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Lgbtq in sports issues

Wide audiences still stay homophobic, and it seems to takes too long for most people to become tolerant towards male and female queer individuals.

LGBT athletes are discriminated against. This is a general statement and few think of what it really means and what exactly do LGBTQ athletes face in their professional careers or in student teams. In this article, we will do a research study to draw a conclusion of the current inclusive policies, reasons for homophobia, and transphobia towards gays, lesbian women, and trans individuals.

Basic study on the LGBTQ athletes in professional and student sports

Let's start with facts. They come from the results of research dedicated to the relationship between the sports team members where at least one of the athletes or coaches openly claimed to be a representative of the LGBTQ social club. Athletes were surveyed on a range of questions regarding their identity and the attitude towards it in different sectors of society: work, college, university, family, special interest club, and, finally, a sports team. The results were not so positive as it becomes evident that there is much to change. What did the study show?

Being a queer person in public

It turned out that wide audiences still stay homophobic, and it seems to takes too long for most people to become tolerant towards male and female queer individuals. A homophobic attitude does make a negative impact on players, including even those who are still closeted. The main theses are the following:

Wide audiences still stay homophobic, and it seems to takes too long for most people to become tolerant towards male and female queer individuals.

  1. The 'gay' and the 'trans' words hold a negative connotation in modern language and it is typical to use them for swearing. There is hardly a team where members are not abused by the word 'gay' which means they act poorly. The problem is not so wide in professional teams, but it is rather regular in almost any student team. This is not usually controlled by coaches of the teams;
  2. The changes that are made within the problem of LGBTQ clubs in sports are not really elaborated and thoroughly thought of; it mostly concerns trans players;
  3. Most people do not show their positive attitude towards gay male and female representatives, as well as trans players and coaches.

The reason why homophobia is so widespread in sports

The whole history of professional sports development was associated with men: women were not allowed to participate in Olympics until 1900 and were accepted for a very limited range of games. Sports were associated with masculinity, strength, and power traditionally inherent to men. A stereotypical image of an athlete created a reality in which a homosexual male player is discriminated against as being gay is related to feminine behavior which is unacceptable on the subconscious level even for those who believe they are tolerant and open-minded. What is more, the ‘wrong’ sexuality of an athlete can affect the whole attitude to them. A homosexual person is often thought of as having women’s treats which are also quite stereotypic like a lack of stamina or strength and thus is regarded as an ill-suited candidate for playing in a men’s team.

LGBTQ athletes: where does it start from?

Most of the discrimination against homosexual male athletes in sports leagues happens in college divisions. However, the biggest sports leagues like NFL are not much more friendly towards queer athletes. Many lesbian, gay, and bisexual student-athletes faced their first discrimination in high school. One of the most fears for a teenager is to be abused and this is why they tend to abuse others just to anticipate any attacks and harassment. When they discriminate against an LGBT student, they create somewhat like a defense that is supposed to protect them from anyone thinking they are gay, too. As sports remain a very patriarchal environment, and people there are supposed to interact very close to each other this results in sad consequences for athletes with non-traditional sexual orientation.

Queer woman cases research

While lesbian women are not as discriminated against in the real world and much less abuse is aimed at them in the show business world, sports remains a harsh atmosphere in this term. It all starts from actually the same stereotype about gender identity: an image of an athlete as a strong and masculine man is carried over to women. A self-confident, muscle-bound, and сompetitive woman associates with a lesbian so a strong belief about lesbian domination in sports teams exists. It is not in itself much of an issue, but the problem lays in the fact that queer women are vilified by media; their image is presented as aggressive and repellent. As a result. heterosexual athlete women start developing a feeling of disgust and hatred towards lesbians which leads to an unsound competition. In very simple words, women start thinking that their lesbian opponents infringe their rights and get their achievements in a non-fair way. They are so afraid of being thought of as lesbians, that discriminate against queer women almost unconsciously.

