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A Resource for Everyone, with LGBTQ+ Youth in Mind

Bullying Hurts: A Resource for Everyone, with LGBTQ+ Youth in Mind

What is the impact of bullying on health? 

Bullying is a form of harassment that happens in person and online (cyber-bullying) and impacts 17% of straight youth and twice as many LGB youth every year. 1 in 3 students who are bullied avoid school for their own safety. 

Bullying causes increased risk for depression, suicidal ideation, self-harm, misuse of drugs and alcohol, risky sexual behavior, and can affect performance in school or work. Bullying can also escalate to assault, resulting in physical injuries. 

Bullying is caused by a culture of white heteronormativity—meaning, people engage in bullying behavior because they have learned that certain ways of being are “better” or “normal,” such as being white, cisgender, male, straight, thin, able-bodied, etc. and that shaming people who don’t align with those characteristics is okay. 

Responsibility for change lies not with individual youth who are harmed or who bully, but with adults who allow and enact discrimination. Discrimination occurs systematically, in the lessons we teach, the policies we uphold, and the environments we create. 

Steps to Prevent Bullying

Build strong connections that demonstrate acceptance and keep the lines of communication open. Have clear policies against bullying and how it will be responded to effectively. Often, LGBTQ and other minority youth feel rejected; creating visible and accessible sources of support are shown to reduce incidences of harassment if that support is trusted and reliable. Consider how you are signalling that harm against marginalized youth will not go unnoticed and will be taken seriously, because these youth are cared for. 

Talk about what bullying and discrimination are and how to stand up to them safely. Make clear that bullying and bigotry are unacceptable and respond immediately when it occurs. 

Model empathy, kindness, and healthy relationships. Discuss what healthy and positive relationships look like and how to change harmful behavior. 

Supporting Those Harmed by Bullying

Provide interpersonal support, including a safe place to talk about sexual orientation, gender, race, ethnicity, faith, weight, poverty, and other experiences for which people are often bullied. Having adults available who share these identities and experiences can make people feel safe when asking for support. 

Protect privacy. Do not disclose sexual or gender identity to parents or anyone else, without the person’s prior permission. Do not disclose the identity of a person who comes forward with a complaint of bullying without their consent. 

Never doubt why a person was bullied or imply that they should change; being bullied is never the bullied person’s fault. 

Ask what forms of support they want or need, which could include: 

  • Counseling / therapy
  • Medical care
  • Physical separation from the bully/ies
  • An accountability process for the bully, with or without their involvement
  • Help talking to friends and family about the support they need
  • Training for peers or administrators in cultural humility and harm interventions

Behavior Change for People Who Bully

Harmed people cause harm to others. If someone is bullying, there is a reason for their behavior that needs to be addressed--find out why. 

Rather than telling someone who bullies that they are a bad person (this will hurt them without helping), make clear exactly which behaviors are harmful, why, and that they are not okay. People who bully have learned that these behaviors are normal or a source of attention, therefore their environment must also change. 

Provide support, including social needs assessment, mental healthcare, peer guidance, and opportunities for accountability (taking responsibility for their actions and their need to change). 

Ensure positive attention is given for empathetic behavior. 

Establish clear consequences that are consistent if bullying behavior persists. Appropriate consequences include: 

  • Limiting access to activities where they may cause harm (e.g. unsupervised group activities, social media, online gaming),
  • Removal from positions of authority or leadership from which they gain power (e.g. team captain, club leader, work supervisor)
  • Learning about healthy relationships and the impacts of harm. 

More information about bullying can be found at: