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Now that They’re Out: Experiences of College Athletics Teams with Openly LGBTQ Players

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In recent years, more college athletes have publicly identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer (LGBTQ). Our study seeks to move past media celebrations and controversies of “coming out” and examine actual experiences of LGBTQ athletes and their teammates. A survey of 259 LGBTQ athletes and teammates of LGBTQ athletes was conducted. We examined concerns about being or playing with LGBTQ athletes, sources of homophobic language, experiences and observations of discrimination, and perceived impact of being or playing with an LGBTQ athlete. Findings indicate that many fears associated with college athletes coming out are likely overstated. All participants reported low levels of concern, homophobia, and negative impact of being or playing with an LGBTQ teammate. However, there were some differences between LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ athletes with non-LGBTQ athletes reporting fewer concerns, but also hearing less homophobic language than their LGBTQ counterparts. programs.
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Journal of Homosexuality
ISSN: 0091-8369 (Print) 1540-3602 (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/wjhm20
Now that They’re Out: Experiences of College
Athletics Teams with Openly LGBTQ Players
Katrina Pariera, Evan Brody & D. Travers Scott
To cite this article: Katrina Pariera, Evan Brody & D. Travers Scott (2019): Now that They’re Out:
Experiences of College Athletics Teams with Openly LGBTQ Players, Journal of Homosexuality,
DOI: 10.1080/00918369.2019.1661727
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2019.1661727
Published online: 11 Sep 2019.
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Now that Theyre Out: Experiences of College Athletics
Teams with Openly LGBTQ Players
Katrina Pariera, PhD
a
, Evan Brody, PhD
b
, and D. Travers Scott, PhD
c
a
Department of Organizational Sciences and Communication, The George Washington University,
Washington, DC, USA;
b
Department of Communication Studies, University of Wisconsin La Crosse, La
Crosse, Wisconsin, USA;
c
Department of Communication Studies, Clemson University, Clemson, South
Carolina, USA
ABSTRACT
In recent years, more college athletes have publicly identified as
lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer (LGBTQ). Our
study seeks to move past media celebrations and controversies of
coming outand examine actual experiences of LGBTQ athletes
and their teammates. A survey of 259 LGBTQ athletes and team-
mates of LGBTQ athletes was conducted. We examined concerns
about being or playing with LGBTQ athletes, sources of homo-
phobic language, experiences and observations of discrimination,
and perceived impact of being or playing with an LGBTQ athlete.
Findings indicate that many fears associated with college athletes
coming out are likely overstated. All participants reported low
levels of concern, homophobia, and negative impact of being or
playing with an LGBTQ teammate. However, there were some
differences between LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ athletes with non-
LGBTQ athletes reporting fewer concerns, but also hearing less
homophobic language than their LGBTQ counterparts. programs.
KEYWORDS
Bias; college athletes;
discrimination; intergroup
contact; homophobia;
sports; varsity
In the winter of 2014, Michael Sam, a University of Missouri football player and
aspiring member of the National Football League, announced he was gay in
a media event coordinated with the New York Times and ESPN. While many
expressed support for Sam, ample professional athletes (Yan & Alsup, 2014),
members of professional sports organizations (Goldstein, 2014; Greenberg, 2014;
Thamel & Evans, 2014), and sports media analysts (Chase, 2014)expressedcon-
cerns over playing with or employing an openly gay athlete. Even a teammate who
had supported him the previous August, when he had first told the team about his
sexual orientation, was later publicly unsupportive (Breech, 2014).
The brief professional career of Sam is often alluded to as an object lesson in how
coming out can ruin onescareer(Shweky,2018). Adding to the experiences of
Sam, the coming out events and media coverage of Jason Collins, Brittney Griner,
Robbie Rogers, Megan Rapinoe, Elena Della Donne, and others show differing
examples of what happens when US professional athletes come out while actively
CONTACT Katrina Pariera klp@gwu.edu Department of Organizational Sciences and Communication, The
George Washington University, 600 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC 20052, USA.
JOURNAL OF HOMOSEXUALITY
https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2019.1661727
© 2019 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
competing.Forexample,Collinsarticulated that fears of negative reactions not
only prevented LGBTQ athletes from coming out, but also promulgated negative
responses by straight-identified (potential) teammates (Slater, 2013). Griner
reported that while competing in college she was told not to come out because it
would hurt recruiting and look bad for the program(ESPN.com, 2013). Indeed,
social progress is neither uniform nor consistent. Overall, the percentage of
Americans who feel homosexual relations should be illegal has decreased from
43 to 23 percent over the past 20 years (Gallup, 2019). However, this means that
nearly a quarter of Americans still feel that homosexuality should be against the
law. According to the same study, support for same-sex marriage has grown from
27 to 67 percent since 1996; yet, in 2017, 46 percent of the population felt no new
laws were needed to protect the civil rights of LGBTQ persons (Gallup, 2019).
A 2018 Harris Poll found an increase in reported LGBTQ discrimination and, for
the first time in its history, decreases in reported comfort with interacting with
LGBTQ individuals across every personal setting polled. United States courts have
upheld the rights of same-sex couples to wed, yet also allowed businesses to
discriminate against or not provide services for LGBTQ individuals (Liptak, 2018).
Such ambivalence toward LGBTQ Americans supports athletesfear of
unknown outcomes of coming out. Psychologists describe how fear of retaliation
and rejectionmake coming out in the workplace one of the toughest issues that
gay men and lesbians face(Griffith & Hebl, 2002, p. 1191). This common
perception that fear hinders coming out in the athletic workplace is illustrated in
acolumnonOutsports.com, the largest LGBTQ sports website: The fear [of
coming out] could come from the unknown reaction of fans, teammates, sponsors,
coaches, family or a bunch of other places(Zeigler, 2017). Indeed, an analysis of
coming-out narratives at Outsports.com found a pattern of fears and negative
expectations before coming out, followedbyunexpectedlypositiveexperiences
(Morales & White, 2019). One of the motivations for the current study is to
understand the pattern of experiences of out student athletes beyond reactions to
coming out.
Although some academics have found lowering instances of homophobia
within sports (Anderson, Magrath, & Bullingham, 2016), in general, media
representations still support a fear-based, conflict-driven perception. For exam-
ple, news coverage focusing on professional athletesuse of gay slurs (e.g., Kobe
Bryant, Harrison, Floyd Mayweather Jr.) focuses on what McCormack (2011)
describes as pernicious fag discourse,without examining the less- or non-
homophobic forms of gay discourse. News and entertainment focus on fear-
driving conflict with highly scrutinized careers of gay professional athletes and
foregrounding negative reactions to nonnormative sexualities in sports culture,
as in the film Alone in the Game (2018), when a Division I NCAA football player
states he is not ashamed just scaredthat teammates would stop talking to
him and his coaches would see him as inferior. This coverage of athletes is
important as the media plays a major role in shaping and sharing the stories of
2K. PARIERA ET AL.
LGBTQ athletes (Billings & Moscowitz, 2018). These conflicting sentiments
about fear, the unknown, and what acceptance of the LGBTQ community
means to the lived reality of LGBTQ athletes, are the motivations for this
study. Such empirical evidence will be useful for future scholars and practi-
tioners in developing data-driven best practices for LGBTQ integration into, and
support within, college athletics programs.
