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Youth Line
Bullying & Harrassment

We hear from a lot of youth who are experiencing homophobic and transphobic bullying in their schools and communities.  Sometimes we hear about the fear, the pain and the feelings of isolation that happen when youth have been targeted because of who they are.  Other times youth share their feelings of hopelessness, not seeing many options or knowing what their rights are.  We know that LGBT youth may be at great risk of being targeted if they also have a disability, if they are youth of colour, if they are in a lower economic 'bracket' or if they don't conform to society's expectations of how gender should be expressed.

If you are being bullied or harassed because you are (or because you are thought to be) lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Two-spirit, queer you need to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  A recent study by the LGBT rights lobby group EGALE shows that in Canadian schools 41% of students identifying as LGBT have been sexually harassed while educational facilities were the second most common places for hate crimes to be committed. 

Many people feel that homophobic bullying is "just kids being kids" and that it's "harmless." In fact, this type of bullying is anything but harmless, particularly for LGBT youth, whose identity is insulted.  We know from experience, and research has demonstrated that LGBT youth who experience bullying, harassment or hate are at risk of experiencing the following consequences: depression (low mood, a sense of hopelessness); poor health (e.g., headaches, stomach aches); school absenteeism and academic problems; running away; contemplating, attempting, or committing suicide; social anxiety, loneliness, isolation; low self-esteem; aggressive behaviours; drug and alcohol use.

If this is happening to you or to someone you care about, reach out for support and ideas.  The volunteers at Youth Line are here for you anytime you want to talk or vent or make a plan.  We've also got some downloadable resources on the topic of bullying that might be of interest.

Bullying, Harassment and Hate Crimes– Know Your Rights

Many of the questions youth ask us about bullying, harassment and hate crimes would be best answered by a lawyer.  So we took your questions to the great minds at the University of Toronto student law clinic, Downtown Legal Services.  Here are their answers to your questions:

Does this safe schools stuff affect queer kids who are being hassled?  How does it work?

When is it up to a school principal/school board and when is it up to the police to intervene in bullying at school?

When does bullying become a criminal matter?

What exactly makes something a hate crime?  Why is it different from other crimes?

What if I'm being "hated" because I'm trans (not queer)? Are my rights protected too?

If someone is bashing me and I fight back can I be charged?

What if the cops are homophobic? How do I complain?

How do I find a lawyer that I can afford (cheap or free)?

Reporting Hate

There is no one response that is right for everyone in every situation, when it comes to experiencing bullying, harassment and hate.  We encourage you to talk about what's happening with one of our volunteers, or with someone in your school, your family or your community whom you trust.

If you believe that what you are experiencing, or what's happening to someone you care about is against the law, and you would like to report what is happening to police you can do so anonymously by using this reporting tool. 

When you click on the tip button, you will exit youthline.ca and enter a secure site that will not track your IP address.  Your tip will be submitted to Crime Stoppers, and forwarded to your local police service in Ontario.

Things to consider:

If you are reporting something that you have personally experienced, the resulting police investigation may uncover your identity.  If you just need some help to make the first step to reporting, this tool may be a good fit.

We know that Crime Stoppers has welcomed this tool, and that the Ministry of Community Safety is aware that LGBT communities don't tend to report the hate crimes they experience.  We cannot guarantee that the local police service in your community will respond respectfully to your concerns.  Take a moment to review the legal questions and answers above. 

You do not have to identify as LGBT to be a victim of homophobic violence, being identified as  LGBT by the attacker is what makes it a hate crime.

If you are not sure what you want to do, talk it through with us.  We won't tell you what's right for you, but we can help you explore your options.