Data and research has shown that the LGBTQ+ community have different rates of engagement with sport and physical activity and many do not reap the benefits of being sufficiently active. However, there are significant barriers faced by the LGBTQ+ community when it comes to engagement with sport and physical activity.
Homophobia: Research by Scotland’s Equality Network highlights the wider problem of homophobia across sport. The report on their findings ‘Out for Sport’ shows that of more than 1,700 respondents, 79% thought that there was a problem of homophobia in sport, whilst 62% had witnessed or experienced homophobia or transphobia in sport. Amongst Trans respondents the numbers of those having experienced or witnessed homophobia or transphobia in sport rose to 80%.
Gendering in sport: Sport has traditionally been very rigid in the way it sees men and women, and how it views what are appropriate ‘male’ and ‘female’ sports – which can be problematic for LGBTQ+ people. Not only does this very segregated view of sport enforce certain kinds of behaviours and sports as being appropriate for one gender, it also stereotypes sportspeople who step outside of these ideas. For transgender and non-binary people, the binary gendered division of sport can be problematic, as it forces them to participate in one category or another, when these categories might not fit how they feel about themselves. This may be especially true of young people who are exploring their gender identity. Not fitting into girls’/women’s or boys’/men’s sport can mean exclusion from sport altogether.
Environment: Toilets and changing rooms at sports facilities can present as a major barrier with shared changing rooms as the third highest barrier to participation amongst trans adults in one study. Much of this links into the gendering in sport and can prevent engagement due to the possibility of a negative experience or being unsure of where they can change.
Lack of awareness: Whilst there is a basic awareness among stakeholders that there are issues relating to LGBT people that have to do with participation, discrimination and homophobia in sport, there is a lack of expertise (and in some cases desire) to do what is required to address them.
Previous Experience: LGBTQ+ adults feel that they have missed out on sports participation earlier in life and early negative experiences of sport and physical activity may discourage them from engaging as adults.
Whilst these five key barriers have been highlighted from across the literature there is still a lack of research and data relating to LGBTQ+ engagement with sport and physical activity. There are specific gaps around bisexual and transgender identities and experiences, the management of LGBTQ+ identities and experiences, including coaching and the intersections of LGBTQ+ issues with race, age and class.