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Homophobia in school can put LGBT students off sport for life

Tuesday 30 October 2012 LGBT

A report published by NUS has found that almost half of those at college and university who do not participate in any sport (46.8%) find the culture of sport to be alienating and 41.9% said they had a negative experience at school which has meant that they don’t want to get involved.

Only a third (34.6%) of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) students at college or university participate in organised team sport and one in seven (14.3%) said that homophobia, biphobia, or transphobia had put them off participating in sport, while many LGBT students (37.8%) who do take part in sport are not open about their sexuality with teammates or coaches.

The most popular suggestion for improving inclusion of LGBT students in sport among those surveyed was to tackle the wider issue of homophobia/biphobia/transphobia in schools (48.3%).

NUS’ Out in Sport report also recommends that sports teams publicly demonstrate their inclusiveness, and make clear they will not tolerate abuse.

The report calls on students’ unions to take a lead in ensuring that sports facilities, teams and staff are LGBT-friendly and that schools teach LGBT inclusiveness in sports. 

Sky Yarlett, NUS LGBT Officer (Open Place) said:

“Whilst many LGBT students find sports teams to be welcoming it is clear that many are put off by a fear of homophobia or negative past experiences which have created barriers to their involvement.”

“We have seen a welcome increase in the awareness of diversity in sport in recent years but too many LGBT students still feel that it is a world closed off to them.”

Finn McGoldrick, NUS LGBT Officer (Women’s Place) said:

“Institutions or students unions' organising sport should follow the example of those who have adopted a zero tolerance to homophobia policy as well as publicise their LGBT-friendliness in combination with guidance, training and facilities for those delivering sport to create cultures and structures of inclusion.”

“Sport can be inclusive, we hope the adoption of our recommendations will result in an important cultural shift in sport.”


Adding his support, Gareth Thomas, former Wales rugby union captain, said:

“NUS’ Out in Sport project is truly ground breaking and I am delighted to support it. Attitudes have changed and the time is right for sport to start accepting openly gay people in the same way other areas of society have in recent years.”

Steven Davies, Surrey and England cricketer said:

“Out in Sport sends a positive message to other LGBT people - that they can do it too. The report also identifies room for improvement and positive practices that can make a very real difference to participation.”

“Most LGBT students participate in individual sport or fitness activity through their students’ union or university, and as the report shows, most have a positive experience.”

“But too many who don’t participate in sport find the culture around sport alienating or unwelcoming, and many had negative experiences at school or experienced discrimination which put them off participating.

Download the Out in Sport report here.