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  • Jokes against LGBTQ+ people are often the result of homo/trans/binegativity (also known as homo/trans/biphobia) and could be a sign of it. Even though word phobia is associated with fear which can be also a part of the problem, homo/trans/bi-negativity/-phobia is more related to negative attitudes and behaviours towards gay, trans, bisexual and other LGBTQ+ people (it could be also sign of lack of information and hostility and neglected psychosocial needs of a child).
  • Inappropriate jokes are founded in culture that stigmatizes or undervalues certain groups of people. This is known to cause and promote minority stress and more specifically known as a type of microaggressions.
  • The existence of inappropriate jokes is further legitimized when disregarded or passed unnoticed.


For creating a safe environment, it is important to use inclusive language. We should always be able to think if what we say hurts someone. Both teachers and peers may sometime make a homophobic/transphobic joke or use homophobic/transphobic names/insults as mean of humiliation and bullying. These insults are addressed to various students regardless of their identity. Prevalence of these “jokes” and insults creates an environment which is hostile and not safe, and each differentiation from the norm can be seen by the students as undesirable which restricts their healthy development and perception of differences among people as normal and enriching.

Insults and jokes are deeply enrooted in any given culture by the working of stigma that operates at multiple levels:

  • Institutional level: structural discrimination, laws, norms, traditions, language, media
    • Politicians should repeal homo/transphobic laws (marriage exclusively for men and women, forced sterilization of trans* people).
  • Interpersonal level: interpersonal discrimination, relationship violence, bullying, hate speech, homo/trans/biphobic jokes.
    • We should all pay more attention to what is happening around us. If we see violence against LGBTQ+ people, we should stand up for them.
    • Parents and teachers must create a safe space for LGBTQ+ children and youth.
    • There is zero-tolerance for any kind of discrimination and violence. The situation must be intervened to stop the bullying.
  • Individual level: internalized homo/bi/transphobia, mental health issues, denying one’s identity.
    • We need to be conscientious what kind of specific problems and challenges LGBTQ+ youth may be facing due to societal norms and stigmatization of their identities.

“Schools must provide a learning environment that is healthy and safe. Every student who attends school must be able to develop to their full potential, safe from any form of bullying or violence. Inclusion and support measures can be especially helpful for preventing transgender and non-binary students from experiencing bullying, harassment, discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, or exclusion.” (Gouvernement du Québec 2021)


Homophobia is “any negative attitude that may lead to direct or indirect rejection of and discrimination against lesbian, gay or bisexual people, or people of any other sexual orientation or any individual whose appearance or behaviour does not conform to the stereotypes associated with their sex assigned at birth” (Gouvernement du Québec, 2021).

Transphobia is “any negative attitude that may lead, directly and indirectly, to rejection of and discrimination against trans individuals or any person whose appearance or behaviour does not conform with the male or female stereotypes associated with their assigned sex at birth. Purposefully using the wrong pronouns or first name, either in the presence or absence of the person in question, is an example of transphobia” (Gouvernement du Québec 2021).

The imprecise term homophobia is now relatively widespread and may be considered to be a “vernacular term” describing prejudice and various forms of intolerance related to discrimination and stigmatization of non-heterosexual people. Gradually, the terms biphobia and transphobia were derived from homophobia to describe specific forms of prejudice against these groups. Although the term connotes “phobia”, i.e., fear, it is not technically accurate in this respect and is therefore more often replaced by the term homonegativity (binegativity, transnegativity).

The term homophobia was first used in academic literature by the psychologist George Weinberg, who published it in his 1972 work Society and the Healthy Homosexual. Weinberg later explained in an interview with Herek in 1998 that he coined the term to convey the fear of homosexuals coupled with the fear of contracting (HIV) and the fear of undermining the values for which they were fighting – home and family.

Today, the term is already widespread and can be used to name negative attitudes towards non-heterosexual people or non-heterosexuality, which may take on various implicit or explicit forms, including aversion, disgust, fear, or hatred (Goldberg, 2016, cited in Pitoňák, 2020). Because homophobia is still largely widespread form of intolerance within the European Union, the European Parliament has issued a number of documents in which it addresses this issue. According to the European Parliament, homophobia can be defined as “irrational fear and loathing of homosexuality and lesbian, gay, bisexual homosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual persons based on prejudice similar to racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and sexism

Language and homo/trans/biphobic jokes and remarks can be a sign of prejudice against non-cis and non-heterosexual people in the class. Homophobic language is putting prejudice into everyday interactions. Even if prejudices are not used against specific students, they create a hostile environment in which individual students can feel uncomfortable. Homophobic language is LGBTQ+ related words that are used to describe activities, things, or other people (not directly related to sexual behaviour and orientation or gender) and that have a negative connotation in the given context. The meaning of such words should be discussed with students to find out how they understand them and whether they perceive them negatively (and therefore use them in an offensive sense). Even if students perceive these words in a more neutral sense, it is important for them to realize that by using them they may inadvertently offend gay, bisexual, and transgender people (Smetáčková 2009).

Mental health, microaggressions

Homo/trans/biphobic jokes and remarks affect not only the climate of the classroom, but also the mental health of individuals. Discriminatory comments and heterosexism have been found to be associated with psychological distress among sexual minority individuals (Craney, Watson, Brownfield, & Flores, 2018; Szymanski & Mikorski, 2016).

Mental health disparities between sexual minority and heterosexual youth are often explained by discriminatory experiences and rejection. Although many studies focus on explicit victimization, the consequences of subtle, everyday discriminations (“microaggressions”) against sexual minority youth are largely understudied (Kaufman et al. 2017).