Gay women and their media image

Abusive language like ‘this is so gay’ is usually associated with men and is supposed to be aimed toward men's athletes. However, women are also attacked by insults regarding their too masculine appearance or behavior. A huge impact is made on this by the media who keep transmitting the reality of women’s soccer and other leagues as a totally lesbian culture. If you google ‘Women’s soccer’ the search results will show plenty of investigations of the sexual orientation of players instead of their achievements or personality or sports news. In addition, it is a direct way to objectivation: as being a lesbian is undoubtedly the subject of sexualization and a queer woman is usually associated with something erotical and porn-like, lesbian players constantly hear lewd comments about their private like or someone’s phantasies.

What does this lead to?

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender athletes naturally strive to protect themselves from objectivation, discrimination, rumors, and dirty jokes. This is why there are extremely few people in professional sports who claim their sexual orientation openly. Some would say it does not matter as only professional skills are important for reaching success, but if we deepen into the basic human psychology it is not actually true. When a person is forced to hide one of the main aspects of their life, while the others openly talk about their sexual relationship or families, it affects LGBT environment members in a way when they start to feel frustration and stagnation in sports. In addition, a constant fear of becoming disclosed and thus abused leads to a certain traumatic pattern that prevents even the most talented players to develop as athletes and they drop sports in the very beginning, leaving their university teams or opting for less significant professional LGBT leagues.

Homophobia in sports is just a consequence?

Wade Davis, one of the first NFL players who made a public coming out of himself as a gay claims that sports are an extremely homophobic area, but this is not a hallmark of the athlete's community. According to him, the whole thing comes from the external society. In sports, it turns violent and reaches the maximum level but not takes its origins there.

Some insiders also note that open homophobia does not actually exist among the NFL, NBA, or NHL players. The main issue, in their opinion, lays in the prominent excessive accent made by male athletes on their heterosexualism. This makes LGBTQ athletes feel uncomfortable and remain outsiders in terms of plain communication.

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LGBT men and their heterosexual teammates

We have mentioned that homophobia started from a locker, but this is mainly true for college games where people are not mature enough to behave consciously. When it comes to serious international teams, it is not about rumors or abuse anymore, but gay men are just excluded from the community. It is rather natural to discuss women, their appearances, and sex with them for athletes; this is actually the same psychological defense we have described before, but it just transforms in a different, more tolerant form. The main issue remains the same: women are viewed as weak and irrational beings, and male athletes try to do their best to show they can not have any women treats.

LGBT focused leagues and sports communities

In 2002, the Bingham Cup was created, becoming the first institution aimed at supporting the LGBT community in sports was organized in the USA. It was called the Federation of Gay Games, and in 1982 they created the first Gay Games. In 1981, another event for gay athletes took place in Calgary. It was established by another center, Apollo Friends in Athletics. In 1989, LGBT athletes from Europe gained support from a newly-formed Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation. Similar communities were also established in Australia, Canada, France, India, and Great Britain.

Criticism towards LGBT leagues

Athletics communities have become a kind of revolution for the inclusion of LGBT people and were obviously created to make a change in professional sport. However, many think that such football clubs and other leagues are not actually inclusive as, on the contrary, they separate LGBT people from the vast majority of athletics society and make them feel special in a negative sense. The main aim of LGBTQ inclusive policies should actually unite all team members, coaches, and every player no matter what their identities are. In addition, the athletic events organized by such organizations are not even half popular as traditional professional sports teams. For instance, if you search for athletic games or athletes on website, you will not find any betting platforms that have options for wagering on LGBTQ sports. Thus, gay men's and women's athletics still stays in the grey zone.

What are the alternatives?

