Homophobia Ride in School Gym Classes

Published: August 11, 2014

 A new Aussie study into depression and anxiety has revealed over 80 per cent of young people had experienced homophobia during physical education classes.

The study, conducted by Victoria University’s Dr Caroline Symons through a beyondblue Victorian Centre of Excellence in Depression and Anxiety grant found secondary students are often subjected to casual homophobic abuse.

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 suggested many of the remarks may not have been intended to upset someone – but casual use of homophobic language such as you’re so gay  caused LGBTI young people distress.

Nearly 60 per cent had heard deliberate homophobic remarks targeted at them such as ‘faggot’ and ‘dyke’.

Dr 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."

Victorian Minister for Mental Health Mary Wooldridge said participation in sports often assists in fighting the symptoms of depression so the study’s results were of importance when consideringteh health and well being of young LGBTI people.

“We know that participation in sport and physical education can be key factor for young people in fighting depression. That is why the Victorian Coalition Government is pleased to support this research which contributes to reducing mental health issues among the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex community,” Ms Wooldridge said.

beyondblue Chief Executive Officer Georgie Harman described the results as troubling.

"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. Throw away 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,” she said.
Students who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and gender diverse reported moderate levels of depression and moderate to severe levels of anxiety.

Other findings of the survey were:
– A quarter of young people in school PE lessons had experienced physical abuse or pushing.
– Verbal abuse such as threats or name calling were experienced by almost a third in PE.
– One tenth of secondary students had experienced a physical assault such as hitting or using weapons in school sports in past year.

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