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Gay bashing and gay bullying is verbal or physical abuse against a person who is perceived by the aggressor to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual, including persons who are actually heterosexual or of non-specific or unknown sexual orientation.
A "bashing" may be a specific incident, and one could also use the verb to bash (e.g. "I was gay bashed."). A verbal gay bashing might use sexual slurs, expletives, intimidation, or threats of violence. It also might take place in a political forum and include one or more common anti-gay slogans.
Gay bullying involves intentional and unprovoked actions toward the victim, repeated negative actions by one or more people against another person, and an imbalance of physical or psychological power. Similar terms such as lesbian bullying, queer bullying, and queer bashing may also be formed.
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Gay bashing has occurred worldwide for many decades and continues today. Homophobia in the United States was especially serious in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when many gay people were forced out of government by boards set up by Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower. As historian David K. Johnson explains:
The Lavender Scare helped fan the flames of the Red Scare. In popular discourse, communists and homosexuals were often conflated. Both groups were perceived as hidden subcultures with their own meeting places, literature, cultural codes, and bonds of loyalty. Both groups were thought to recruit to their ranks the psychologically weak or disturbed. And both groups were considered immoral and godless. Many people believed that the two groups were working together to undermine the government.
Johnson concludes that Senator Joe McCarthy, notorious for his attacks on alleged communists in government, was often pressured by his allies to denounce homosexuals in government, but he resisted and did not do so. Using rumors collected by Drew Pearson, one Nevada publisher wrote in 1952 that both McCarthy and his chief counsel, Roy Cohn, were homosexuals.[note 1] Washington Post editor Benjamin C. Bradlee said, "There was a lot of time spent investigating" these allegations, "although no one came close to proving it." No reputable McCarthy biographer has accepted it as probable.[note 2]
Egale Canada conducted a survey of more than 3700 high school students in Canada between December 2007 and June 2009. The final report of the survey, “Every Class in Every School”, published in 2011, found that 70% of all students participating heard “that’s so gay” daily at school, and 48% of respondents heard “faggot”, “lezbo” and “dyke” daily. 58% or about 1400 of the 2400 heterosexual students participating in EGALE’s survey found homophobic comments upsetting. Further, EGALE found that students not directly affected by homophobia, biphobia or transphobia were less aware of it. This finding relates to research done in the area of empathy gaps for social pain which suggests that those not directly experiencing social pain (in this case, bullying) consistently underestimate its’ effects and thus may not adequately respond to the needs of one experiencing social pain. EGALE, along with previous research has found teachers and school administration may be complicit in queer bullying through their silence and/or inaction. Graffiti found on school grounds and property, and its “relative permanence”, is another form of queer bullying. Some researchers suggest including youth questioning their sexuality in any research on queer bullying because they may be as susceptible to its’ effects as queer students. A research study of 78 11 to 14 year-old boys conducted in 12 schools in London, England between 1998 and 1999 revealed that respondents who used the word ‘gay’ to label another boy, intended the word as “just a joke”, “just a cuss” and not as a statement of one’s perceived sexual orientation. American sociologist Michael Kimmel and American psychologist Gregory Herek write that masculinity is a renunciation of the feminine and that males shore up their sense of their masculinity by denigrating the feminine and ultimately the homosexual. Building on the notion of masculinity defining itself by what it is not, some researchers suggest that in fact the renunciation of the feminine may be misogyny. These intertwining issues were examined in 2007, when American sociologist CJ Pascoe described what she calls the “fag discourse” at an American high school in her book, Dude, You’re a Fag.
Gay and lesbian youth are more likely to report bullying. In one study, boys who were bullied with taunts of being gay suffered more bullying and more negative effects compared to boys who were bullied with other categories of taunting.
Effects of queer bullying
Queer bullying may make some victims feel sad and unsafe in the world. Bullying will have an impact on a student’s experience of school. Some victims might feel paralyzed and withdraw socially as a coping mechanism. Other victims of queer bullying may begin to live the effects of learned helplessness. Queer or questioning students may try to pass as heterosexual in order to avoid queer bullying. Passing isolates the student from other queer or questioning students, potential allies, and support. Adults who try to pass also may feel the effects emotionally and psychologically, of this effort to conceal their true identities. Queer and questioning youth who experience bullying have a higher incidence of substance abuse and STI and HIV infection, which may carry through to adulthood. Queer bullying may also be seen as a manifestation of what American academic Ilan Meyer calls minority stress, which may affect sexual and ethno-racial minorities attempting to exist within a challenging broader society.
Statistics and examples
Teens face harassment, threats, and violence. A 1998 study in the US by Mental Health America found that students heard anti-gay slurs such as “homo”, “faggot” and “sissy” about 26 times a day on average, or once every 14 minutes.
About two-thirds of gay and lesbian students in Britain’s schools have suffered from gay bullying, a survey by the Schools Health Education Unit found. Almost all that had been bullied had experienced verbal attacks, 41 percent had been physically attacked, and 17 percent had received death threats.
There is a high rate of suicide among gay men and lesbian women. According to a 1979 Jay and Young study, 40 percent of gay men and 39 percent of gay women in the US had attempted or seriously thought about suicide. In 1985, F. Paris estimated that suicides by gay youth may comprise up to 30 percent of all youth suicides in the US. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has found that gay, lesbian and bisexual youth attempt suicide at a rate three to six times that of similar-age heterosexual youth.
