Bullying Myth #11: When bullies use homophobic taunts they’re always referring to the victim’s sexual orientation

Increasingly, bullies taunt other kids by calling them “gay,” even though neither party actually knows what the word means — especially in the younger grades. “This is where parental and social modeling come into effect,” Author John Mayer says. Kids hear the word used as a putdown, and they repeat it. “They’re mimicking language,” he says, “it’s not being used in the sexual connotation.”

Even in the later teens, when kids do understand the meaning, it can be used solely as a slur. “It is often used as the sort of nuclear option as it relates to male-to-male social aggression or put downs,” Charles Williams clinical psychologist says. “The mere insinuation is enough to cause the social harm intended by the bully.”

But Williams warns that a sexually confused child — of any age — may be a more likely target for harassment and bullying. And although it may be a challenging conversation, he urges parents (with the help and possible presence of a mental health professional) to discuss sexuality and gender with their child. “It is my sense that the child who is struggling with sexuality and gender identity, but who is simultaneously receiving support on the home front, may be better equipped to navigate the treacherous waters known as childhood – particularly in a school environment, where 79 percent of reported bullying takes place.” In fact, research by the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University demonstrates that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth with families who accept their sexual orientation are less likely to suffer depression, use drugs, or attempt suicide than youth who are rejected by their families.

Source: Great Kids!

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