Bullied gay teens won't ask for help

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 November, 2011, 12:00am


Eight out of 10 gay people realise their sexual orientation between the ages of 11 and 15, a survey has revealed.

The Boys' and Girls' Club Association, which is conducting a study on the emotional and psychological condition of young gay people with Chinese University academics, warned yesterday that gay people were vulnerable to bullying at school.

'A disturbing thing is that in the surveys and studies we've done, most of these [gay] teenagers would not ask for help,' said Chau Chun-yan, a social worker with the association, at a forum on the subject.

Only 3 per cent of 300 homosexuals aged 13 to 21 interviewed for the study were willing to tell their teachers of their sexual orientation and the struggles they experienced.

Poon Yu-hin, a member of the panel at the forum, said bullying of homosexuals in schools amounted to discrimination, and that it was twice as common among young gay men than young lesbians.

'Bullying - especially in the formative early secondary school years - is very damaging to the development of a young person,' said Poon, a former secondary school teacher and a gender studies researcher at Chinese University who is not involved in the study. 'It doesn't just affect the natural development of their sexual orientation, but their whole person, emotionally and psychologically.'

A gay student, 20, who declined to give his name, shared his experience of being seriously bullied in secondary school at the forum yesterday.

During his secondary school years, he said he was verbally abused daily. He attempted suicide eight times between Form One and Form Five because of the constant bullying.

Now at university, he said he still hid his homosexuality from most of his classmates. 'Out of school, there are only a handful of my other friends who know that I'm gay,' he said.

In secondary school, he often skipped school to avoid bullying.

Even today, he said he worried about how people saw him. His parents do not know his sexual orientation. He said that he would tell them only when he achieved financial independence.

Poon said teachers did not receive enough training on how to deal with students struggling with their sexual orientation, and that many schools were still very conservative in their sex education.

He referred to government studies on bullying in secondary schools, which pointed to the reasons for the bullying of gay students.

'[The government] is right - those in the majority have the power, and the minority, like homosexual students, are being bullied. But the root is fear,' Poon said. 'We need to understand that straight or homosexual, we are still human beings. All students care about what their parents think, worry about their studies and want to be loved. No one deserves to be bullied.'