Being LGBTQ in sports
Studies of LGBTQ athletes have also shown ambivalence toward LGBTQ indivi-
duals. One of the earliest works on this topic examined both professional and
collegiate athletes who were a mix of closeted and out players. Using in-depth
interviews, discourse analysis, and autoethnography, Pronger (1992)found
a sports culture operating under the assumption of universal heterosexuality,
with extensive homophobia and negative experiences for LGBTQ players.
Another early study by Krane (1997) interviewed lesbian collegiate athletes, finding
numerous experiences of disempowering homonegativism. A 2002 study inter-
viewed out gay male athletes and found that homophobic language and a dont
ask, donttellcultureofsilenceonthesubjectwerepersistent:Sport uses
homophobic discourse, the threat of physical violence toward gay athletes, and
the silencing of gay identities to maintain the virility of masculine hegemony and to
prevent the acceptance of homosexuality in general, as well as to prevent the
creation of a gay identity that shows homosexuality and athleticism as compatible
(Anderson, 2002,p.861862). Case studies of high school, Olympic, and major-
league sports have also identified a variety of prejudices experienced by LGBTQ
athletes (Sartore-Baldwin, 2013). In a survey of undergraduates, Gill, Morrow,
Collins, Lucey, and Schultz (2010) found that sexual orientation was commonly
a basis for harassment and exclusion in physical activities. However, Anderson,
Magrath, and Bullingham (2016) conclude that more recent studies have identified
less homophobia in sports than in the past. A 2018 study of non-LGBTQ athletes
found high levels of support for sexual and gender minorities, but low likelihood of
intervening in biases toward these individuals (Toomey, McGeorge, & Carlson,
2018). In a quantitative study, Atteberry-Ash and Woodford (2017) investigated
the nature and support for LGBTQ inclusive policies among heterosexual students
involved in club and intercollegiate sports, finding that most held neutral or
negative attitudes about those policies. Cunningham and Melton (2014)found
varying degrees of acceptance for LGBTQ coaches among parents, while Halbrook
and colleagues found that coaches have positive views of their LGBTQ athletes,
though they are largely unaware of issues they might face on the team (Halbrook,
Watson, & Voelker, 2019). A 2013 study by Fink and colleagues found that out
lesbian and bisexual women athletes commonly reported acceptance from their
teammates, while also noting a lack of structures and policies in place to support
out athletes (Fink, Burton, Farrell, & Parker, 2012). More quantitative research on
JOURNAL OF HOMOSEXUALITY 3
the experiences of LGBTQ college athletes and those who play with them is needed
in order to infer broader patterns of challenges for LGBTQ college athletes and
teammates and establish a benchmark from which to compare changes over time.
One major focus area of research has been the role of homophobia within sports
culture (see Aitchison, 2006; Anderson, 2005). Homophobia refers to an irrational
fear of LGBTQ individuals and is manifested as overt acts of bias aimed at LGBTQ
individuals. Osborne and Wagner (2007) explored the ways in which homophobia
is learned and adopted by high school athletes and how the impact of homophobia
negatively affects participation in athletic activities, particularly for male indivi-
duals who avoid such activities because of the homophobic language exhibited in
such settings. Also significant are implicit forms of bias. For example, heterosexist
language, which centers heterosexual experience, and thereby promotes hetero-
normativity, serves to privilege heterosexual relations as the central organizing
principle for social, cultural, political, and economic relations. For LGBTQ per-
sons, some actions and language can communicate hostility and prejudice, even if
unintended (Nadal, Whitman, Davis, Erazo, & Davidoff, 2016). This has been
conceptualized as microaggressions, the constant and continuing everyday reality
of slights, insults, invalidations, and indignitiesvisiteduponmarginalizedgroups
by well-intentioned, moral, and decent individuals(Sue, 2010,p.xv).
Understanding microaggressions within teams is especially important as inclusiv-
ity and non-heterosexist language are associated with more team cohesion (Mullin,
2014). Furthermore, the more straight athletes perceive a sports climate to be non-
heterosexist, the more likely they are to intervene when witnessing bias toward
LGBTQ individuals (Toomey et al., 2018).
This contrast between overt acts of homophobia and more covert hetero-
normativity is especially apparent within the context of sports and sexuality and
the reinforcement of hegemonic masculinity among male athletes. As Connell
and Messerschmidt (2005) describe in their reassessment of the phrase hege-
monic masculinity,its varied and contested use through the decades married
the concept of Gramscis oppression through consent with feminist ideas of
social gender roles, suggesting more than traditional masculine behaviors but,
more specifically, those behaviors which support and maintain mensdomi-
nance over women, and the larger gender system of which it is part. Conversely,
women athletes must contend with the masculinity associated with athleticism
and the marginalization that comes with eschewing hegemonic femininity
(Krane, Choi, Baird, Aimar, & Kauer, 2004). While overt acts of homophobia
may have decreased, research shows that, even when sports fans express pro-
gressive views toward the LGBTQ community, it does not stop them from
participating in anti-LGBTQ behavior (Magrath, 2017). Similarly, when non-
LGBTQ male athletes demonstrate decreasing explicit homophobia by expres-
sing support for same-sex marriage, identifying gay friends and family members,
and performing acts that question traditional male gender norms (such as
wearing pink cleats), they may still have stereotypes about what it means to be
4K. PARIERA ET AL.
gay (Adams, 2011). Athletes may simultaneously resist hypermasculine narra-
tives while still strengthening implicit biases by expecting individuals to shore up
their heterosexuality through hegemonic actsof masculinity, such as denigrating
femininity, expressing homophobia, or embracing stereotypical masculine
values and behaviors (e.g., aggression, rationality, emotional control) (Adams,
Anderson, & McCormack, 2010). Even as journalists explicitly condemn homo-
phobic behavior, their coverage of gay athletes can still implicitly marginalize
their experiences through an entrenchment of hegemonic masculinity (Hardin,
Kuehn, Jones, Genovese, & Balaji, 2009).
Diminished homophobia through intergroup contact
One theoretical concept that can help understand reductions in homophobia is
intergroup contact theory (Pettigrew & Tropp, 2011). This proposes that pre-
judice toward a particular group is reduced when one has opportunity to
communicate directly with someone who is a member of that group. A meta-
analysis of research on intergroup contact found clear evidence of reduction of
intergroup prejudice and the effects typically generalized beyond the immediate
participantsreduced prejudice and out toward the entire outgroup (Pettigrew &
Tropp, 2006). In a related publication, the authors argued that intergroup
contact should be a critical component of any successful effort to reduce
prejudice(Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006,p.110).
