The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) published a research brief this week concerning the statistics, benefits and disadvantages of being an LGBT athlete in middle and high school.
The research brief included answers from students, aged between 13- and 20-years-old, from all 50 states. The statistics were based on GLSEN’s 2011 National School Climate Survey and gave an in depth look at the experiences of being a gay athlete in schools.
“GLSEN’s groundbreaking research has delved into nearly every aspect of school life for LGBT youth, and our findings demonstrate the concrete benefits that school athletics can provide LGBT students,” Dr. Eliza Byard, GLSEN’s Executive Director, wrote in a statement on the organization’s website.
“We have also found critical gaps of safety and support that highlight the need for coaches, P.E. teachers and athletic directors to take action to ensure that school gymnasiums, playing fields and locker rooms are safe, inclusive and respectful places for all students,” Byard added.
The research shows that LGBT students enrolled in sports earned higher GPA’s and have better self-esteem than their non-athletic counterparts.
Statistics also showed that more than half of LGBT students have been bullied or harassed in physical education classes because of their gender expression and/or their sexual orientation.
High profile professional athletes have played a role in pushing for greater inclusion by making headlines for either supporting or opposing LGBT people in sports.
San Francisco 49ers’ cornerback Chris Culliver sparked controversy earlier this year ahead of the Super Bowl when he voiced his opinion of gay football players.
He said, “No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah … can’t be … in the locker room man. Nah.”
Culliver has since sent out a public apology retracting his statement, but it’s such antigay remarks that create an unstable atmosphere for athletes thinking of coming out. The research supports this idea.
There are others who are either out and proud or else vocal straight allies who have used their celebrity to make a change and encourage LGBT athletes.
This past weekend, former Marine and out lesbian, Liz Carmouche, fought in the first women’s UFC fight. Her fans call themselves “Lizbos” and she has spoken up about not being afraid to be who she is.
Researcher for the GLSEN brief, Maddy Boesen, told 429Magazine that along with great role models, she feels that the research GLSEN has laid out will make an important impact.
“I hope that this brief helps advocates and schools take a look at how resources can improve in schools,” she said.