Unfortunately, even though social attitudes have come a long way, people who identify as LGBT+ are still bullied and victimised, and this can make it difficult to freely express who you are.
If you are the victim of bullying or hate crime, this is not your fault. This is ALWAYS the fault of the person carrying out the bullying or committing the crime. However, there are some sensible steps you can take to help protect yourself.
And remember, there is lots of support available if you feel you are being bullied or if you experience hate crime. You are not alone.
The internet is an essential part of all our everyday lives. It can make you feel closer to other people and help you feel like you’re not alone.
But it can also be dangerous if you don’t know how to stay safe. Here’s a few pointers to help you stay safe online . . .
Meeting people online and on social media
- Never give out your home address to anyone
- If you are meeting someone in person that you connected with online, never invite them to your home – meet in a busy, public place like a café that you know well. Bring a friend if you can; if you can’t, always tell someone where you’re going.
- If you meet someone from the internet and something feels odd or wrong when you meet them – they’re not the age they said they were, they want to introduce you to other people or they want to talk about things that make you uncomfortable – trust your instincts and make an excuse to leave. You can read more about this here.
- Don’t meet someone at their home, even if you feel like you’ve got to know them really well online.
- Don’t get drunk or substance affected before you go – keep a clear head, even if you’re nervous.
- When you get back home again, remember to let your friend know that you’re safe.
Getting information and advice online
There are lots of people out there who will want to give you advice on how to ‘be gay’ or how to ‘be trans’ and so on. Lots of them have good intentions, but some might want to harm you or could give you incorrect advice.
If you are looking for information on how to transition, for example, don’t just look at Instagram accounts or Twitter feeds. Seek out sources of information that you can trust – to get you started, some are listed on our resources page.
Make sure that any advice you follow comes from organisations and professional people who work with these issues every day. Do not buy hormones or treatments from online sources or without getting help from your GP first.
If you want to find role models or watch programmes or films about LGBT+ people and their lives, try looking for age-appropriate content from legitimate streaming sites like BBC iPlayer or Netflix. Whatever you watch, it’s always important to remember that the way people’s lives and lifestyles are shown on screen may not match up with how you want to live your life, or even be realistic.
This is particularly true when it comes to porn. Most porn – whatever the gender identity of the people shown in it – does not show what real sex is like. Watching porn is not a good way to learn what you are likely to enjoy when you start having sex, and can give you the wrong idea about what is expected of you and what you should expect of a partner.
Once you meet someone and you both feel ready to start having sex, you will guide each other and find out how things work and what you both enjoy together.
Remember: If you don’t want to do something, say NO!
No means no. You can say ‘no’ or ‘stop’ at any time – just because you’ve consented to doing one thing with a partner, doesn’t mean you’ve consented to everything they want to do. If a partner does something that you have not agreed to, they have committed a crime and you should report it as soon as possible.
You can report a crime to Kent Police online or by calling 101. In an emergency, call 999.
For many of us, a big chunk of our social lives now takes place online. You can connect with people in your local area or in any part of the world through websites, apps and social media – and talking to other people who are LGBT+ online is great, because it can make you feel like you’re not on your own.
But be aware that people can feel a little braver online, which makes it easy for bullies to take advantage. Just because bullying happens online or on social media doesn’t make it OK or less serious: if you are bullied online you should report it in the same way as you would report someone shouting abuse in the street. It’s the same thing.
If anyone is sending you abusive or threatening messages – for any reason – report it to the police. Homophobic, biphobic or transphobic language is also not acceptable and should be reported.
As a general guideline, if someone bullies you or someone else on social media, take a screenshot and report this through the website or app they used to send their message (screenshots can be important because often bullies will delete their abusive posts to avoid getting into trouble).
BULLYING, HOMOPHOBIA, BIPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIA
Bullying and harassment is illegal. You have the right to get help and to challenge bullying if you are experiencing it for any reason.
Bullying can include things like being left out of activities, being called names, being ignored, someone vandalising or damaging your home, being sent abusive letters or messages online, abusive graffiti, threats or physical and verbal abuse.
Bullies might threaten to tell your family about your sexual orientation or gender identity, or tell people in school/college or your local community.
Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are words that describe the prejudices of people who have negative or hateful feelings towards people who identify as anything other than heterosexual or cisgender.
Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic crimes are all forms of hate crime, and as such are taken very seriously by police. Most police forces have a liaison officer who will deal with reports of hate crime against people who are LGBT+.
For further advice and information about hate crimes, visit www.galop.org.uk/hatecrime
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND ABUSE
Domestic abuse doesn’t just happen between straight, cisgender couples. It’s common in family relationships and in LGBT+ sexual relationships too.
Any domestic violence or abuse – whatever the gender identity or sexual orientation of the people involved – is also taken very seriously by police.
Domestic abuse can take many forms, but none of them are OK. If you feel that your partner, ex-partner or a family member is being abusive towards you – whether emotionally, sexually, physically, financially or psychologically – seek help immediately.
Here are a few examples of abusive behaviour:
- Calling you names, threatening to ‘out’ you, using put-downs
- Using your gender identity or sexuality as a basis for threats or harm
- Damaging your property
- Threatening to harm you or others that you love
- Controlling your access to money
- Making unwanted advances or forcing you into unwanted sexual contact
- Hitting, shoving, grabbing, kicking, throwing things or using other forms of physical violence
- Controlling your contact with friends, family, work, or the LGBT+ ‘scene’
- Threatening to harm themselves if you leave or seek help
You can find more advice and information about domestic abuse in LGBT+ relationships at www.galop.org.uk/domesticabuse
What you can do
If you are victim of any type of homophobic, biphobic or transphobic abuse, hate crime, bullying or violence take the following steps:
- Report it!
- Tell someone at school or college, such as a teacher, counsellor or the school nurse.
- Report all violent crimes to the police.
- If you are bullied or harassed at work, you are protected by the Equality Act of 2010, so you should report to your HR department, manager or welfare officer who will have to deal with the matter by law.
- Get support
- Talk to someone at an LGBT+ support group – find out about ours here.
- Get counselling in person (speak to your GP about this).
- Get counselling online (kooth.com is a good source of free, confidential help and advice).
- Talk to a friend or someone you trust.
Whoever you decide to tell, and whatever support you get, don’t keep it to yourself. Holding on to experiences of bullying, harassment or abuse can be harmful and can affect your mental health. You are not alone and there is help out there!
Around 25% of young homeless people identify as LGBT+. Young people who come out to parents or carers when they are still living at home are more at risk of homelessness.
Some parents may not feel positively about a young person coming out, and there might be arguments in the family home. If you are planning on coming out to your parents for the first time, have a look at our coming out guide before taking this step.
If you think there is a risk that your parents or carers will not react positively and could ask you to leave the family home, call Porchlight’s free helpline on 0800 567 7699 for support and advice.