Intergroup contact has been applied specifically to prejudice toward LGBTQ
persons, finding, for example, a reduction in prejudice among adolescents toward
lesbian and gay peers (Heinze & Horn, 2009), heterosexual persons toward gay
men (Herek & Capitanio, 1996), and cisgender attitudes toward transgender
people (Walch et al., 2012). Interestingly, one study found that normalizing
their sexual identity was one of the main reasons lesbian athletes came out to
their teammates (Stoelting, 2011). A meta-analysis of 41 studies related to social
contact and bias found that having contact with lesbians and gay men is
associated with reduced sexual prejudice toward homosexuals by heterosexuals
(Smith,Axelton,&Saucier,2009, p. 187). From an intergroup contact perspective,
comingoutshouldleadtoareductionofprejudiceandgreaterharmonywithin
the group members on a single team. Our study focuses not on motivations for
coming out, but experiences after coming out. To understand what people have
actually experienced as out athletes and those who played with out athletes, we
examine the following research questions:
RQ1: To what extent do LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ athletes have concerns
about LGBTQ athletes?
RQ2: To what extent do LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ athletes recall hearing
homophobic language from various groups?
JOURNAL OF HOMOSEXUALITY 5
RQ3: To what extent are LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ athletes who perceive
discrimination bothered by it?
RQ4: To what extent do LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ athletes perceive the
impact of having LGBTQ athletes in college sports?
RQ5: How do LGBTQ men and women differ in their experiences as LGBTQ
athletes?
Methods
Procedures
Upon institutional review board approval, participants were recruited for an online
survey via convenience and snowball sampling. Recruitment took place through
social media and online hubs frequented by current and former student athletes,
such as Facebook pages for athletes, Reddit pages, and Outsports.com. Participants
were encouraged to share the survey with other current and former student
athletes, regardless of sexual orientation. Participants had to be over 18 and had
to have played varsity college sports at a 4-year university since 2006. As a research
strategy, we chose greater uniformity by relying on a single method and solely US
collegiate athletics, but to obtain a robust sample, we allowed for a more extensive
timeframe. This also allowed us to align with the conceptualization of coming out
as an ongoing process, rather than discrete moment. We chose 2006 as a cutoff
because it was the first year a trans student athlete, Keelin Godsey, competed in an
NCAA sport. Participants also had to be either an LGBTQ athlete who had been
out to at least one person on their team, or a non-LGBTQ athlete who played with
at least one LGBTQ athlete. After informed consent procedures, participants
completed the anonymous survey. Participants were asked socio-demographic
questions including questions about sexual orientation. If they identified as
LGBTQ, they received one set of questions about their experience as an LGBTQ
student athlete. If they identified as a teammate of an LGBTQ athlete, they received
a similar set of questions, but with wording changed appropriately. Data was
collected in 2018.
Our use of LGBTQ in our language and research design does not intend to
suggest conflation of the vast variety of gendered, sexual, and romantic experi-
ences, performances, practices, perceptions or representations of persons who
fall under the LGBTQacronym. LGBTQ studies in communication is inter-
disciplinary, multimodal, and multiperspectival; often incorporates queer, inter-
sex, asexual, and other social groups, and should not be falsely presumed as
oppositional to queer studies (Scott, 2016). We chose LGBTQ as the best balance
of inclusivity and operationalizability, as is the precedent in social-science and
6K. PARIERA ET AL.
humanities scholarship across many fields, (for an extended discussion of this
topic, see Nash & Browne, 2016.)
Participants
The population for this study was varsity athletes playing at any division in
collegiate sports. Participants must have either identified as LGBTQ and been
out to at least one person on their team or must have played on a team with at least
one LGBTQ member who was out to some degree. The final sample (N = 259)
consisted of 70 LGBTQ athletes and 189 non-LGBTQ athletes. The sample had
slightly more women (54.4%) than men. Six participants identified as trans men.
Throughout this paper we use the LGBTQ acronym. This is a deliberate decision to
reflect our participants. However, as discussed later in this article, the low response
rate from transgender individuals made it difficult to draw statistical comparisons.
The average age was 27.39 (SD = 6.10). In terms of year, 17.8% last played
20062009, 22.4% played 20102013, and 59.8% played 2014 to 2018. Socio-
demographic information about all participants is in Table 1.
Gender and sexual/romantic orientation were measured with open-ended
questions. For the purposes of quantitative comparisons between men and
women, open-ended responses to gender were coded into a binary: 141 partici-
pants wrote femaleor woman,and were coded as women; 111 participants
wrote maleor man,six participants indicated they were trans men, who were
Table 1. Socio-demographics of participants, by percentage
(N = 259).
LGBQ Non-LGBQ
Women 15.4 39.0
Men 12.4 33.2
Division 1 57.1 43.9
Division 2 25.7 32.8
Division 3 17.1 23.3
Race/Ethnicity
Hispanic/Latino 5.7 3.8
Black/African American 5.7 11.5
White/Caucasian 77.1 74.5
Native American/American Indian 1.4 1.6
Asian or Pacific Islander 4.3 7.1
Vote in last election
Republican 12.9 23.3
Democrat 71.4 50.8
Libertarian 2.9 5.3
Region
West 11.4 20.6
Southwest 5.7 9.0
Midwest 25.7 19.6
South 32.9 30.2
Mid-Atlantic 18.6 15.3
New England 5.8 5.3
JOURNAL OF HOMOSEXUALITY 7
coded into the manbinary, and one participant wrote non-binaryand was
included in the study but not in gender comparisons. Sexual orientation was also
coded into a binary of LGBTQ or non-LGBTQ. Of the participants coded as
LGBTQ,14peoplewrotebisexual,threewrotepansexual,onewrotebi/pan,one
wrote open, one wrote gay/lesbian/queer and the remaining wrote gay, homo-
sexual, or lesbian.
Measures
All items were developed based on a review of research, athletics policies, and
popular press articles about out athletes. After the survey was developed, we
engaged in cognitive interviewing with three LGBTQ individuals to establish
validity of the items. To measure concerns about LGBTQ athletes, LGBTQ
participants were asked Did the following worry you with regard to being out
as LGBTQ while you were a student athlete?Non-LGBTQ participants were
asked Did the following worry you about the LGBTQ athlete you played with?
Eight items were included (see Tables 26for all items) on a scale from 1 (Not at
all)to4(Alot). To measure experiences with homophobia, LGBTQ and non-
LGBTQ athletes were told Homophobic language includes terms such as dyke
and/or fagetc.then asked, How often did you hear homophobic language from
the following?on a scale from 1 (Notatall)to4(A great deal). Six groups were
assessed including fans, teammates, coaching staff, etc. This scale was developed
based on a review of literature (see Atteberry-Ash & Woodford, 2017). To under-
stand the extent to which participants perceived and were bothered by discrimi-
natory practices toward LGBTQ athletes, they were asked Did the following
happen to you, and, if so, how much did it bother you during your time as
a college athlete?(for LGBTQ participants) or Think about the LGBTQ athlete
you played with. Did you observe the following happen to them, and, if so, how
much did it bother you?(for non-LGBTQ participants). Six items were included.
If participants indicated an item had happened, they then answered on a scale from
1(It did not bother me) to 5 (It bothered me extremely.). Finally, to understand
perceptions of negative impacts of having LGBTQ athletes on a team, all partici-
pants were asked, To what extent do you disagree or agree with the following
statements about LGBTQ athletes?followed by eight items reflecting various
concerns on a scale from 1 (Strongly disagree)to6(Strongly agree). All
analyses were conducted with SPSS 25, using chi-square and t-tests. To avoid
Type I error and to gather more nuance in our participantsexperiences we
analyzed individual items, rather than overall means and overall t-tests.
