Interpersonal sporting relationships as experienced by LGBTQ+ athletes


Despite concerted efforts, inclusivity is not equally distributed across all sporting contexts. The perceived ex/inclusivity of sporting environments is often influenced by interpersonal relationships, this is especially true for LGBTQ+ athletes. Using an online cross-sectional survey, LGBTQ+adults (N = 741) were asked the following open-ended response question, "how would you describe your past and/or current relationships with teammates, coaches, and other sports-related support staff?" The resulting texts were independently coded by two researchers using thematic analysis and compared. All discrepancies were discussed with and rectified by a third researcher who acted as a critical peer. LGBTQ+ athletes described how their interpersonal relationships created perceived sporting environments that existed on a continuum ranging from exclusive to inclusive. Exclusive sporting environments were characterized by experiences of discrimination fuelled by conceptions of ability, aesthetics, and homo/transphobia. Formal or neutral sporting environments were maintained through self-distancing techniques and inclusive sporting environments were defined by strong positive relationships with coaches and teammates that were primarily based on acceptance. Both higher athletic ability and identity concealment strategies created increased opportunity for mobility along the sporting environment continuum. This study demonstrates that despite strides towards inclusivity within sport, there are still pervasive vestiges of intolerance that need to be engaged with and deconstructed.