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LGBTQ+ Representation in Sports

Why should there be more LGBTQ + representation in sports?

For decades, there has been discrimination towards LGBTQ+ athletes. Sports institutions have shown slow progression towards embracing LGBTQ+ rights. It is important that policymakers and sports institutions and associations promote diversity and improve attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people. Out on the Fields and OutSport are international studies conducted into research homophobia and transphobia in sports[2]. In 2017, they found that 50% of gays and lesbians and athletes have been personally attacked. Moreover, 80% believed that gay people are “not at all accepted” or “accepted a little” in sporting culture. This data was obtained from 12,000+ lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender participants from the United States, Canada, Australia, all European union countries and New Zealand. The research shows that LGBTQ+ athletes still face discrimination in a sporting environment. It is important to address this type of discrimination.

Benefits of LGBTQ+ representation in sports

Research shows that LGBTQ+ youth who participate in sports show 20% lower depressive symptoms than those who do not participate. Moreover, research shows that participating in sports can improve mood by activating the release of endorphins. This shows that LGBTQ+ youth can improve their mental health by participating in sports. Sports can also provide physical health benefits such as reducing the risk of diseases, strengthening bones and muscles, managing weight and enhancing coordination and balance.

However, due to the fear of discrimination, LGBT+ youth may avoid participating in sports. An online survey of 34,759 LGBTQ youth found that 68% have never participated in school or community sports. Moreover, the research showed that 18% of LGBTQ+ youth heard negative things about LGBTQ people from a coach. It is important to create a safe space for LGBTQ youth to play sports in schools. This will enable them to obtain mental and physical health benefits.

The Olympics games and LGBTQ+ representation

The 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo broke an Olympic record for LGBTQ+ representation. The games featured 172 LGBTQ+ athletes. This was three times greater than the number of LGBTQ+ athletes at the Summer Olympic games in 2016. This is a great example of the representation of LGBTQ+ athletes. A British diver called Tom Daley won a gold medal in these games. He became one of the first openly out gay men to win a gold mental. This is a record-breaking moment but more should be done to make sure LGBTQ+ athletes feel safe and welcome to participate. It is important that LGBTQ+ athletes are given the opportunity to compete in sports and share their inspirational stories.

Four inspirational LGBTQ+ athletes

Mark Weston was one of Britain’s best field athletes of the 1920s. As a transgender athlete. Mark was a national champion in javelin, discus and shot-put representing England in the 1926 Women’s World Games in Gothenburg and Great Britain in the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam.

Mike Beuttler was the first openly gay Formula One driver. Mike achieved five top-ten finished in Formula One races. He drove for the March-Ford team in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1971.

Carl Nassib was the first active National Football League (NFL) player to come out as gay. He struggled with his sexuality for 15 years and donated $100,000 to an organisation called the “Trevor Project”, which focuses on suicide prevention in LGBTQ+ youth.

Billie Jean King was a famous professional tennis player, that earned 39 Gram Slam titles from 1966 to 1975. She was outed as lesbian in 1981, but her publicities advised her to deny the claim. Nevertheless, she decided to tell the truth and dedicated her retirement into supporting LGBT+ rights. She received the BBC Lifetime achievement and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Ways of promoting LGBTQ+ inclusion and representation in sports:

  • Creating support networks for LGBTA+ athletes, fans and coaches

  • Promoting education in schools about the importance of LGBTQ+ inclusion in sports

  • Creating a safe space and promote acceptance by encouraging LGBT+ athletes to come out

  • Learning how to become inclusive teammates and respecting differences

  • Tackle anti-LGBTQ+ abuse by reporting, whether this is online or in-person

  • Post on social media to show support for LGBTQ+ representation in sports

  • Sports clubs and associations should be encouraged to review LGBTQ+ inclusion police


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