Results
Our first research question assessed the extent to which student athletes were
concerned about being or playing with an LGBTQ athlete. Overall, concerns
8K. PARIERA ET AL.
were low. The biggest concern of both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ athletes was
alienation from the team, although LGBTQ athletes were more concerned
about this (see Table 2). LGBTQ athletes were more concerned than their
non-LGBTQ teammates on five of the eight items.
Table 2. Concerns about being or playing with an LGBQ athlete.
LGBQ Non-LGBQ t-test
Your/their chances of getting recruited 2.09 (1.06) 1.49 (.86) 4.52***
Alienation from team 2.81 (1.13) 1.67 (.92) 8.31***
Loss of scholarship 1.43 (.88) 1.34 (.76) .83
Loss of playing time 1.70 (.97) 1.38 (.78) 2.74**
Distracting the team 2.21 (1.10) 1.49 (.85) 5.59***
Alienation from coaching staff 2.36 (1.19) 1.54 (.88) 5.94***
Alienation from fans 1.71 (.92) 1.60 (.88) .89
Getting outedby the media 1.77 (1.00) 1.60 (.89) 1.35
Note.**p< .01, *** p< .001.
Table 3. Experience with homophobic language from various sources.
LGBQ Non-LGBQ t-test
Fans 1.83 (.93) 1.68 (.84) 1.25
Teammates 2.14 (.97) 1.61 (.79) 4.50***
Coaching and team support staff 1.34 (.63) 1.25 (.57) 1.32
Athletes on opposing teams 1.96 (.97) 1.73 (.92) 1.75
Athletes on other teams at my university 2.16 (1.03) 1.74 (.90) 3.23**
Members of the media 1.30 (.62) 1.29 (.69) .10
Note.**p< .01, *** p< .001.
Table 4. Percent of participants who reported experiencing (LGBTQ) or witnessing (non-LGBQ)
discrimination.
LGBQ Non-LGBQ X
2
Prevented from forming an LGBQ student athlete group 15.7% 34.9% 24.48***
Being treated unfairly as an athlete for being LGBQ athlete 20.0% 36.0% 14.60*
Being harassed for being LGBQ athlete 30.0% 47.6% 21.86**
People laughing at me or making jokes at LGBQ athlete 41.4% 48.7% 18.85**
Prevented from talking about LGBQ issues with other athletes 28.6% 36.0% 25.06***
Prevented from talking openly about my LGBQ identity 34.3% 37.0% 30.04***
Note.*p< .05, ** p< .01, *** p< .001.
Table 5. Extent participants who witnessed/experienced discrimination were bothered by it.
LGBQ Non-LGB t-test
Prevented from forming an LGBTQ student athlete group 3.00 (1.00) 2.12 (1.07) 2.34*
Being treated unfairly as an athlete because I am an LGBTQ
athlete
2.29 (1.07) 2.46 (1.19) .51
Being harassed because I am an LGBTQ athlete 2.43 (.98) 2.87 (1.40) 1.32
People laughing at me or making jokes at my expense
because I am an LGBTQ athlete
2.34 (1.14) 2.87 (1.25) 1.92
Prevented from talking about LGBTQ issues with other
athletes
2.65 (1.04) 2.17 (1.15) 1.51
Prevented from talking openly about my LGBTQ identity 3.00 (1.14) 2.52 (1.23) 1.49
Note.*p< .05.
JOURNAL OF HOMOSEXUALITY 9
The second question asked participants about the extent to which they heard
homophobic language from various groups (see Table 3). Overall, means were
low, meaning they heard homophobic language rarely or never. Only two items
differed significantly between groups. LGBTQ athletes were more likely to have
heard homophobic language from teammates and from athletes on other teams
at their university. Participants reported hearing homophobic language least
often from coaching and team support staff, and members of the media.
The third research question was about the extent to which participants observed
and were bothered by discriminatory practices toward LGBTQ athletes. First, we
compared the responses of participants who reported that the discriminatory
practices happened (Table 4). Chi-square analyses revealed that there were signifi-
cant differences between LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ athletes on all six items, with
fewer LGBTQ athletes reporting that they experienced discrimination than non-
LGBTQ athletes reporting that they witnessed their LGBTQ teammate experiencing
discrimination. The most commonly reported discriminatory practices for both
groups was having people laugh at LGBTQ athletes, being prevented from talking
openly about ones LGBTQ status, and being harassed for being LGBTQ.
For those who reported that these practices did happen, we compared the
extent to which they were bothered by it (Table 5). On a five-point scale the
responses from all participants were near or below the mid-point. The only
significant difference between groups was that LGBTQ athletes were signifi-
cantly more bothered by being prevented from forming an LGBTQ student
athlete group than were their non-LGBTQ teammates.
The fourth research question was about the perceived impact of being or
playing with an LGBTQ athlete. All participants were asked the following
To what extent do you agree with the following statements about LGBTQ
athletes?with eight items on a scale from 1 (Strongly disagree)to6
(Strongly agree). On the six-point scale all responses were below the mid-
point with one exception. Non-LGBTQ athletes were less likely to think that
out athletes would improve perceptions of the university as diverse and
Table 6. Perceptions about the impact of LGBQ athletes.
LGBQ Non-LGBQ t-test
An out athlete would damage relationships with alumni and
donors.
2.00 (1.25) 2.01 (1.22) .03
Out athletes would hurt recruiting efforts. 1.99 (1.27) 1.92 (1.18) .41
Out athletes would improve perceptions of a university as
diverse and welcoming. (Item is reverse coded)
2.31 (1.60) 3.31 (1.82) 4.04***
Out athletes would complicate showers and hotel rooms. 1.86 (1.29) 2.16 (1.36) 1.61
Out athletes take the focus off a team and make it about an
individual.
1.63 (1.04) 1.96 (1.12) 2.14*
Out athletes would sexually harass straight athletes. 1.43 (.96) 1.69 (1.27) 1.83
Out athletes will get negative media attention. 1.96 (1.27) 2.11 (1.29) .83
Out athletes will hurt team bonding. 1.52 (1.09) 1.81 (1.16) 1.83
Note.*p< .05, *** p< .001.
10 K. PARIERA ET AL.
welcoming. Non-LGBTQ athletes were also more likely to be concerned that
out athletes would take the focus off the team and make it about an
individual, although the mean was low for both groups (see Table 6).
Finally, we explored gender differences among LGBTQ student athletes.
Independent samples t-tests were run on each variable. Only five of the 34 total
items showed significant differences between men and women. Regarding con-
cerns about being an LGBTQ athlete, women were less concerned (M=2.58,
SD =1.20)thanmen(M=3.18,SD = 1.02) about alienation from their team
(t(64) = 2.14, p= .03). For homophobic language, women (M=1.76,SD =.88)were
less likely than men (M=2.64,SD = .87) to hear it from teammates (t(64) = 4.03,
p< .001), and less likely to hear it from athletes on opposing teams than men were
(womensM=1.68,SD =.81,mensM= 2.25, SD = 1.04, t(64) = 2.49, p=.02).
