A new international study into homophobia in sport has revealed that 80% of Australians participating in sport have witnessed or experienced homophobia and that large numbers of Australian males believe they are not accepted in sport.
The Out on the Fields report is the first international study looking into homophobia in sport and was initiated and led by Australian researchers who found particular problems for male athletes, youth team sports and in school physical education classes.
While gay men in Australia were the second most likely to participate in youth team sports (only slightly less than New Zealand), more than 1 in 5 (22%) decided not to play team sport. Many cited negative experiences in PE class (43%) and fear of discrimination (36%) as reasons for not participating.
A significant majority of participants (70%) including those under 22, believed youth team sporting environments are not safe and supportive for LGB people. This may explain why Australian gay male youth were the second most likely to be in the closet (again slightly lower than New Zealand) with more than half (55%) saying they were worried about bullying and more than 1 in 3 (37%) worried about discrimination from coaches and officials.
Dr. Grant O’Sullivan, from Melbourne’s Victoria University, was on the study’s review panel and believes that training for PE teachers could greatly assist future LGBT participation in sport and help to change attitudes.
“The casual homophobic language such as jokes heard on the playing fields, in the locker rooms, in the stands and in the media can send the message that LGB people are not welcome in sport,” Dr. O’Sullivan said.
“Often this language is not meant to be hurtful but can be very damaging when heard by those struggling with their sexuality. Even more concerning is that early negative experiences in school sport and PE can lead to LGB people avoiding sport for the rest of their lives and missing out on all the physical, mental and social benefits that can come from being active and part of a team.“
In response to the findings, Australia’s five major sports have reaffirmed their commitment to address homophobia in sport.
Cricket Australia Chief Executive Officer James Sutherland said the study shows sport has work to do to tackle homophobia but is committed to doing so.
“The findings of the study are concerning,” Mr Sutherland said. “But the support of the study by Australian Cricket – and sport more broadly – shows we are eager to better understand homophobia in sport and take action against it.”
Mr Sutherland added that there is “simply no place for homophobia in society – and in particular sport – and we are committed to eradicating it through better education and training at grassroots level.”
The full study is available at www.outonthefields.com