There is a range of organizations that make it their purpose to make a change in terms of the LGBTQ athletics environment and create a gay-positive atmosphere where anyone can be not afraid of coming out and making a career in professional sports teams without fear of being rejected. There is a RainBow Center, for instance, or the Gay and Lesbian Athletics center who puts the rights of LGBTQ people for playing professional football and other sport means among the top stars — no matter what their identities are. They strive for creating a basis for the new laws, educate people by publishing news and studies connected with LGBTQ culture, and become a psychological aid for people suffering from a homophobic atmosphere in sport.

Transgender issues

One of the biggest issues that are widely discussed in the world sports communities and the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations is the participation of transgender people in professional sports events. The question is rather problematic as different nuances and debates have to be considered before making any decisions. The level of discrimination here is actually the highest among the existing cases that concern the inclusion of LGBT+ social club representatives.

Discrimination starts with the fact that it is rather difficult for people to accept another gender identity not similar to the most traditional one. Thus, transgender men and women face issues since their very first steps in sports, when they are not allowed to use the lockers designated for boys or girls. Statistics and surveys show that almost every transgender girl was not welcome in the women’s locker in colleges. This is not the only issue, though as the subject is much more complicated when it comes to participation in the international and local championships.

Olympic committee on the transgender case

The main question here is if transgenders can be allowed to compete with people of traditional gender identity. Many woman athletes show their discontent with the need of playing or compete against another woman who has stronger physical abilities by design being a former male.

In 2003, the International Olympic Committee has officially allowed transgenders who have changed their sex to the participate in Olympics. They released a special document that offers a range of rules for a legit attendance of the Olympic Games for transsexual athletes.

How did a Committee make a change?

According to it, an athlete can participate in the event in case they went through gender reassignment before their pubertal development. This is easily explained: when a boy comes into a phase of puberty, they start to develop testosterone. This hormone makes bones and muscles stronger and gives the whole body more stamina than women have. Another option for transsexual people is to prove they underwent the hormone therapy during the period of two years after the sex affirmation even if they did it after the puberty period. The latest surveys show that hormone therapy taken for two years nullifies the effect of testosterone hormone on a biological man. In addition, the medication can also help to be assigned for a sports game on the international level for transgender people who have not made a realignment.

Debates on the transgender case

This decision of the Committee resulted in many disputes and displeasures in the sports community. People still doubted if a man who went under hormone therapy could perform equally to an average biological athlete woman. Endocrinologists claim that testosterone’s impact on the whole body can not be neutralized just by a two-year therapy. At least, a man’s skeleton system is usually stronger and harder than a woman’s. For instance, no hormones can change the fact that a man generally has a bigger chest capacity with gives him an immediate advantage over a woman when they compete in swimming. There are many other sustainable examples of sports where natural physical parameters matter so it is quite reasonable to divide sports into two divisions by gender.

How the transgender issue is solved

The opposition between equality and laws of nature makes it almost impossible to create an ultimate rule regarding transgender’s inclusion into professional sports. While the Olympic Committee is striving for making any general decisions for international competitions, the laws for internal events differ from country to country. For instance, to participate in any games in the USA, it is enough to claim yourself as a man or woman for athletes.

This can not be called a fair decision, but preventing transgender people from inclusion is impossible, too. This is why each case is currently considered separately. Some claim that the best option would be to establish special competitions for transgender people, but this goes apart from the basic definition of inclusion. Thus, this issue can not be solved at the moment and remains one of the main concerns of the athletic society.

Final words

Nathalie Nicole Smith states that working hard and staying true to yourself are sure ways to win in life.

There is still much to think of and still, much to change in terms of the public view on gay male and female athletes, and other members of the LGBTQ club including those who have non-typical gender identity — our whole patriarchal culture makes a great impact on LGBT people. There are already some positive results but it does not seem to become pretty normal for a player to possess themselves as LGBTQ in public. It may take years before a significant change will be evident in professional and college sports teams. The education is to start from the very early periods when people study at school or a university. It should include all the aspects from abusive language to gender studies as only a thorough elimination of illiteracy will become a solution in the end.