There were no significant differences in discrimination experienced. Regarding
negative perceptions of being an out LGBTQ athlete, women (M= 2.34, SD =1.32)
were more likely than men (M=1.50,SD = .96) to believe that LGBTQ athletes
would damage relationships with alumni and donors (t(64) = 2.86, p= .006).
They were also more likely than men to believe out athletes would hurt recruiting
efforts (womensM= 2.27, SD =1.28,mensM=1.50,SD = 1.04, t(6) = 2.60,
p= .01), although means for both items were low overall.
Discussion
ThegoalofthisstudywastogathertheexperiencesofoutLGBTQcollege
athletes and their teams in order to provide empirical balance to media narra-
tives, word of mouth, and misperceptions. The results from the first research
question revealed that concerns about being or playing with an LGBTQ athlete
were low overall. However, concern for alienation from the team still exists,
especially for the LGBTQ athletes themselves. While concerns about being or
playing with an LGBTQ athlete were low, they were still present among both
groups of athletes, suggesting that there remains room for improvement in
integrating openly LGBTQ athletes into college athletic programs. This supports
Morales and Whites findings of predominantly positive stories of coming-out
experiences on Outsports.com (2019). However, this just come outstrategy is
not unflawed, and may ignore social contingencies such as race, gender, and
class (Billings & Moscowitz, 2018,p.76;Brody,2019,2016).
This is further illustrated by the second research question which found that
frequency of hearing homophobic language was low, but, again, not absent.
These findings support previous research that has found that while cultural
homophobia has decreased over time, LGBTQ acceptance has not universally
accelerated (Poll, 2018; Pew Research Center, 2017). LGBTQ athletes were more
likely than non-LGBTQ athletes to have heard homophobic language from
teammates and players on other teams. It may be that LGBTQ athletes report
hearing more homophobic speech because they are more attuned to a wider
JOURNAL OF HOMOSEXUALITY 11
variety of forms of speech that are used to promote heterosexuality and may
recognize language that non-LGBTQ athletes use casually, but nonetheless
contributes to negative social effects. One additional explanation of the relatively
low reports of homophobia in this study is the reverse relative deprivation thesis.
This idea argues that in the absence of severe expected intolerance,athletes
may artificially boost their sense of how well their experience went or ignore the
homophobia they did experience because they compare today to yesteryear
and when one expects to be treated hostilely, a little prejudice, or a few mean-
spirited gay jokes, doesnt seem so bad(Anderson, 2005,p.90).Although
McCormack (2011) presents a framework for explaining this it specifies that,
in order for language to be homophobic, it must be said with pernicious intent
and have a negative social effect and is also dependent on cultural context. This
is not how we defined homophobia in our survey, but future studies should
reevaluate the notion of homophobia in sports to see if these two necessary
elements must still be present. It also suggests the need for LGBTQ sports
scholarship to move beyond the issue of homophobia.
The results from the third research question showed that the most commonly
reported discriminatory practices observed by LGBTQ athletes were being
prevented from talking openly about their identity, forming LGBTQ athlete
groups, and being prevented from talking about LGBTQ issues with other
athletes. The finding that LGBTQ athletes were bothered by not being able to
form an LGBTQ group is especially important, since research shows that sexual
minorities in schools with support groups report less victimization and fear
(Goodenow, Szalacha, & Westheimer, 2006;Marx&Kettrey,2016)and
increased empowerment (Russell, Clarke, & Clary, 2009), across different racial
categories (Snapp, McGuire, Sinclair, Gabrion, & Russell, 2015). Programs that
distance themselves from a political third rail of sports and non-normative
sexual orientation are doing a disservice to the health and well-being of their
students and their program, given that as healthier, happier athletes compete at
higher levels. Non-LGBTQ athletes most commonly reported witnessing har-
assment and people laughing at LGBTQ athletes andwere actually more likely to
have witnessed discriminatory practices. It may be that some acts of discrimina-
tion occur away from the eyes and ears of LGBTQ athletes. Additionally, it may
be that the immense amount of media portrayals of athletes encountering
discrimination is a contributing factor. The theory of negativity bias suggests
that a negative event is subjectively more potent and of higher salience than its
positive counterpart(Rozin & Royzman, 2001, p. 298) and that individuals
learn from, and use, negative information far more than positive information
(Vaish, Grossmann, & Woodward, 2008). Given the media portrayals of LGBTQ
athletes, many individuals may understand the experiences of athletes with
nonnormative sexualities as antagonistic. In other words, it may be that non-
LGBTQ athletesperceptions are colored by these highly publicized negative
experiences of athletes since they cannot draw on the personal experience of
12 K. PARIERA ET AL.
actually being an LGBTQ athlete themselves. LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ athletes
were both bothered by these acts of discrimination. This may be due in part to
sampling bias, as participants with highly antagonistic views toward LGBTQ
teammates may not have taken the survey, although we were careful to avoid
mentioning that the study was about LGBTQ individuals in our recruitment
material. This finding also may reflect a desire, real or driven by social desir-
ability, to express support of LGBTQ people and anger toward discriminatory
practices. While participants in this study were only asked about the extent to
which they were bothered by discrimination, further research should also
examine how those feelings manifest in actions taken.
The fourth research question found that the perceived negative impact of
being or playing with an LGBTQ athlete was low overall. Non-LGBTQ
athletes were less likely to think that LGBTQ athletes would improve percep-
tions of the university as diverse and were more likely to think LGBTQ
athletes would take the focus off the team and put it on an individual, but,
again, averages were low overall. This generally confirms that, while there is
much concern over what might happen when an out LGBTQ player engages
in the highest levels of collegiate sport, the reality is that these concerns are
generally unfounded. However, this evokes our previous discussion of impli-
cit bias. For example, sports organizations use fear of distractionto justify
distancing from polarizing issues (Brody, 2019), making the distracting
influenceof an LGBTQ athlete a reason for exclusion (Khan, 2017,
p. 335). Distraction is the greatest concern non-LGBTQ athletes had con-
cerning playing with an LGBTQ athlete, showing the need for research
calling attention to how distractions is deployed strategically to prohibit or
contain nonnormative sexualities. This finding also furthers the argument
that, while overt acts of homophobia might be declining, microaggressions
toward the LGBTQ community still occur.
The final research question found that of all the measures, only five
differed significantly between men and women. Women were less concerned
than men about alienation from their team and reported hearing less homo-
phobic language from teammates and from athletes on opposing teams than
men did. Women were more likely than men to believe LGBTQ athletes
would damage relationships with alumni and to believe out athletes would
hurt recruiting efforts, but averages were low overall. These findings are
consistent with findings that women, and women athletes, are more accept-
ing of nonnormative sexualities than men (Herek & Capitanio, 1996; Lim,
2002; Roper & Halloran, 2007; Smith et al., 2009). In fact, for some women
teams may offer a safe space to explore gender and sexual identity (Petty &
Trussell, 2018). Furthermore, anti-gay language is often bound up in under-
standings of masculinity: men often reject those who violate norms in order
to reinforce their masculinity (Herek, 1988) and homophobic language relies
on masculinist gender biases (Pascoe, 2005).
