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Does Over-Representation Really Exist with Gay Women in Sport?

Interestingly, in the UK it has never been illegal to be a 'lesbian'...

Womens football

Stereotype with Over-Representation

Women in sport are commonly painted with the label of being gay. You couldn’t possibly be a straight woman with a genuine interest in rough violent rugby, could you? There’s a certain section of society that would quite frankly say no. Ignorance and sexism are the key themes underlying the issues surrounding sexuality that women have to face daily in the sporting field. The dialogue and discourse where we invest in picking apart the personal lives of these athletes is done on a level we never see across men’s sport. Over the years with the growth of women’s sport, football in particular, there has been this concept of over-representation emerging. Many media outlets have reported the view that there may be an over-representation of gay and bisexual women in the sporting field. So do we think this is a fair statement to make or is it that there’s a natural comparison to men’s games whenever we speak on women’s sport and so the lack of open sexuality amongst men in sport creates the illusion there is too heavy of an openness in the women’s games. You could be reading this and, like me, be wondering why this even has to be a conversation at all. What business do these outlets really have weighing in on when women being comfortable and open with their sexuality is too much? By saying there is an over-representation there lies a negative connotation on being openly gay in sport, some of the best female athletes in the world speak of their sexuality with pride and confidence, this should not be diminished by focusing on stigmas and statistics.

Oppression and Environment

The problem is not that the women in sport are so open in terms of their sexuality when compared to the men’s games, it is that it far too commonly becomes a narrative focused on in the woman’s sporting events above that of the actual skills and game being played. Many say there is quite a significant difference in cultures for example between men’s football and women’s football in that the women’s games attract a more timid and family friendly crowd.

"It's more inclusive and accepting, you don't see the division between opposing fans"- Dr Stefan Lawrence

There is reason to believe that because of the lack of streaming and investment for women’s sporting events, it is an easier environment to come out into due to a shortfall of major media coverage; and while this may be truth it should not take away from the fact that these women are still making the conscious choice to put themselves out there and promote acceptance to normalise sexuality as role models for all who follow their achievements. Should we not be spending our time critiquing the culture that makes it so difficult for male athletes to be open about their sexuality and receive a comfortable reception rather than debating whether women’s sport is becoming ‘over-representational’ of anything outside of heterosexuality? The heteronormative environments forced on young athletes creates an immediate barrier with being open and honest about sexuality in the sporting field, sadly the conditions of youth academies and institutions alike often install a sense of self-hatred and denial in the individuals who don’t naturally fall under the label of heterosexual. No one should be made to feel like they must announce their sexuality to anyone else especially when it has little relevance to their career however in the same sense no athlete of any gender should be made to feel like they can’t be open about their sexuality with pride or that doing so could potentially have a negative impact on their career.

Allianz Arena lit up rainbow

Stop the Speculation

One conscious act we can all participate in to support these athletes is refraining from speculating what their sexuality is or even if we do know for fact what the nature of their sexuality is we don’t have to play any part in fuelling rumours or theories that pair teammates together because they’re women (whose sexual preferences just so happen to include woman) that are simply interacting with each other. Education is so important on sexuality whether you are part of the LGBTQ+ community yourself, know someone that is or have no connection to it at all. Without even realising it we may be saying and doing things that hinder the progression and pride of the individuals in this community and there needs to be more awareness of this, especially in the field of sport. Ultimately on the idea of over-representation of homosexuality in women’s sport I say any representation is positive exposure to the reality that at least 20%+ of the population* identify as other than heterosexual. It’s time we started rallying behind openly gay athletes and fighting for a safer space so that those struggling with their sexuality don’t feel alone or scared of the consequences that could come with making it public!

*As of June 2021


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