Understanding Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia

Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are terms that describe the fear, dislike or hatred of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people. This can manifest itself in many ways including discrimination, language, bullying as well as violent and criminal behaviour.


Words, including jokes, phrases or ‘banter’ can be used to make fun of LGBT people. The phrase ‘that’s so gay’ and the word ‘gay’ are common in all youth settings. ‘Gay’ in this sense means something that is rubbish, inferior – exactly what some people think of those who identify as gay.

This phrase can be used without malice or understanding but it can still have a negative impact on LGBT young people who hear it used in this way. It can also establish a connection between the word ‘gay’ and ‘bad’ amongst young people. Acknowledging that this language has negative consequences regardless of intention, and challenging and exploring its use, can limit the damage it can have.


LGBT Youth Scotland works closely with respectme and is one its founding members. We believe that bullying is any behaviour that can make young people feel hurt, threatened, frightened and left out. It does not need to be intentional or repetitive, the primary concern is the impact the behaviour is having on a young person.

When behaviour is targeted towards a young person specifically because they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (or because they are perceived to be LGBT) this is most commonly called ‘homophobic bullying’. Terms such as biphobic or transphobic bullying are also used to describe bisexual and transgender young people’s experiences.

This type of bullying can also be directed towards people who seem not to conform to traditionally male or female gender roles – for example, a boy who doesn’t like football and prefers dancing. Some young people who experience homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying keep will find it difficult to disclose because disclosing the bullying is equivalent to telling somebody that they are LGBT.

Prejudice Based Bullying

This type of bullying fits under the umbrella of prejudice based bullying, which targets young people because of who they are or who they are perceived to be. This can be on the grounds of age, disability, gender (including gender identity), race, religion or belief and sexual orientation. Other grounds for prejudice based bullying might include social class, looked after or accommodated status or asylum seeker/refugee status.

A young person may experience more than one form of prejudice based bullying based on their identity or perceived identity

Hate Crime 

This is any behaviour which constitutes a criminal office, perceived by the victim or any other person, as being motivated by prejudice, hatred or ill-will towards a particular group.

Any incident perceived by any person to have been motivated by hatred, malice or prejudice of Race, Religion/Faith, Sexual Orientation, Transgender Identity or Disability are recorded, monitored and investigated as Hate Incidents.

Research shows that LGBT people experience high levels of hate crime but they are reluctant to report. If you are supporting a young person who has experienced a crime please contact Police Scotland directly or speak to a worker at LGBT Youth Scotland regarding 3rd Party Reporting.