JOURNAL OF HOMOSEXUALITY 13
Women being more likely than men to believe LGBTQ athletes would damage
relationships with alumni and hurt recruiting is noteworthy because homophobia is
still used as a recruiting tool in college womens sports, both blatantly and subtly
(Griffin, 2012,p.8).AsmentionedinthecaseofGriner,anti-gaylanguageisused
both in recruiting efforts and to situate openly gay athletes as detrimental to their
universitys image (see also Wolf-Wendel, Toma, & Morphew, 2001). Moreover,
women may already be more concerned with negative portrayals that might affect
alumni relations, since they are already marginalized and/or undervalued with
regards to institutional support, scholarships, media attention, and campus
emphasis.
We infer from intergroup contact theory that more exposure to out
LGBTQ athletes may have helped decrease negative assumptions held by
straight individuals. Our findings suggest that this phenomenon may have
been at play, as fears about playing with LGBTQ athletes, and witnessing
homophobic language toward them were relatively low for athletes who had
an LGBTQ teammate. A comparison of non-LGBTQ athletes who have and
have not played with LGBTQ athletes would confirm this possibility.
Intergroup contact theory, in particular the Common In-group Identity
Model, suggests that a superordinate identity,such as athlete or team
member, can possibly reduce anxiety about previously perceived outgroup
members, such as LGBTQ persons (Gaertner, Dovidio, Anastasio, Bachman,
& Rust, 1993, p. 6), including LGBTQ coaches (Cunningham & Melton,
2014).
Athletes coming out has been a fear for teams, schools, and players our
study shows that many concerns about LGBTQ athletes are not borne out in
actuality. LGBTQ athletes are able to compete within collegiate sports. Their
teammates are supportive of them and have found positive experiences from
playing with them. Our study demonstrates an urgent need to highlight the
range of experiences of LGBTQ athletes so that the public narrative is more
in line with experiences. The early 21st century saw rapid social and legal
acceptance of LGBTQ individuals. While our study found somewhat low
levels of homophobia and negative perceptions of playing with out athletes,
these have not been erased from the college sports arena. As a complex,
ongoing process, varying by sport, institution, and other contexts, coming
out is an issue that is a starting point for athletics programs to address. Better
understanding the experiences of players, coaches, and staff on teams with
LGBTQ members goes beyond a feared coming out disruption. In order to
nurture healthier, better-adjusted athletes, and more effective, robust, and
efficient athletics programs, better understanding of changing identification
experiences within LGBTQ communities is essential.
14 K. PARIERA ET AL.
Limitations
There are several limitations to keep in mind when interpreting these results. One
is that we had too few trans individuals to conduct quantitative comparisons.
Whilewedidtrytorecruitpeople who identify as trans, we received few responses.
Future research must include a broader range of sexual and gender identities to
generate a better understanding of the experiences of these differing identities.
Similarlywedidnothavealargeenoughsamplesizetoanalyzeintersecting
identities with race and other identities and statuses. We do not expect that the
experience of out athletes is uniform. More in-depth analyses of the interplay
between race, immigration status, nationality, and other axes of inequality are
needed. Another limitation is that we did not examine paired dyads of LGBTQ
athletes and the teammates they were out to. Significant differences in our study
cannot be attributed entirely to differing perceptions but could be the result of
differences of teams and schools. Finally, as with survey research in general, some
nuance is lost. Qualitative research in the form of in-depth interviews would help
illuminate the results from this study. Despite these limitations our results show
that in general, negative repercussions of LGBTQ athletes are low, but improve-
ment of integration and fair treatment of LGBTQ individuals remains a priority.
Acknowledgments
The authors gratefully acknowledge that this research was supported by a grant from the
Robert H. Brooks Sports Science Institute
ORCID
Katrina Pariera http://orcid.org/0000-0001-8341-4388
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... Decades of overt homonegativity and sexual and gender discrimination left space for progressive attitudes. Accordingly, some articles in this systematic review identified low levels of homonegativity within several female and male sport contexts (Anderson 2008a(Anderson , 2008b(Anderson , 2008c(Anderson , 2009Anderson & Bullingham, 2015;Harris & Clayton, 2007;Kennedy et al., 2021;Pariera, et al., 2021;Price & Parker, 2003;Pringle & Markula, 2005;Southall et al. 2009). Anderson (2005a) described this form of masculinity as liberal and pro-feminist, based on the rejection of patriarchy, sexism, homonegativity, and lesbophobia. ...
... However, in many cases, lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) athletes perceive the sport context as discriminatory toward them (Anderson & Bullingham, 2015;Baiocco et al., 2018;Pariera et al., 2021;Scandurra, Braucci, Bochicchio, Valerio and Amodeo, 2019), and coming out, also influenced by the internalization of sexual prejudice , is still complex and potentially problematic for the dynamics within the team and for well-being of players outside the playing field. In some cases, silence is preferred, in line with the "don't ask, don't tell" policy (Velez & Piedra, 2020). ...
... The population of particular scientific interest is that of young adults, generations influenced by the decline of homohysteria and the advent of more flexible and inclusive gender norms. More specifically, 15 papers involved athletes aged between 18 and 23 (Adams, 2011;Adams & Anderson, 2012;Anderson, 2005bAnderson, , 2008aAnderson, , 2011Anderson & Adams, 2011;Anderson & Bullingham, 2015;Anderson & McGuire, 2010;Drummond et al., 2015;Magrath, 2021;Pariera et al., 2021;Roper & Halloran, 2007;Shang et al., 2012;Toomey et al., 2018), while Adams and colleagues (2010) extended the age range to 25. Nine articles selected more heterogeneous samples in terms of age that goes from 14 to 78 years of age (Baiocco et al., 2018Jarvis 2015;Lilleaas, 2007;Murray & White, 2017;Piedra et al., 2017;Plummer, 2006;Scandurra et al., 2019;Velez & Piedra, 2020). Five articles involved samples that included high school students (Adams & Kavanagh, 2018;Magrath, 2017;Magrath, Anderson & Roberts, 2015;Michael, 2015;Morales, 2018). ...
Article
The hypermasculine subculture of individual and team sports is a context where discriminatory attitudes toward lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people can occur at a higher rate, although conflicting results emerged in the literature. In order to clarify these data, a systematic review was conducted following the PRISMA statement, with the aim to analyze the research on expressed homonegativity among athletes and the discrimination perceived by LGB people involved in sport contexts. Thirty-eight articles were included. Although half of the included research identified, mainly among younger generations, positive attitudes toward homosexuality, an adherence to an orthodox masculinity and veiled discriminatory expressions persist. In addition, several papers identified overt discrimination, and LGB athletes often perceive sport contexts as discriminatory. Even seemingly “positive,” results should therefore be interpreted with caution. Evidence suggests the connection with stereotypical requirements and a heteronormative and homonegative cultural system could be maintained in apparently innocuous behaviors and expressions. Further interventions are necessary in order to sensitize sporting contexts regarding homosexuality-related issues and to promote inclusive attitudes.
