Impact of Homophobia and Transphobia in sport

on Mental and Physical Health 

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The first peer-reviewed study finding harm to LGB people from homophobia and exclusion in sport was published in 1973 (see timeline). By 1991, a leading sport medicine journal described "decades of evidence" that homophobia is harmful to all athletes, regardless of sexuality. 

In more recent years, the IOC and large sport medicine organizations have released 'consensus' statements that LGBTQ children, in particular, are at "high risk" of experience physical, emotional, and psychological abuse in sport. This causes them to avoid sport and has a range of negative impacts on their mental and physical health. The IOC also found female athletes of all sexualities avoid playing traditionally male sports because of lesbian stereotypes. 

There is now extensive research on the problems of homophobia and transphobia in sport. The focus now needs to be on finding effective and pragmatic solutions.

The failure to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination is
a serious violation of international human rights law
- Joint Statement by all UN Agencies

Key Research Findings

1.

LGBTQ young people who are exposed to homo/transphobic language in sport are more likely to attempt suicide or self-harm.

2.

Most LGB young people (80%) try to hide their sexuality from all or some of their teammates / coaches. 

3.

LGB youth who come out to teammates are significantly more likely to be a target of homophobic behaviour.

4.

Gay/bi young males avoid sport because frequent homophobic language makes them feel unwelcome. 

5.

Gay and bisexual teenage male teens play team sports at half the rate of their peers. 

6.

More than half of trans people say they have experienced overt or direct exclusion from sport.

7.

Girls avoid traditionally male sports because they worry others will think they are lesbians.  

8.

Stereotyped challenged: lesbian/bi female teens play sport at about the same rate as peers.

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Research on harm and impact

Statistics on mental health


1. The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducts large population suveys with high-school students across every state. The CDC provides the most reliable and comprehensive data in the world on LGB and more recently trans youth (including sport participation). Below are useful PowerPoint slides of their resaerch.

  • Summary of links between stigma/discrimination and mental health ( link)
  • Comprehensive data (from page 58) and numerous charts ( link)
  • Rates of bullying and victimization at school ( link)
  • Suicide and self-harm ( link)
  • Sport participation and physical activity ( link)
2. Rebekah Amos and colleagues (University of Liberpool) conducts large-scale research, similar to that by the CDC, using UK data ( link) 3. Russell and Fish (University of Texas) conducted a comprehensive review of all research related to the mental health of LGB and T youth ( link) 4. Kristy Clark and colleagues (Yale) provide evidence (American) of a direct link between actual LGBTQ youth suicides and bullying experiences ( link) 5. Diego De Leo and colleagues (Griffith University) provide evidence (Australian) of a direct link between discrimination/exclusion and actual suicide by LGBTQ people ( link)




Sport participation rates


1. Researchers at the University of British Columbia (Canada) have conducted comprehensive research over the last decade on LGBQ youth sport participation rates. They have also created charts you can use in your work.

  • Graph of male team sport participation over time ( link)
  • Graph of female team sport participation over time ( link)
  • Summary of study ( link)
  • Full study ( link)
2. The CDC has also collected population data over the last decade on LGBQ youth sport participation and has created useful charts and tables of the findings.
  • LGBQ youth team sport and physical activity PPT charts ( link)
  • LGBQ youth team sport participation raw data ( link)
  • LGBQ youth physical activity ( link)
3. Rebekah Amos and colleagues (University of Liverpool) provide similar, albeit less comprehensive data from the UK ( link)





Large-scale, empirically driven, and rigorously tested
strategies are needed to improve LGBTQ+ youth health and wellbeing.
- The Lancet 

50 years of Evidence.  20 years of Pledges.  Time for Action.

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