Sexuality and Gender Perspectives on Sports Ethics

Sexuality and Gender Perspectives on Sports Ethics

Prepared by :  Christine May, Senior Research Consultant, Clearinghouse for Sport, Sport Australia
Reviewed by network : Australian Sport Information Network (AUSPIN), August 2019
Last updated : 29 August 2019
Content disclaimer : See Clearinghouse for Sport disclaimer
Sexuality and Gender Perspectives on Sports Ethics
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Introduction

Sport is often perceived as embodying positive values and morals, such as cooperation, mutual respect, fair play, and equality. However, it also has the potential to reflect undesirable values and unethical behaviours that divide society. 

Discrimination that is based upon gender and/or sexual identity affects the fundamental integrity of sport and is often linked to other integrity issues such as violence, harassment or abuse. The term ‘integrity’ can take on different meanings in different environments, but in a sporting context it is understood to be ‘respect for oneself and others, moral responsibility and accountability.’ Integrity and ethical concerns may differ across sports, age levels, and systems (participation or elite sport).

Key messages

    Gender

    Evidence suggests that gender stereotypes contribute to young women dropping out of sport participation because women in sport are often seen as being non-feminine. Similarly, men who do not fulfill the 'masculine' stereotype have reported feeling intimidated and excluded from sports participation

    Sexuality

    More than half of gay, lesbian or bisexual sport participants conceal their sexuality from their team/club and report feeling unwelcome. Gay men are most likely to feel unsafe and less likely to play team sports. The majority of people (of any sexuality) report frequent homophobic and discriminatory comments, especially in team sport environments.

    Inclusion

    The Australian Sex Discrimination Act 1984 states that children aged under 12 years cannot be excluded on the basis of sex or gender identity from participating in competitive sporting activities; people of one gender aged 12 and over can be excluded if strength, stamina, or physique of competitors is relevant.

Sex and gender

Sport is widely seen as an arena in which highly stereotypical views are held regarding what it means to be ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. One of the most difficult issues in relation to defining gender ethics is that it often gets confused with sex. The simplest way of differentiating between sex and gender is to remember that sex refers to the body of a man or a women (there are a small number of people who do not fit typical definitions for male or female bodies who may be referred to as DSD – Different Sex Development); and gender refers to the socially judged traits that can be applied to bodies of any sex. That is, gender applies to socially defined characteristics of masculinity or femininity. 

Gender affects everybody, albeit in different ways.  For example, evidence suggests that gender stereotypes contribute to young women dropping out of sport participation because women in sport are often seen as being non-feminine (usually labelled as lesbian, regardless of their sexual identity). Similarly, men who do not fulfill the stereotype of the ‘manly man’ have reported feeling intimidated and excluded from sports participation (these men will often be labelled gay, regardless of their sexual identity). The judgements and assumptions made by people and by society in relation to gender are intimately entwined with the judgements and assumptions made in relation to sexuality. 

Gender and sport participation

Gender inequity is often referred to as sex inequity, although what is meant is ‘different representation and opportunities for men and women’.

In contrast to the ideals of sport, there is significant evidence that Australian girls and women are generally under-represented in sport participation when compared to their male cohort group. These differences are also evident in many other countries. There are a number of possible reasons for these differences, some of them are social-cultural (e.g. ethnicity, race, socio-economic status, and the existence of explicit or implicit sexism in sports clubs and in broader society) and some are institutional factors (e.g. media coverage, sex of coaches, available role models, etc.). 

Sports and governments have responded in a variety of ways (e.g. policies, guidelines and social research) that seek to equalise sporting opportunities for both genders, and in particular address the disadvantages faced by girls and women. However, despite these policies inequalities between males and females remain when it comes to sports participation (although physical activity participation is generally more equal). The reality is that we have not yet been able to fully understandand respond tothe reasons behind more limited involvement (e.g. leadership, administration, coaching, and player participation) in sport by women and girls.

The Clearinghouse for Sport Women’s Sport topic discusses some of the challenges faced by women and girls at various levels and in different roles within the sport sector. 