- In 1996, Jamie Nabozny won a landmark lawsuit against officials at his former public high school in Ashland, Wisconsin over their refusal to intervene in the "relentless antigay verbal and physical abuse by fellow students" to which he had been subjected and which had resulted in his hospitalization.
- High school student Derek Henkle faced inaction from school officials when repeatedly harassed by his peers in Reno, Nevada. His lawsuit against the school district and several administrators ended in a 2002 settlement in which the district agreed to create a series of policies to protect gay and lesbian students and to pay Henkle $451,000.
- Damilola Taylor was attacked by a local gang of youths on 27 November 2000 in Peckham, south London; he bled to death after being stabbed with a broken bottle in the thigh, which severed the femoral artery. The BBC, Telegraph, Guardian and Independent newspapers reported at the time that during the weeks between arriving in the UK from Nigeria and the attack he had been subjected to bullying and beating, which included homophobic remarks by a group of boys at his school. "The bullies told him that he was gay." He "may not have understood why he was being bullied at school, or why some other children taunted him about being 'gay' – the word meant nothing to him." He had to ask his mother what 'gay' meant, she said "Boys were swearing at him, saying lots of horrible words. They were calling him names." His mother had spoken about this bullying, but the teachers failed to take it seriously. "She said pupils had accused her son of being gay and had beaten him last Friday." Six months after the murder, his father said, "I spoke to him and he was crying that he was being bullied and being called names. He was being called 'gay'." In the New Statesman two years later, when there had still been no convictions for the crime, Peter Tatchell, gay human rights campaigner, said, "In the days leading up to his murder in south London in November 2000, he was subjected to vicious homophobic abuse and assaults," and asked why the authorities had ignored this before and after his death.
- In 2009, Carl Joseph Walker Hoover, an 11-year old boy in Springfield, Massachusetts, hanged himself with an electrical cord. His mother said his classmates at his middle school had bullied and called him "gay" on a daily basis.
- In 2010, a gay man from Cameroon, Africa was granted asylum in the United Kingdom after reporting that he had been attacked by an angry mob in Cameroon after they saw him kissing his male partner. The Communications Minister of Cameroon, Issa Tchiroma, denied the allegation of persecution of homosexuals.
- Tyler Clementi committed suicide on September 22, 2010, after his roommate at Rutgers University secretly recorded his sexual encounter with another man.
- A 32-year old man in Paisley, Scotland was bullied and harassed by his employer, a Glasgow publishing firm, before he was fired. He later sued the company and won a £120,000 award.
- On October 14, 2011, Canadian teenager Jamie Hubley, the son of Ottawa city councillor Allan Hubley, committed suicide after having blogged for a month about the anti-gay bullying he was facing at school. The bullying had begun as early as Grade 7, with students on Jamie's bus attempting to stuff batteries in his mouth because he preferred figure skating over hockey.
- Phillip Parker, a 14-year old openly gay in Tennessee, was found dead in January 20, 2012. He committed suicide because of gay bullying. His father, who is also named Phillip, says that "That's my son. I love him. I miss him. He shouldn't have had to kill himself to be brought to life." Along the body was a letter, which was written: "Please help me mom".
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In response to growing awareness of gay bashing and bullying, a number of support groups have been founded to help LGBT persons cope with their abuse. In Europe Stonewall UK, and Anti-Bullying Network are active in the UK, while Russia has the Russian LGBT network.
Notable in the United States is the It Gets Better Project, for which celebrities and ordinary LGBT people make YouTube videos and share messages of hope for gay teens. The organization works with USA, The Trevor Project and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. The Safe Schools Coalition provides resources for teachers and students where bullying is a problem. Egale Canada works with LGBT Canadian citizens. In Brazil, the Gay Group of Bahia (Grupo Gay da Bahia) provides support. LGBT South Africans can turn to the South African Human Rights Commission.[not in citation given]
- Anti-LGBT slogans
- Bash Back!
- Corrective rape
- Hate crime
- List of LGBT rights organizations
- School bullying
- Trans bashing
- Violence against LGBT people
- After McCarthy called him an ex-Communist, Hank Greenspun wrote: "It is common talk among homosexuals in Milwaukee who rendezvous in the White Horse Inn that Senator Joe McCarthy has often engaged in homosexual activities." Las Vegas Sun, October 25, 1952. McCarthy later explained he meant to call Greenspun an ex-convict (which was true), rather than an ex-Communist (which was false).
- The allegations are specifically rejected in Richard Rovere, Senator Joe McCarthy (1969), p. 68; see also Robert D. Dean, Imperial Brotherhood: Gender and the Making of Cold War Foreign Policy (2001) p. 149 (includes Bradlee quote); Kyle A. Cuordileone, Manhood and American Political Culture in the Cold War (2003), p. 94; Thomas Patrick Doherty, Cold War, Cool Medium: Television, McCarthyism, and American Culture, (2003), p. 228. Geoff Schumacher, Sun, Sin & Suburbia: An Essential History of Modern Las Vegas (2004), p. 144, concludes, "Greenspun descended into mud-spewing rhetoric that would make the National Enquirer blanch."
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