LGBT students are being excluded from sport according to a National Union of Students (NUS) report on LGBT students’ experiences of sport.
The statistics are from a survey of 845 LGBT students at university and college level. A staggering 37.8% of students admitted to not being open about their sexuality to team-mates and coaches due to fears of homophobia.
The NUS report stated that one in five students kept quiet about their sexual orientation because they were fearful that coming out may have led to verbal or physical abuse from team-mates.
The statistics concerning participation revealed that only a third of LGBT students at university and college level played sport. The low figure highlights that the fear of homophobia had put students off, one in seven admitted to this reason for their non-participation.
Other concerning statistics reveal 41.9% had been put off due to negative experiences at school.
The report also criticised the culture around sport, which was perceived as alienating and unwelcoming by LGBT students and nearly 50% stated this as the key factor to not participating. Other factors such as discrimination and negative experiences also contribute to students not being as much involved in sport.
Overall, the report concludes that team-mates and sport facilities should be more welcoming to LGBT students.
Gregor Engelmann, a member of the University of Portsmouth’s Athletic Union, said: “Homophobia definitely exists in university sport, at least to a certain level. From my experience it is more prominent in team sports than individual sports.”
Richard Anderson, President of the University’s LGBT society, said: “The society has been subject to direct ‘jokes’ at our expense from sports clubs in the past, and particularly on nights out, you will inevitably hear some established member of certain sports clubs using terms which are overheard by LGBT students and it’s that kind of indirect discriminatory behaviour which I fear the most.”
Anderson said discrimination does exist in sport, however the situation is improving: “This year I’ve seen more LGBT society members who are also in a sports club then I ever have, and I know a large number LGBT students in sports clubs generally who do not feel discriminated against.
“As I’ve said before, a maturing of our culture is needed, and I’m confident that we are moving in the right direction.”
Recently elected LGBT Student Officer, Clare Dussek said: “I hope I can see a time where LGBT students can be confident enough to join the sports teams they want, without fear of being marginalised.”I think that action comes down to the sports societies to be more sensitive to these issues and fears that LGBT students may face: to recognize that there may be certain expectations of sexuality and sport that just cannot exist, if the societies are to be welcoming.”
The survey was released as part of NUS’s Out in Sport campaign.
Adding his support to the campaign, 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.”