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Gay bashing has occurred worldwide for many decades and continues today. Homophobia in the United States was especially serious in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when many gay people were forced out of government by boards set up by Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower. As historian David K. Johnson explains:
The Lavender Scare helped fan the flames of the Red Scare. In popular discourse, communists and homosexuals were often conflated. Both groups were perceived as hidden subcultures with their own meeting places, literature, cultural codes, and bonds of loyalty. Both groups were thought to recruit to their ranks the psychologically weak or disturbed. And both groups were considered immoral and godless. Many people believed that the two groups were working together to undermine the government.
Johnson concludes that Senator Joe McCarthy, notorious for his attacks on alleged communists in government, was often pressured by his allies to denounce homosexuals in government, but he resisted and did not do so. Using rumors collected by Drew Pearson, one Nevada publisher wrote in 1952 that both McCarthy and his chief counsel, Roy Cohn, were homosexuals.[note 1] Washington Post editor Benjamin C. Bradlee said, "There was a lot of time spent investigating" these allegations, "although no one came close to proving it." No reputable McCarthy biographer has accepted it as probable.[note 2]
Egale Canada conducted a survey of more than 3700 high school students in Canada between December 2007 and June 2009. The final report of the survey, "Every Class in Every School", published in 2011, found that 70% of all students participating heard "that's so gay" daily at school, and 48% of respondents heard "faggot", "lezbo" and "dyke" daily. 58% or about 1400 of the 2400 heterosexual students participating in EGALE's survey found homophobic comments upsetting.
Further, EGALE found that students not directly affected by homophobia, biphobia or transphobia were less aware of it. This finding relates to research done in the area of empathy gaps for social pain which suggests that those not directly experiencing social pain (in this case, bullying) consistently underestimate its effects and thus may not adequately respond to the needs of one experiencing social pain.
EGALE, along with previous research has found teachers and school administration may be complicit in queer bullying through their silence and/or inaction.
Graffiti found on school grounds and property, and its "relative permanence", is another form of queer bullying.
Some researchers suggest including youth questioning their sexuality in any research on queer bullying because they may be as susceptible to its effects as queer students.
A research study of 78 eleven to fourteen-year-old boys conducted in twelve schools in London, England between 1998 and 1999 revealed that respondents who used the word "gay" to label another boy in a derogatory manner intended the word as "just a joke", "just a cuss" and not as a statement of one's perceived sexual orientation. American sociologist Michael Kimmel and American psychologist Gregory Herek write that masculinity is a renunciation of the feminine and that males shore up their sense of their masculinity by denigrating the feminine and ultimately the homosexual. Building on the notion of masculinity defining itself by what it is not, some researchers suggest that in fact the renunciation of the feminine may be misogyny. These intertwining issues were examined in 2007, when American sociologist CJ Pascoe described what she calls the "fag discourse" at an American high school in her book, Dude, You're a Fag.
Gay and lesbian youth are more likely to report bullying. In one study, boys who were bullied with taunts of being gay suffered more bullying and more negative effects compared with boys who were bullied with other categories of taunting.