The Gay Divide

The LGBT+ pay gap is twice as large as the gender pay gap, a phenomenon which may have its roots in homophobic bullying in schools.

Words: Jamie Broadway
Illustration: Josh McKenna

In 2004, a typical school day for Lucas would involve being pinned up against the wall and having his lunch money stolen, or trying to avoid PE for fear of becoming a human punch bag in the changing rooms, or at the very least trying to block out his schoolmates’ favourite homophobic slur, “fat poofter”. This was not a typical day. It was worse. Having learned to create web pages in his afternoon IT lesson, Lucas returned home to find one had been made about him, littered with degrading photos and that same slur.

Time after time, fearing for his safety, he would plead with his parents to let him change schools. The answer would always be the same: “We can sort this out.” Failing to understand the severity of the bullying, Lucas’ parents believed things would eventually get better. They never did, and Lucas was left to deal with years of abuse by his classmates on his own.

By the age of 19, having wrestled with his gay identity and the spiralling psychological effects of bullying, Lucas found himself on a hospital ward having his stomach pumped from an accidental overdose — one that would rob him of his place at university and curtail his earning potential.

In July 2019, LinkedIn (in conjunction with YouGov and Black Pride) published data showing that LGBT+ people are subject to a 16% pay gap. Anecdotally, it has been suggested that LGBT+ people earn more due to the myth that they don’t have kids and can focus on their careers. But LinkedIn’s study demonstrates that the LGBT+ pay gap is actually nearly double the gender pay gap of 8.6% (ONS).

Over the past decade, more research has shed light on the issue of school bullying, in particular how widespread homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying continues to be. Stonewall’s latest school report shows that nearly half of all LGBT+ school pupils still experience bullying, while a recent YouGov survey states that homophobia is the most prevalent form…

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