Action to tackle biphobia

BCN 123 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 123, February 2014

Bullying initiative to address biphobia in UK schools – while EU money may also help

The government has said it will look into what works best to help drive out homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in secondary schools.

At BCN we think this is the first time the UK government has mentioned biphobia in its LGBT work. The LGB&T Action Plan launched at the start of 2011 was notable for only referencing work to tackle homophobia and transphobia.

The project announced at the end of 2013 will explore how best to reduce the prevalence and impact of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying among school-age children and young people. For the first stage, organisations are being invited to bid for funding to conduct a review of the available evidence and existing practices currently in place in schools to tackle this issue.

So the new initiative will build on existing work to tackle bullying in schools including publishing updated advice and guidance for schools and governing bodies; and meanwhile schools will be given greater legal powers to tackle bad behaviour and cyber-bullying.

Announcing the project, Minister for Women and Equalities Jo Swinson said: “Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying has serious consequences – it can affect children’s well-being, lead to poor educational performance and prevent them getting ahead in life.

“It’s completely unacceptable that young people are experiencing this type of derogatory treatment.
“This new project will help us to fully understand the issues and develop effective, evidence-based tools and best practice that will help schools and others to stamp out this harmful behaviour.”

Recent statistics from Stonewall reveal that, in 2012, more than half (55 per cent) of young lesbian, gay and bisexual people surveyed said they experienced homophobic bullying at school, while over two-thirds (68 per cent) reported that they heard homophobic language often or frequently. Only three in ten (31 per cent) said their school responds quickly to homophobic bullying when it occurs.

Stonewall’s research didn’t separate out biphobia or look at transphobia, but it is unlikely schools are more welcoming to bi or trans pupils.

Meanwhile the European Parliament has redefined the priorities of the European Social Fund (ESF) for rest of this decade. For the first time, the Fund will contribute to combating discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The ESF is one of the EU’s structural funds, intended to build social and economic cohesion in the EU. It is the main way the EU seeks to promote employment, and currently makes up about 10 per cent of the EU’s budget.

One of the fund’s priorities is to promote equal opportunities, and now the Fund’s work should also aim to combat discrimination.

The binding resolution specifies that discrimination based on sex should be interpreted broadly, including discrimination against (at least some) trans people, in line with EU Court of Justice rulings. It states:
(11) […] the implementation of the priorities financed by the ESF should contribute to combating discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation […]; discrimination on the ground of sex should be interpreted in a broad sense so as to cover other gender-related aspects in line with the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Research into LGBT experience in recent years has shown biphobia, transphobia and homophobia at school and college, at home and in wider society damages the educational attainments of bi, gay and trans people. In turn our earnings and career paths suffer as well as impacts on health and well-being, making an economic case for tackling these issues.

Will any ESF support to tackle biphobia come the UK’s way?  We’ll have to see.