STUDY: LGBT Students Would Benefit From More-Inclusive Athletic Opportunities

The Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has released a new study today analyzing the impact of anti-LGBT bullying on middle and high school students who participate in athletics. Though the climate in athletics can be quite toxic, there are still many LGBT students participating, and when they do, they benefit academically from having the experience. Unfortunately, many are dissuaded from participating at all.

Here’s a look at some of the findings:

  • LGBT students are about half as likely as their non-LGBT peers to participate in interscholastic sports (23.2 percent vs. 47.8 percent).
  • The more involved LGBT students were in athletics, the higher their GPA, with team leaders averaging a 3.4, team members averaging a 3.2, and non-athletes average a 3.0.
  • Over a quarter of LGBT student athletes have been harassed or assaulted while playing because of their sexual orientation (27.8 percent) or gender expression (29.4 percent).
  • Most students (79.4 percent) felt uncomfortable talking to school athletics staff about LGBT issues.
  • Even P.E./gym classes continue to be unsafe spaces for LGBT students, with about half of them reporting bullying or harassment because of their sexual orientation (52.8 percent) or gender expression (50.9 percent).
  • As a result, many LGBT students avoid P.E. classes (32.5 percent), locker rooms (39.0 percent), and athletic fields (22.8 percent) out of fear of victimization.

GLSEN’s overall study of school climate for LGBT students found that 82 percent have been verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation. The new results seem to indicate that athletics is an environment where these students might be particularly vulnerable, and yet where they could greatly benefit. Indeed, anti-LGBT climates hurt academic performance and even increase drop-out rates. Advocating for LGBT-inclusive bullying prevention strategies not only protects the safety of students, but increases their ability to succeed in school and beyond.