it below.
  8. There is an NZ law to help: The Harmful Digital Communications Act aims to help people dealing with online bullying, abuse and harassment.
  9. Get help: Contact Netsafe for help. They can help with any of the above, tell you if there’s anything you can do to stop the abuse and let you know how to stay safe.

*We have kept the terminology LGBT as per the study. We recognise this is not completely inclusive and prefer to use people of diverse genders and sexualities elsewhere.

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