New Report Suggests Widespread Hostility Toward Queer Youth Athletes

If you’re an LGBTQ high schooler, chances are you’re not going out for the the swim, basketball or tennis teams any time soon. In fact, you’re almost a third less likely than straight students to join a team sport.


That’s according to a new study from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation and the University of Connecticut.


Queer youth are dramatically underrepresented in sports and are largely not out to their coaches when they do join teams, the report “Play to Win: Improving the Lives of LGBTQ Youth in Sports” found.


“Sports are a transformative way for students to build social skills and community, but when too many LGBTQ student-athletes are blocked from being their true selves — we fail them,” said Ashland Johnson, HRC Foundation director of public education and research, in a statement. “Coaches and administrators must do more to make every court, field, track and mat a welcoming place for all.”


The report crunches responses from more than 17,000 kids ages 13-17.


Of those, just 24 percent of LGBTQ youth played on a sports team compared to 68 percent of the general population. That number dropped dramatically for trans and gender non-conforming youth. Only 14 percent of non-binary kids played a team sport. Just 14 percent of trans boys participated and 12 percent of trans girls joined a team.


That low participation is due to the fact that queer youth fear they won’t be accepted on teams because they are LGBTQ, the study found.


LGBTQ youth also reported feeling at-risk off the field. Eleven percent said they felt unsafe in a locker room while 51 percent of trans youth said they never use a locker room that aligns with their gender identity.


That lack of security translated to athletes not coming out to their coaches, with 80 percent in the closet. That number jumped to 82 percent for trans youth.


The perception that youth sports are not safe isn’t just prevalent among student athletes, according to the report. Eighty-four percent of Americans surveyed report anti-LGBTQ attitudes in sports, and 78 percent said they didn’t think youth sports were safe for queer youth athletes.


“This data is an important starting point to identifying ways schools can improve the experiences of their LGBTQ players,” said Johnson.

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