Where possible, direct links to full-text and online resources are provided. However, where links are not available, you may be able to access documents directly by searching our licenced full-text databases (note: user access restrictions apply). Alternatively, you can ask your institutional, university, or local library for assistance—or purchase documents directly from the publisher. You may also find the information you’re seeking by searching Google Scholar.

ReadingBooks

  • Diversity & Inclusion in Sport Organizations (third edition), Cunningham G, Holcomb Hathaway Publishers, (2015). This book provides a comprehensive understanding of the ways in which people differ--including race, sex, age, mental and physical ability, appearance, religion, sexual orientation, and social class--and how these differences can influence sport organisations. Grounded in research and theory, this user-friendly book emphasises the practical applications of research findings and provides relevant sport-related examples.
  • The Gay Games; A history, Symons C., Routledge, (2010). Since their inception in 1980, the Gay Games have developed into a multi-million dollar mega-event, engaging people from all continents, while the international Gay Games movement has become one of the largest and most significant international institutions for gay and lesbian people. Drawing on detailed archival research, oral history and participant observation techniques, and informed by critical feminist theory and queer theory, this book offers the first comprehensive history of the Gay Games from 1980 through to the Chicago games of 2006. It explores the significance of the Games in the context of broader currents of gay and lesbian history, and addresses a wide range of key contemporary themes within sports studies, including the cultural politics of sport, the politics of difference and identity, and the rise of sporting mega-events. 
  • Gender and Sport. Changes and Challenges, Pfister G and Sisjord M (editors), Waxmann, (2013). This book covers current issues, debates and new understanding on women and sport. A wide range of topics are covered (e.g. female coaches, sexual harassment, physical education, Sport participation, etc.). The aim of this book is to provide an overview of the current debates on gender and sport from a women’s perspective, in particular gender inequalities, and to present insights into the causes and effects.
  • No Slam Dunk. Gender, Sport and the Unevenness of Social Change, Cooky, C and Messner, M.A., Rutgers University Press, (2018). This book discusses the recent and significant gender transformations in sport as well as the persistant inequality and discrimination experienced by women, girls, LGBTI people. Covers intersectionality well – acknowledging the complexity of gender relations, sex (and DSD in women’s elite sport competition), sexuality, class, ethnic and racial inequality.  A sophisticated sociological and historical contribution to understanding the nature and policitcs of gender, sex and sexuality in contemporary sport from a North American and international perspective. 
  • Routledge Handbook on Sport, Gender and Sexuality, Hargreaves J and Anderson E (editors), Routledge, (2014). Chapters are authored by experts and organised into eight parts: (1) historical perspectives; (2) views from countries across the world; (3) diversity and division; (4) gender conformity and its challenges; (5) homosexuality – issues and challenges; (6) questioning and transgressing sex; (7) power, control and abuse, and; (8) gender and sexuality in the mediation of sport. (view list of contributors and chapter titles)
  • Sport and Gender Identities: Masculinities, Femininities and Sexualities, Aitchison C (editor), Routledge (2007).

Infographic iconInfographic

  • The Genderbread Person v4, Sam Killermann, It's pronounced metrosexual, (accessed 17 June 2019). Gender is one of those things everyone thinks they understand, but often don't. This graphic helps to put the term 'gender' into context. 

ReadingReading

  • Acting "like a girl" should not be an insult, Hannah Goldberg, Time Magazine, (26 June 2014). This video seeks to redefine the phrase “like a girl” as something strong and powerful. It’s part of the larger #LikeAGirl campaign by ‘Always’, a brand owned by Procter & Gamble. Both men and women of all ages are asked to describe what they think the phrase “like a girl” means. The men express themselves in terms of athletic gender stereotyped behaviour, but the young girls act out athletic and deliberate motions. The conclusion is drawn that “just like a girl” is often perceived as an insult.
  • Homophobia in sport and why it’s different for women, Warby D, Blog (17 February 2014). The content of this article was presented by Danielle Warby at Queer Thinking: Out in Sport as part of the 2014 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival. She discusses stereotypes in sport, how sexism and homophobia are connected, and why it’s damaging for both men and women.
  • Sexism in FootballBBC Sport, (29 December 2013). Sports presenter Gabby Logan discusses ‘sexism’ in British football (soccer) and how women are treated differently than men.
  • Sport, the media and the construction of compulsory heterosexuality (PDF  - 165 KB), Write J and Clarke G, paper presented at the Australian Association for Research in Education, Brisbane (1997). The authors contend that heterosexism and homophobia work together to marginalise sporting women. They explore these interconnections through an analysis of media coverage of women's participation in rugby union, a sport which has traditionally been taken to be central to hegemonic masculine identity in Britain, Australia and New Zealand. They show how choices in language and visual representations of women's rugby work to normalise these female rugby union players engaged in a “man's game”. Thus, denying the existence of, and the social reality and social relations of, both heterosexual women and lesbian women playing the game. 
  • United Nations – Statement from the Secretary-General, Sochi, Russian Federation, (6 February 2014). This statement contains the remarks of Secretary-General Ban Key-moon at the 126th Session of the International Olympic Committee. The Secretary stated that the Olympics show the power of sport to bring together individuals regardless of age, race, class, religion, ability, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Report iconReports