In essence, microaggressions are various types of everyday encounters of subtle discrimination that people of various marginalized groups experience throughout their lives (Sue et al., 2007). Some microaggressions may be unconscious (i.e., the perpetrator does not even know they did something) while some microaggressions may be unintentional (i.e., the perpetrator may be aware of their actions, but may not realize the negative impact they may have on people).

For more information about microaggressions you can read the topic of microaggressions.

In a school environment, it is good to observe and analyse what kind of jokes appear in the classrooms. Often just jokes can be signals of bullying in its first stages, that is, when it is best to act against it. Don’t overlook it, ask students why they say such jokes and what they think the jokes mean. Openly homo/trans/biphobic jokes are a major transgression of group norms and should not occur in school. The school should not tolerate them even by the students, and they especially should not be committed by the teachers.

If those making such inappropriate jokes are simply unaware that they are inappropriate, we recommend including a prevention program that introduces LGBTQ+ themes and adds context. Such a program should include an explanation of LGBTQ+ topics and build empathy towards LGBTQ+ people – e.g. through reading stories, watching documentaries or discussion. If the jokes do not stop after such a program, it is advisable to work with their spreaders individually in cooperation with the school counselling department.

If the inappropriate jokes are meant in a truly homo/trans/biphobic way or even attack specific students, it is necessary to work with those concerned individually in cooperation with the school counselling office.


All abovementioned situations of microaggressions may be included here.

Making jokes about people or communities that are in the minority or at a disadvantage is harmful. Jokes undermine feeling of self-worth, create fear and negatively influence child’s capacity to learn. Inappropriate jokes might lead to self-doubt and restriction of behaviour – hiding how I really am and how I feel in fear.


Since lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender young people are part of all communities & live in all areas; their needs should be included in all youth services. To prevent homo/trans/biphobic jokes and remarks in your school, you can do some of the following:

Raise awareness and understanding of issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity and gender expression. Ideally while engaging school stakeholders like teachers, school staff, students, and parents. This can be done through several steps (O’Brien, & McEvoy, 2010; Pawlak, 2018):

Teach children empathy. Explain to them that jokes can hurt. Or better yet, teach them that if a joke hurts, it’s not a joke, it’s violence. You could use films or other stories to build some empathy with LGBTQ+ people.

If you hear children making inappropriate jokes, respond. You can discuss together what is problematic about the joke. Encourage children to think about and discuss the appropriateness of jokes with their peers. Encourage children to stand up for others if someone makes fun of them. Standing up is the prevention of violence, xenophobia, and bullying.

How to speak up against homo/bi/transphobia?

Interrupt. Speak up against biased remarks, every time, without exception.

Question. Ask simple questions to learn why the comment was made and how it can be addressed.

Educate. Explain why a word or phrase is hurtful or offensive and encourage the speaker to choose different language. Help students differentiate between intent and impact.

Echo. While one person’s voice is powerful, a collection of voices incites change. “ (Learning for justice 2021)


Craney, R. S., Watson, L. B., Brownfield, J., & Flores, M. J. (2018). Bisexual women’s discriminatory experiences and psychological distress: Exploring the roles of coping and LGBTQ community connectedness. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 5, 324–337. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000276

Gouvernement du Québec (2021) Improved understanding and practices for sexual and gender diversity in schools: guide for educational institutions. Gouvernement du Québec, Ministère de l’Éducation.

Kaufman, T. M. L., et al. (2017). “Microaggressions and depressive symptoms in sexual minority youth: The roles of rumination and social support.” Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity 4(2): 184-192.

Learning for Justice. (2021). Best practices for serving LGBTQ students: A Teaching Tolerance guide. Southern Poverty Law Centre, Alabama, USA.

Meyer, I. H. (2003). “Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: conceptual issues and research evidence.” Psychol Bull 129 (5), 674-697.

Nadal, K. L. (2014). “Stop Saying “That’s So Gay!”: 6 Types of Microaggressions That Harm LGBTQ People.” Psychology benefits.org

Nadal, K. L., Skolnik, A., & Wong, Y. (2012). Interpersonal and systemic microaggressions: Psychological impacts on transgender individuals and communities. Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, 6(1), 55-82.

Nadal, K. L. Issa, M., Leon, J., Meterko, V., Wideman, M., & Wong, Y. (2011). Sexual orientation microaggressions: “Death by a thousand cuts” for lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth. Journal of LGBT Youth, 8(3), 1-26.

O’Brien, C. A., & McEvoy, O. (2010). Addressing homophobia. Guidelines for the youth sector in Ireland. Belong to youth services. Ireland.

Pawlak, P. (2018). School-Related Violence and Bullying on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity or Expression (SOGIE): Synthesis Report on China, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. UNESCO Bangkok.

Pitoňák, M. (2017). Mental health in non-heterosexuals: Minority stress theory and related explanation frameworks review. Mental Health & Prevention, 5, 63-73. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mhp.2016.10.002

Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A. M., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. E. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: Implications for counseling. The American Psychologist, 62(4), 271-286.

Smetáčková, I., & Braun, R. (2009). Homofobie v žákovských kolektivech: homofobní obtěžování a šikana na základních a středních školách-jak se projevuje a jak se proti ní bránit: doplňkový výukový materiál pro ZŠ a SŠ včetně didaktické aplikace tématu. Úřad vlády České republiky.

Szymanski, D. M., & Mikorski, R. (2016). External and internalized heterosexism, meaning in life, and psychological distress. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 3, 265–274. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000182

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