... Literature both inside and outside of sport settings indicate that, overall, attitudes toward LGBTQ persons are improving (Anderson 2011;Anderson, Magrath, and Bullingham 2016;Cunningham 2012, Pariera, Brody, andScott 2019). This has been particularly true in studies conducted throughout European recreational, scholastic and professional sport. ...
... The participants in this study also made direct connections between individual sexual minority identities and the impact those identities have on overarching athletic team culture, including perceptions of dissimilar treatment of sexual minority athletes by coaches and teammates. This finding further emphasizes the importance of inclusive departmental policies for sexual minority athletes within intercollegiate athletic settings (Cunningham 2015a;2015b;Pariera, Brody, and Scott 2019). Specifically, aspects of intrateam dating were identified as areas of concern for sexual minority athletic participants. ...
Article
The role of religious identity has been explored as an important element of self-identity for many individuals. Organized religions are also often recognized as unwelcoming environments for sexual minorities and religious identity can be a source of severe internalized conflict for those that identify as sexual minorities. The purpose of this study was to examine how sexual minority intercollegiate athletic participants are viewed within the intersection of their religious and sexual identities utilizing the social categorization framework. Through phenomenological methodology and semi-structured interviews, 20 individuals (11 student-athletes, three coaches, six support staff members) of various sexual identities within an athletic department agreed to participate in this study. The data revealed three themes: religion, team culture, and acceptance. Ultimately, the present study seeks to assist in promoting queer-inclusive climates for student-athletes.
... With regard to the reasons for the underrepresentation of LGBT+ individuals in sports, it is often assumed that homophobia, sexism, and discrimination may play a role [20][21][22][23][24][25][26]. For instance, a current review suggests that LGBT+ individuals regularly experience homonegative episodes or have personal negative experiences in sports because of their sexual orientation or gender identity [20]. ...
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It is widely assumed that LGBT+ people may feel insecure and unwelcome in sports settings, which are often characterized by a binary gender order and a culture of heteronormativity. Previous research also suggests that LGBT+ individuals experience homophobia in the context of sport. Despite these findings, reliable quantitative data on the sports participation levels of sexual minority groups are scarce. The paper addresses this academic void by analyzing sports activity data of sexual minority groups. The 2019 wave of the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) study is analyzed, which includes a novel LGBT+ boost sample of respondents who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or non-binary with regard to gender. The analysis of this sample shows that sports activity levels (with regard to frequency and duration) of homo- and bisexual individuals are comparable to the heterosexual majority. Although findings show that a high share of homo- and bisexual individuals experience sexual discrimination, discrimination is not associated with lower participation rates in sports. We thus conclude that the domain of sport—although by no means free of discrimination—offers sufficient participation opportunities for LGBT+ people.
... 10 Other risk factors for queer and questioning students that exist at the structural level are the lack of resources and student services (e.g., housing, physical health and counseling services, and career services) that specifically address their needs and experiences, pressure to conform to heterosexual norms on athletic teams, invisibility in surveys and institutional data, and barriers to academic engagement (e.g., excluded from curriculum, classroom bullying or invisibility). 11 5 Greathouse, et al., 2018;Johns, et al., 2020;The Trevor Project, 20206 Hall, 2018Kulick, et al., 2017;Silva, et al. 20157 Greathouse, et al., 2018Ivey-Stephenson, et al., 2020;Johns, et al., 2020;Parker & Harrigar, 2020;The Trevor Project, 20208 Duran, 2019Kosciw, et al., 2020; The Trevor Project, 2020; The Trevor Project, 2021 9 CDC, 2019; Greathouse, et al., 2018;Interfaith Youth Core, 2014;Kosciw, et al., 2020;Puckett, et al., 2017 10 GLSEN, 201;Kosciw, et al., 2020;Palmer & Greytak, 2017;Snapp, et al., 201511 Greathouse, et al., 2018Kosciw, et al., 2020;Pariera, et al., 2021 ...
... If we look beyond the classic office workplace setting, the understanding of work colleagues and superiors broadens. Within sport, for instance, research explored LGBTQ+ athletes, coaches, and sport journalists' coming out to colleagues, teammates, trainers, clients (e.g., athletes, players), and managers (e.g., Gough, 2007;Kavoura & Kokkonen, 2021;Magrath, 2020;Moscowitz et al., 2019;Pariera et al., 2021;Vilanova et al., 2020;White et al., 2021). ...
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Coming out is a fast‐growing global research area with numerous interdisciplinary publications dedicated to its exploration. To contribute to a more organised and concise way of understanding this rapidly expanding field, I introduce a three‐lens typology. Based on the systematic categorisation of over 700 publications, coming out research can be viewed via the following three lenses: (1) the different social institutions in which individuals come out, (2) to whom individuals come out, and (3) the content of individuals' coming out. The identified lenses focus on ‘coming out in’, ‘coming out to’ and ‘coming out as’, which adds to current conceptual understandings of ‘coming out into’ and ‘coming out of’. Further, lens 3 demonstrates another usage shift of the coming out terminology. The concept of coming out originally was used outside of sexuality contexts and currently is being used more broadly again. However, in contrast to its original meaning, the new areas of application (e.g., fatness, atheism, illness) are still linked to conceptualisations and experiences of non‐normativity. This publication assists students, scholars, and practitioners with navigating the extensive amount of coming out literature. It further illustrates the potential and challenges of coming out research and points towards the future—the if, how and what—of this field.
Article
Historically, individuals identifying as LGBTQ have experienced higher levels of discrimination, stigmatization, and harassment compared to their non-LGBTQ peers. This holds especially true in the world of sports, where increased levels of competition, stress, and conformity often leave queer athletes feeling hopeless, isolated, and separate from their teammates, coaches, and training personnel. However, little scholarship regarding the intersection of LGBTQ identities and experiences in athletic spaces exists. The primary objective of this study is to explore the positive, negative, and neutral narratives of LGBTQ collegiate athletes in an attempt to decipher the true experience of performing at the highest level while supporting the socioemotional needs of an evolving queer identity. Forty-nine participants were recruited from 48 undergraduate and/or graduate academic institutions across the United States and represented more than 15 different sport types. Participants were allowed to report more than one affiliated institution and more than one sport type. Through the use of a qualitative survey and ethnographic interviews, this research adds to an increasingly growing understanding of LGBTQ individuals in sporting spaces and what it means to play with pride. Results from these methodologies identified several key elements that contribute to a culture of ostracization and exclusion for queer athletes, including homophobic language use and humor, the stigmatization of LGBTQ people in sports culture, and a lack of programming and structural support for members of this marginalized community on teams and in athletic departments. Furthermore, analysis of both the survey and interviews identified several factors crucial to LGBTQ athlete comfortability, safety, and security, including the presence of fellow queer teammates and coaches, team participation in conversations and educational opportunities related to visibility and representation of sexual minorities, and active allyship by non-LGBTQ peers and mentors. The implications of this research can have far-reaching influence on queer athlete programming, advocacy, and representation in collegiate athletic departments across the nation and better inform non-LGBTQ allies on how to support and serve their queer friends, family, and peers.