  • Come out to play: the Sports experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people in Victoria (PDF  - 834 KB), Symons C, Sbaraglia M, Hillier L, and Mitchell A, VicHealth, (2010). This report is based on a survey of over 300 persons who identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual (LGBT). It is the first comprehensive survey of the LGBT sport experience in Australia.
  • Gender Equity: What it will take to be the best (PDF   - 1.7 MB), Richmond Football Club (2014). This report provides insight into the real and perceived barriers to getting women into leadership positions in Australian sport, specifically from an Australian Football perspective. Sport as an industry sector is (generally) entrenched in a male leadership culture. Increasingly, leadership diversity is seen as a rational response to business needs, not just ‘the right thing to do’. Evidence from countless surveys, studies and reports clearly indicates that increased female representation at all levels within an organisation is linked to better decision making, more effective organisational performance, higher rates of return, and more effective risk management. The conversation in Australian football is slowly starting to shift from a ‘what to do about women’ debate nested in problems and women’s rights; to a debate about the cost of not including female talent if the sport wants to remain competitive in a dynamic, fast paced, entertainment industry. Participants interviewed as part of background research describe a sense of being on the brink of change, and yet there is a fair amount of cynicism from both men and women. Finding from this study may reflect a culture that presents barriers to women. Some of the key points include:
    1. The AFL game has moved beyond overt, blatant sexism on most counts, and what pervades today is something much more subtle, nuanced and culturally ingrained, but deeply felt, widely experienced, and prohibitive to women’s progress.
    2. Women want more opportunity in Australian Football, but feel conflicted about asking for more leadership opportunities, given current workplace systems that have not evolved from the default model of intensive time-commitments, seasonal demands, and fast tracking of employees who are seen as insiders or club loyalists.
    3. Men are also frustrated and cautious on the topic of including more women in the game.
    4. On the whole, men approached the discussion from the perspective of how to assist women to ‘fit in’ to the existing environment, rather than how to change that environment.
    5. Part of what keeps the status quo seems to be about the difficulty in describing what the inequity problem is, in blunt terms. The experiences of frustration that women described were largely about exclusionary power dynamics rather than overt discrimination. There was an extremely strong and consistent narrative about the importance of ‘earning your stripes’ as a leader in the football world, but participants acknowledged that the ‘stripes’ that were most revered were often earned in the field of play, leaving the myth of meritocracy exposed.
  • Perspectives on Sport – Women in Sport: the State of Play 2013Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue Number 4156.0.55.001 (June 2013). This report takes data from ABS surveys and the 2011 Census to provide a snapshot of women’s involvement in sport from three perspectives – playing, facilitating, and watching. 
  • Progress and Promise: Title IX at 40 (PDF  - 237 KB), Sabo D and Snyder M, SHARP Centre for Women and Girls, White Paper (2013). Forty years ago, the United States Congress passed Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. This legislation, which reflected the dramatic emergence of women’s rights and feminism, ostensibly ensured that all students from kindergarten through postgraduate school should receive equal educational opportunities regardless of their gender. The implications for physical education and sport in schools and tertiary institutions were dramatic. The number of girls in high school sport increased from fewer than 300,000 before Title IX to more than 3.2 million by 2012. Women’s participation in college athletics increased from 30,000 to more than 190,000 (NCAA statistics). However, despite the progress made, opportunities in interscholastic and collegiate sports are still weighted toward a male advantage.
  • Summary of the 2010 ethical and integrity issues in Australian sport survey (PDF  - 75 KB), Australian Sports Commission (2010). Research commissioned by the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) and conducted by Colmar Brunton Social Research during 2010 sought to identify ethical and integrity issues within Australian sport and provide a better understanding of the incidence, prevalence and impact of these issues in the Australian sports system. The survey covered a range of issues, including: abuse and violence; winning beyond the rules of the game; inequity and harassment; anti-social behaviours and attitudes; junior participation; gender participation; and athlete wellbeing. Among the anti-social issues identified by the survey, ‘negative attitudes toward women’ and ‘negative attitudes toward homosexuality’ were the second and third most prevalent attitudes, respectively.
  • What Can Sport Do? The True Sport report (PDF  - 2.9 MB), Mulholland E, Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (2008). This report provides a wide and compelling array of evidence that good sport is good for people and good for communities. In short, ethical sport can make a great difference and community sport is, in fact, one of our most valuable public assets. 

