Homophobic abuse rife in PE lessons

Mel Smith
Country Organiser

The 14 to 22 age bracket is critical to build a positive relationship with sport and PE.

More than 80 per cent of gay, lesbian, bisexual and gender diverse secondary school students have been subjected to casual homophobic abuse in their PE lessons, new research funded by Beyondblue reveals.

The study was based on a survey of 399 same-sex attracted and gender diverse young people, who reported higher levels of depression and anxiety when they were subjected to regular homophobic taunts.

The study found more than 80 per cent of people were distressed when they heard remarks like “you’re so gay” and nearly 60 per cent had heard deliberate homophobic remarks targeted at them such as “faggot” and “dyke”.

Lead researcher from Victoria University, Dr Caroline Symons said the 14 to 22 age bracket was critical to build a positive relationship with sport and PE, and PE lessons and school sports were the most common environment for a young person to experience homophobic bullying.

“PE classes and school sport environments were identified as places where verbal abuse, homophobic epithets and bullying were most commonly found,” she said.

“This homophobia and transphobia tells them ‘you are not welcome here’, which can prevent them from enjoying the physical, mental and social benefits of participation for years to come.”

Beyondblue chief executive officer Georgie Harman said results were troubling, especially at an age when many young people were exploring their identity and sexuality.

“Sport and teamwork can help bind people together. Homophobia in the school yard or on the sports field is unacceptable and can have a lasting impact,” she said.

“Throwaway lines — whether intended to hurt or not — stay with kids and can affect their ability to be open about the feelings they’re having. Teachers, parents and kids themselves can learn from this research and say ‘this is not acceptable’, and do something about it.”

Other findings included a quarter of respondents had experienced physical abuse or pushing at school PE lessons and a third had experienced verbal abuse such as threats or name calling.

A full copy of the report can be obtained from Beyondblue.

Mel Smith is the Officer attached to GLBTI issues.p