Homophobia 2006, p.36). While transphobia being labelled

Homophobia is defined by Blumenfeld
and Raymond (1998) as “the fear of being labelled homosexual and the irrational
fear, dislike or hatred of gay males and lesbian” (in Norman et. Al. 2006,
p.36). While transphobia being labelled as the irrational fear, or hatred of
transgender or transsexual people. The idea that this is classed as a phobia is
an issue which has sparked debate and research among bullying experts around
the word. This paper will deal with such research based both in Ireland and
around the world in order to come to a conclusion on how ‘homophobia and
transphobia may be manifested in schools, and what should Irish schools do
about it’. The latter half of this paper will deal with the idea that schools
must not only implement the necessary policy but put action behind the written
words. Also there is a need to for schools to shape and change the attitudes of
not only their students but also those at home to truly prevent the
manifestation of homophobia and transphobia.

Literature Review

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Homophobia and transphobia in Ireland

The last number
of years has shown the impact homophobic and transphobic has had not only in
society in Ireland but particularly in our school. Find Statistics Various studies have
looked at Irish and international attitudes towards homophobia, transphobia and
how it is manifesting in society and schools. Another area which has been examined
is the classification of homophobia and transphobia when merely dealt with as a
sub-heading of bullying and addressed as such in school anti-bullying policies.

 

Minton (2012; 2014) uses Warwick
et. al definition when defining homophobic bullying as “general bullying
behaviour, such as verbal and physical abuse and intimidation, is accompanied
by or consists of the use of terms such as gay, lesbian, queer or lezzie by
perpetrators”. (Warwick et. al. 2001 in Norman et al.2006). There is a clear
understanding that homophobia is classed as a form of bullying. The ISPCC
defines homophobic bullying to include “lesbian, gay, bisexual,
trans-identified, transgendered, inter-sexed (LGBQTT) persons and those
perceived to be of these sexual orientations or gender identities.” (ISPCC, Year). In terms of research there appears to be very
little separation of homophobia and transphobia and instead transphobia is
included with the term of homophobia. Minton (2014) discusses the idea of two
sub-types existing: “heteronormative bullying” and “sexual orientation-based
bullying” (Minton et al. 2008 in Minton 2014, p.165). The idea that
heteronormative bullying includes homophobic epithets as a form of ‘slagging’
or way of speech both in a bullying sense or non-bullying of heterosexual,
particularly males, but not meant by those using them necessary as a form of
homophobic bullying. However, the question is why these epithets would be used
when bullying someone heterosexual or indeed homosexual at all. Is this a lack
of education or a mindset which the youth have grown up with? Norman et. al
(2006) has argued that homophobia is linked to a negative societal attitude to
people who not fit into a heterosexual orientation. That homophobic bullying is
not just another form of bullying but a prejudice.

            Minton
(2014) conducted a study with the purpose of “investigating incidence rates of
bullying behaviour and homophobic bullying behaviour amongst secondary school
students in Ireland” (p.167). By identifying two different age cohorts across
six secondary schools in both junior and senior ends of the secondary school
system allowed for a varied response to homophobic bullying in our secondary
schools. Minton (2014) reported from this study that males were more likely to
report bullying having been homophobically bullied through name calling than
were females. This undoubtedly relates back to the previous discussion of the
use of homophobic epithets in Irish society in language particularly among
young Irish males in Ireland. Minton (2014) had an overall finding that “the
incidences of homophobic bullying observed in this study supports Walton’s
(2006) assertation that homophobia is a prominent feature of school bullying”
(p.170). However, the idea that homophobia and indeed transphobia are merely
another sub-group of bullying may be the problem. In recent years incidents
homophobia and transphobia has increased in our schools. Supporting LGBT Lives
(2009) study found fifty-eight per cent of study participants reported
homophobic bullying in their schools, and over fifty per cent of them having
been called abusive names and forty per cent threatened verbally in school by
their peers. This study was conducted with 1100 people who identify as gay,
lesbian, bisexual and transgender, and did not include those who are still
struggling with their identity and may be victims of homophobic bullying. The
ISPCC defines homophobic behaviour to include “‘gay-bashing’ or physical
violence, derogatory comments, silencing talk of gender or sexual diversity,
linking homosexuality with paedophilia, rejecting people because of their
sexual orientation, treating members LGBTQ community unfairly because of their
sexual orientation or gender identity” among just a few behaviours which
constitute homophobic behaviour.

 

Irish reaction to homophobia and transphobia in our schools

The Irish
Government has tried to react to the rising figures in homophobic and
transgender bullying in Irish schools. In collaboration with GLEN, the
Department of Education and Skills published Being LGBT in School in 2016. The publication had the purpose of
being a resource in post-primary schools in preventing homophobic and
transphobic bullying and to support LGBT students in the Irish education
system. Critically the report was in collaboration with among others some of
the leading associations tackling homophobic and transphobic behaviour such as
GLEN, BeLonG To, and Transgender Equality Network Ireland. Not only does the
document define various forms of bullying but also gives guidance to different
levels of staff in schools. GLEN and DES (2016) state the resource is “intended
to provide support to key individuals as they fulfil their responsibilities in
ensuring that their school is safe, supportive and affirming of all students, including
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, students perceived to
be LGBT and students who have close family members (parents, siblings, etc.)
who are LGBT.” (p.8). GLEN and DES reiterate that following the publication of
the Anti-bullying procedures for primary
and post-primary schools in 2013 there is new requirements on “to clearly
outline clearly the role of key school personal in preventing and addressing
homophobic and transphobic bullying” (p.8). Hunt and Jensen (2006) in their report
based on English schools concluded that schools must address sexual orientation
and gender identity in their own school policies for LGBT students to see
benefit. The experience of homophobic and transphobic bullying was less likely
in these cases and when incidents did occur there was a higher instance of
reporting compared to school who had no specific policies in relation to
homophobic and transgender bullying or indeed any policies on inclusion.

In Ireland there
are laws which ensure that people are recognised as for their identified if
they are over eighteen years of age, The Gender Recognition Act (2015) does not
provide for most students in the secondary school system. Section 12 however
does make provision for children of sixteen years of age to obtain recognition
certificate made on behalf of them by an adult. Although this law, and laws
like it make homophobia and transphobia illegal, they have not decreased the
instances of bullying in Irish schools. Being
LGBT (2016) moves to have members of the school staff lead by example and
for inclusion and acceptance be exemplified by those in leadership such as
teachers, tutors, year head and principles. The report gives guidance of good
practice for class teachers to ‘be a role model for promoting positive
behaviour and challenging homophobic and transphobic behaviour and attitudes”
(GLEN and DES, 2016, p. 45).

 

What can Irish schools do?

Eleanor Formby discusses the
limitations of focusing on discrimination of homophobic, biphobic and
transphobic behaviour as bullying in describing on LGBT young people are
sometimes treated in schools (2015). This is something which needs to be
addressed in school. Undoubtedly, homophobic and transphobic behaviour can
manifest as bullying, large scale research in UK secondary schools suggests
that fifty-five per cent of LGBT people experience homophobic bullying at some
stage in their schooling. (Guasp, 2012). This would indicate that LGBT are more
likely to experience bullying than a heterosexual student. There are two
actions which schools can implement to counter-act the manifestation among
their student body; implementation of school policy and changing the attitudes
of their students and their parents. This latter half of this paper will
discuss these two suggestions in detail.

 

School policy: action as well as words

The Irish education system
traditionally one of Christian foundations, in particular Catholic patronage,
there was a presumption of heterosexuality in school policy. Macintosh (2007)
eludes to a curriculum that presents homosexuality as the abnormal of
heterosexuality and homosexuality still. Often homophobic bullying can manifest
not only because a student is homosexual but because they are perceived as
different. (Davies, 2011; Walton, 2011 in Formby, 2015). To move away from this
LGBT identities “should be visibly embedded within a curriculum that seeks to
challenge all forms of oppression and normativity, thus preventing schools from
claiming … that they do not need to include LGBT identities as they ‘do not
have any’ LGBT students” (Formby, 2013 in Formby, 2015, p. 236).          

Schools such as
School X, an all-girls Catholic secondary school in South Dublin, now include a
section within their anti-bullying policy specifying homophobic and transgender
bullying. This became a requirement in the Department of Education and Skills
(2013) publication of Anti-Bullying
procedures for primary and post-primary schools. School X details their
policy to include behaviour such as: “spreading rumours about a person’s sexual
orientation or gender identity, taunting a person because of sexual orientation or
gender identity, name calling e.g. Gay, queer, lesbian, tranny…used in a
derogatory manner, physical intimidation or attacks, threats and any name calling or labelling in a
derogatory manner.” (School X, 2017). While inclusion in policy is vital in
beginning to avoid manifestation of homophobic and transphobic bullying, there
is need for inclusion in curriculum and within the school day to day life for
full fruition of the policy put in place. Formby (2015) discusses that for true
inclusive education and curriculum is ensuring that the anti-bullying policy is
not the only instance when LGBT students are represented within schools. School
X not only takes part in the annual Stand Up week which promotes inclusion of
LGBT students but also ensures in their RSE curriculum that students of all
sexual orientations are taught to feel comfortable in their own sexuality.
(School X RSE Policy, 2017). Although a Catholic school, School X has taken
their responsibilities of inclusion and equality and responded to that
responsibility. Scholars argue “schools must acknowledge, address and educate
about notions of difference so that children who are vilified for being
different … are afforded safer learning environments” (Walton, 2011, p.142).

 

Changing attitudes in school and at home

            Discourse
on homophobic and transphobic problems are vital in the eradication of the
problem within schools. Payne and Smith (2013) discuss the need to move away in
bullying, particularly homophobic bullying, from language which negates victims
and vilified bully. Instead there needs to be a move in opening discussion
which does not focus in the heteronormativity. Education is vital in changing
this discourse and in turn stopping the manifestation of homophobia and
transphobia in Irish schools. Sexuality education is vital in this movement,
particularly the inclusion of LGBT identities in sexual and relationship
education in schools. Participants in Mayock, Byran, Carr and Kitching’s study
“reported that sex education was limited or, more often non-existent in terms
of its relevance to them” (2009, p.66). Making LGBT students invisible in sex
education only enforces the idea that homosexuality is abnormal and in turn leads
to the manifestation of homophobia and transphobia in schools. It is essential that
LGBT is discussed in school