“Homophobic bullying at school hurts like hell”, writes Vittorio Lingiardi in an article published in the Italian magazine “Il Venerdì” .

The article starts with the presentation of Ian Rivers[1]’ book “Homophobic bullying: research and theoretical perspectives”[2], which presents the results of over 40 years of research on homophobic bullying, enriched with stories in the first person and supported by tools that teachers can use in the work with students. "We need to debunk the myth that bullying is just an inevitable part of the process of growth. It is not. We have an obligation to ensure that our schools are safe for all of our children," said Barack Obama in a video message to the American people.

Homophobic bullying is a peculiar subtype of bullying (today also in cyber version), which affects the individual sexual identity and puts the victims in a position to be afraid to ask for help: if they do, in fact, it inevitably draws attention to their sexuality, thus increasing anxiety, shame and the fear of failing social expectations.

Scientific research on homophobic bullying says that its effects can be serious and upon long term, with post-traumatic disorders, anxiety, depression and even suicidal ideation. This latter especially occurs when  the rejection by the family or the school environment is very strong. In contrast, a positive family atmosphere, the sense of security at school and the support of respectful adults are protective factors, which can facilitate the complex process to coming out, an evolutionary step that most of the times strengths communication, family relations and social ties.

Homophobic bullying remains a phenomenon difficult to tackle, especially in countries, like Italy, where sexual education is outside the training programs and does not always meet the favor of school leaders. Sometimes teachers do not feel entitled, or simply prepared to talk about sexuality and homosexuality. But their silence can be experienced as a form of non-acceptance and ultimately sharpen the feelings of shame, inadequacy and sharpen the conclusion that it is better to hide one’s gender orientation, to avoid marginalization and discrimination.

To deny the existence of homophobia  and, consequently, the need to fight it, is a subtle and insidious form of homophobia itself. You should stop thinking "why are you homosexual" and start thinking "why am I homophobic?", and also stop thinking "Why am I gay?" and start thinking "why are you homophobic"?

Full article available in Italian here

[1] British psychologist, author of many publications on homophobic bullying

[2] The Italian translation is named “Bullismo omofobico: conoscerlo per combatterlo”, edited by V. Lingiardi.