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Survey: Third of LGBTQ Youth Participate in Sports

Andy Berg

A new survey from The Trevor Project has revealed insights into LGBTQ youths’ attitudes toward participation in sports.

According to the survey, which included data collected from an online survey conducted between October and December 2020 of 34,759 LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13–24, found that about 32 percent of LGBTQ youths actually participated in sports. Among those who participated in sports, 18 percent reported that they had heard negative things about LGBTQ people from a sports leader or coach, and 16 percent reported that they had heard positive things about LGBTQ people from a sports leader or coach.

Only 4 percent of LGBTQ youth athletes reported that they would talk to a sports leader or coach if they were having a really hard time or feeling sad, stressed, or depressed. 

A number of LGBTQ youth reported choosing not to participate in sports due to reasons related to discrimination or fear of LGBTQ-based discrimination.

One youth said, “I’m scared I will be harassed because of my sexuality.”

Locker rooms were a particular source of stress for LGBTQ youth, with one youth reporting “girls in my class don’t want me to change in the locker room with them because they think I’ll stare at them/hit on them because I’m lesbian.” Another explained, “I never hated sports, but I hated how I was treated by kids and adults who played sports. The locker room was always a nightmare, the athletic kids at my school hated me, the coaches at my school hated me, and as much as I didn’t care for a lot of mainstream sports in general, I avoided athletic activities out of terror, not disinterest.”

Transgender and nonbinary youth noted structural barriers, including policies that prevented them from playing on the team associated with their gender. One youth described, “I probably wouldn’t be allowed onto the boys’ team because I’m a trans boy (both parents and school won’t allow this), and even if I was allowed I’d be at a huge risk of bullying.” LGBTQ youth also reported a number of additional reasons for not participating, including lack of interest, lack of funds or transportation, and having a health condition that prevents them from participating.

Comradery and personal wellness were common reasons why LGBTQ youth chose to participate in sports. 

Many LGBTQ youth who participated in sports valued the connections and friendships they developed with their teammates. One respondent described, “I’ve met some of my closest friends through being an athlete.” Another said that they enjoyed “being part of a team that pushes me.” Some LGBTQ youth said that they enjoyed the competition and had fun playing, and others reported that sports were a good way to be active and healthy. A number of youth described how participating in sports helped their mental health. One youth noted that sports “help me cope with gender dysphoria and depression.” Another agreed, “I find that sports are a good way to distract me from negative thoughts.” Several respondents described how sports helped them manage various stressors, such as pressure at school or tension around their LGBTQ identity. 

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