Chapter
This introductory chapter examines the relationship between gay, lesbian, bisexual male, bisexual female, male-to female transgender, and female to male transgender athletes, with a sociological examination of their relationship to sport. We first describe the conservative foundations of the sporting establishment, before turning our attention to documenting its liberalizing attitudes. Here were highlight unevenness within global sectors, and variance between those regions. We illustrate this history in regard to three phases, covering time periods relevant to significant events in the research regarding LGBT athletes. Throughout our analysis we highlight that there exists a lag between events in the global North and South. This chapter thus helps situate the need for this book: as a crack in the system of hegemonic homophobia has emerged within the global South.
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In this scholarly exchange edition, we present a selection of invited articles that focus on the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) persons in sport management. In this introduction, we outline a brief history of how and why sexuality activism evolved over the last 50 years. We also outline why, despite the societal gains in many countries, research into the experiences of LGBTQ+ people in sport management is fundamental to improving those experiences and engendering change. We achieve this by summarizing past research in the area, which lays the foundation for the articles in this scholarly exchange. We provide an overview of the scholarly exchange articles, summarizing how the papers further the understanding of the management, marketing, and governance of sport within the context of LGBTQ+ people’s experiences.
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Athletic spaces on campuses can be hostile for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) college students. Policies that foster safe sporting spaces are needed. By examining the nature of support for guidelines protecting LGBT athletes among a convenience sample of heterosexual students involved in club and intercollegiate sports (N = 290), this cross-sectional study offers a starting place for institutional leaders who want to implement such policies. Four independent variables were significant in multivariable linear regression analysis: gender, political ideology, knowing an LGBT athlete, and frequency of hearing homophobic language in a team setting. The findings and recommendations provide administrators and staff with insights about areas to address in order to minimize potential student opposition to LGBT anti-discrimination and other LGBT-inclusive policies.
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Gay-straight alliances (GSAs) are school-based organizations for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) youth and their allies that often attempt to improve school climate for sexual and gender minority youth. This meta-analysis evaluates the association between school GSA presence and youth’s self-reports of school-based victimization by quantitatively synthesizing 15 primary studies with 62,923 participants. Findings indicate GSA presence is associated with significantly lower levels of youth’s self-reports of homophobic victimization, fear for safety, and hearing homophobic remarks, and these results are robust, controlling for a variety of study-level factors. The findings of this meta-analysis provide evidence to support GSAs as a means of protecting LGTBQ+ youth from school-based victimization.
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This article examines the sporting discourses that surrounded Michael Sam’s attempt to play in the National Football League (NFL). It argues that Sam would inevitably be described as a failure because of his inability to exist within the logics of heteronormativity and situates his experience within the framework of neoliberalism and Whiteness to better understand how both function as mediating factors in his ability to attain success. Rather than dismissing Sam’s story as abject failure, this article instead reevaluates his journey within the lens of queerness. It discusses how we might look to queerness as a mode of being, which allows a refocusing of the story from Sam’s individual failure to the institutions which fail to include queer bodies in their vision of success.
Chapter
The experiences of young, gay athletes have been widely studied by academics looking to understand the intersection of sport and sexualities. A plethora of research over the last 30 years has documented how sport has largely transitioned into an inclusive culture for gay athletes. This chapter research uses 60 published autobiographical accounts of the personal coming-out experience of male (mostly student) athletes and trainers from Outsports.com—a resource and online support system for gay athletes.
Article
Young athletes are engaging in sports in an ever-evolving environment where larger discourses and public opinion polls suggest that attitudes toward sexual and gender minorities (SGM) are becoming more tolerant and affirming. In this mixed-methods study, we examined 151 heterosexual college student athletes’ perceptions of the sports climate for SGM athletes and their own self-reported intervention in SGM-related prejudice in sports. Consistent with studies with SGM-identified athlete samples, participants reported high levels of SGM-related bias in the collegiate sporting context. Although participants reported fairly high levels of personally accepting attitudes toward SGM people, few reported intervening in SGM-related bias. Athletes’ affirming personal beliefs about SGM populations were associated with a greater likelihood of intervening in SGM-related bias, whereas perceptions of a heterosexist sports climate were associated with a lower likelihood of intervening.
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Despite reports that there has been a positive trend in perception and treatment of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals in recent years (Griffin, 2012; Loftus, 2001), sport, in general, is still an uncertain, and sometimes even hostile, environment for LGB athletes (Anderson, 2005; Beylin, 2006; Waldron & Krane, 2005). To gain more information on coach understanding and perceptions of the team environment, ten high school head coaches in the United States were interviewed to explore their experiences coaching openly LGB athletes. Qualitative analyses revealed four primary themes associated with coach experiences: team environment dogmas and observations, fundamental beliefs contributing to perceptions of LGB athletes, types and timing of sexual orientation disclosure, and differential LGB athlete characteristics. Future research should examine these primary themes in more detail through interviews with LGB athletes, as well as high school coaches in more traditionally masculine sports, such as football, men’s basketball, and wrestling.
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This interpretive study sought to critically examine how the coming-out process for young people who identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) shaped their sport engagement. Using an evocative inquiry framework and stories as a form of knowledge and representation, the perspectives of nine participants from Canada and the United States were examined. Emphasis is placed on how sexual stigma shaped their sport involvement and meanings, the emotionality of their experiences, and the social relationships therein. The findings call attention to the complicated connection that LGB young people have with sport as they develop their sexual identities through the coming-out process while experiencing sexual stigma.
Book
Football has traditionally been an institution hostile toward sexual minorities. Boys and men in the sport have deployed high levels of homophobia for multiple reasons. However, the ground-breaking research within this book shows that intolerant attitudes toward gay men are increasingly being challenged. Based on unprecedented access to Premier League academies, Inclusive Masculinities in Contemporary Football: Men in the Beautiful Game explores these changing attitudes toward homophobia in football today. Revealing a range of masculine identities never before empirically measured at this level of football, this book discusses the implications for the complex and enclosed structures of professional sport, and extends our understanding of contemporary masculinity. It also offers fresh insights to the importance of "banter" in the development of relationships and identities. This culture of banter often plays a paradoxical role, both facilitating and disrupting friendships formed between male footballers. As the first title in the Routledge Critical Studies of Men and Masculinities Series, this book is fascinating reading for all students and scholars interested in football and the study of gender, sexuality and the sociology of sport.
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This study is an examination of homonegativism in sport as described by lesbian collegiate athletes. These athletes (N = 12) participated in semi-structured interviews about their athletic experiences. Analysis of the homonegtive experiences of these athletes revealed three mechanisms inherent in homonegativism in sport. These were (a) discomfort with females who do not conform with the traditional feminine gender-role, (b) application of the lesbian label, and (c) distancing from the lesbian label. Female athletes perceived to act in a manner contrary to traditional gender-roles are labeled as lesbians. Through this labeling society reinforces traditional gender-roles and, ultimately, protects male dominance in sport. Many of the labels heard by the athletes reflected stereotypical beliefs about lesbians. The athletes described many situations where coaches and administrators attempted to promote or preserve a feminine image within their athletic teams and programs. The disempowering aspects of homonegat...