Gay and Lesbian Bullying Prevention

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) teens in the U.S. experience devastating amounts of anti-LGBT bullying. In 2007, a national survey from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), found that nearly 9 in 10 LGBT teens reported that they had been verbally harassed at school because of their sexual orientation. That same year, the Ad Council partnered with the Gay, Lesbian,and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to develop a public service advertising campaign that would combat harassment of LGBT teens by focusing on the casual use of anti-LGBT language and slurs. With clear objectives in mind, the Ad Council and GLSEN partnered with advertising agency, Arnold NYC, on this pro bono assignment.

The Ad Council and GLSEN decided to focus on language for several reasons. Anti-LGBT language is a common part of the high school vernacular. Compared to other forms of discrimination, verbal harassment is the most commonly experienced among LGBT teens. In the 2007 GLSEN survey, 74% of LGBT teens said they had heard homophobic remarks, such as "faggot" or "dyke," frequently or often at school, and 90% frequently heard the word gay used in a negative way such as the expression “that’s so gay” to label someone or something as stupid or worthless. Homophobic language is often a precursor to more overt forms of abuse. By highlighting the harm in using the anti-LGBT language, which has become normalized in many schools, all teens could realize the affect their choice in language is having on LGBT teens.    

Campaign Objectives:

  • Reduce and prevent the use of homophobic slurs by non-LGBT teens
  • Educate teens that their use of homophobic slurs and behaviors—which they see as harmless—is not acceptable and has consequences

Target Audience:

  • Primary: Neutrals who do not participate in overt bullying, nor do they stand up for their LGBT peers
  • Secondary: Supporters who stand up and support their LGBT peers; Bullies who participate in name calling, harass mental and physical harm to those who are LGBT

Donated Media: over $38 million since 2008

Measurable Results:

Over the course of the campaign, we have seen several positive trends in awareness,attitudes, and behaviors specifically related to the PSA campaign’s core message, proving that addressing language is a key component of creating abetter environment for LGBT teens. The campaign has helped to build awareness of the potentially harmful effects of thoughtless language and has planted a message that makes many teens stop and think about their behavior. 

The most recent results in 2012 demonstrated:

  • Awareness of the campaign issue and the Think Before You Speak PSAs continue to increase. 
    • Recognition of the Think Before You Speak campaign is very high with 53% of teens reporting that they have seen/heard at least one campaign PSA.
  • Positive attitudinal and behavioral shifts regarding the campaign’s core message have occurred since the campaign launched in 2008.
    • The percentage of teens who agreed to the statement “saying ‘that’s so gay’ is no big deal” declined significantly.
    • Significantly more teens reported that “people should not say ‘that’s so gay’ at all.
    • Significantly more teens reported that they themselves never say “that’s so gay.”
    • Significantly more teens reported that their friends never say “that’s so gay.”

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