August 29, 2016

There has been tremendous progress in the world of sports for LGBTQ athletes of all skill-level and ages in recent years. The number of athletes, professional leagues, NCAA sports programs, and nonprofit organizations that have visibly and vocally shown support for LGBTQ athletes has grown exponentially since the first ever Straight for Equality in Sports award was given to NFL player Scott Fujita in 2010. And at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, there were more than 40 out LGBTQ athletes competing from around the world. (Compare these numbers to the roughly 20 out athletes at the Summer Games in London, and only seven at the Winter Games in Sochi!)

Young people have been heading back to school since early August, and it is important to remember why progress like this matters…and how you can help bring this progress to even more spaces

Research conducted by GLSEN and released in 2013, reveals that LGBTQ students commonly avoid athletic spaces at school because they feel unsafe. Students interested in trying out for teams are often prevented from doing so by coaches and administrators because their presence would be “disruptive.” With that data in mind, it comes as no surprise that LGBTQ students are half as likely to play interscholastic sports as their straight peers.

Additionally, a groundbreaking study, released in 2015, titled Out on the Fields: The First International Study on Homophobia in Sport found that 83% of gay male athletes and 63% of lesbian female athletes were in the closet to some or most of their team. Meanwhile, GLSEN also found that more than a quarter of LGBT student athletes say they been harassed or assaulted because of their sexual orientation or gender expression while playing on a school sports team – and that other athletes and even coaches were most likely to be the perpetrators.

So what’s an ally to do?

  1. Elevate the stories of out LGBTQ athletes whenever you can. For many young people seeing openly LGBTQ athletes in their sport can be a total game changer. Organizations like OutSports and Go! Athletes can help.
  2. Consider sharing Champions of Respect: Inclusion of LGBTQ Student-Athletes and Staff in NCAA Programs with school and youth league coaches and ask them to use it as a guide for creating more inclusive space for LGBTQ athletes.  
  3. Show your support for LGBTQ-inclusive sports on social media. There are countless stories to choose from – check out Straight for Equality on Facebook for a few examples – and you may just start a conversation with friends and followers!

Have questions? Need more information? Reach out to Jamie Henkel (jhenkel@pflag.org or 202-467-8180 ext. 210) to learn more.

 

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