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Dealing with homophobia

Homophobia is any form of physical, verbal or mental and emotional abuse targeted at homosexuals because of their sexuality.

People do it for a number of reasons - because of personal fear - the fear of being different - a lack of imagination, and to make themselves feel more secure in their own skins and sexuality.

The fear is based in ignorance. This is what you need to remember if you receive any abuse: you have done nothing wrong and it is not your fault.

At school

You have the right to go to school and not be bullied for any reason. If your school cannot guarantee your safety you should consult the police and report whatever crime has been committed. Verbal and physical abuse and intimidation are criminal offences.

You might not want to be a 'snitch'. In the first instance, you might report the bullying to a teacher - or go straight to the top and see the head teacher - without naming the offenders. This will alert the school to what is happening and prompt extra vigilance on the school's part. If the bullying continues, you will need to name the offenders. Remember: beyond the school, there is the police.

And elsewhere

You might be worried that, if you take action in school, the homophobes will get you outside of school. This again should be dealt with in the same way as any other criminal assault. It doesn't matter that it's because you're gay or that they or you aren't adults.

You might wish to ignore verbal abuse and 'rise above it'. That's your choice - but you do have the right to take action and bring it to an end.

If you are ever attacked, run. Never mind pride; just get out of there. Seek other people. As a general rule, it can be unwise to be in places where there are no other people. Then you must report the crime that has taken place.

Homophobia hurts. It can wreck people's lives. It can even drive them to suicide - the statistics regarding which are absolutely shocking. You can feel as if you're stuck in a hole from which you'll never emerge. Rest assured, you will.

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