Research iconResearch

  • Blood, sweat, and jeers: The impact of the media's heterosexist portrayals on perceptions of male and female athletes (PDF  - 527 KB), Knight J and Giuliano T, Journal of Sport Behaviour, Volume 26(3), (2003). Sport media often heterosexualises the female athlete by emphasising their relationship with men; but this pattern is not found in the coverage of male athletes. This research examined the extent of these portrayals and how they affect perception of female and male athletes. 91 university students were asked to read a fictitious newspaper article about an Olympic athlete in which the athlete was portrayed as clearly hetrosexual or as having no clear sexual orientation. As predicted, both female and male athletes described as clearly hetrosexual were perceived more favourably than were athletes with an ambiguous sexual orientation.
  • Boys to men: sports media messages about masculinity (PDF  - 241 KB), Messner M, Hunt D and Dunbar M, Children Now (1999). A national poll of children, focus groups, and content analysis of sports programs and commercials helps to explain the influence that sports and sports media has on the gender perceptions of American boys. According to a study conducted by the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles, 98% of boys ages 8 to 17 in the US consume some form of sports-related media. What are the gender messages both boys and girls receive; particularly boys, since they are five times more likely to watch sports programming than girls. This research revealed that sports programming portrayed a ‘real man’ as strong, tough, aggressive, and above all a winner. These messages were promoted in varying degrees in the major professional codes of football, basketball and baseball, as well as in extreme and action sports. Women are largely absent from sports programming and when they do appear, they are portrayed in stereotypical ways.
  • Comparing the black and gay male athlete: patterns in American oppression, Anderson E and McCormack M, Journal of Men's Studies, Volume 18(2), (2010). Unlike the power associated with black athleticism, participation for gay male athletes is associated with feminism. Whereas black athletes are perceived as masculinised by their sporting experience, gay athletes are feminised by theirs. This paper highlights the historically similar patterns of oppression experienced by each group.
  • Gender equity for athletes: Multiple understandings of an organizational value, Hoeber L, Sex Roles, Volume 58(1-2), (2008). The purpose of this study was to understand and critique the meanings of gender equity for athletes. Data was collected from in-depth interviews with administrators, coaches, and athletes from a Canadian university athletic department. The findings revealed multiple but narrow meanings of gender equity. There were three perspectives: (1) full equality; (2) conditional equality, and; (3) equality as a women’s only issue. The differences illustrate the complexities and struggles involved in understanding this organisational value.
  • Gender policy and organizational change: a contextual approach (PDF  - 227 KB), Skirstad B, Sport Management Review, Volume 12 (2009). This paper is based on a case study of the General Assembly of Sports in Norway that examines the implications of gender policy on the imbalance between the number of female and male board members in sport organisations over more than three decades. The central focus is on the evolution of gender equality. While the female representation in sport administration has increased from 8% to 39% over a 37 year period, the author suggests that the process may also require a change in the dominant values and attitudes expressed by its members. The silent resistance to change by sport federations, as identified in a survey conducted in 2007, indicates that the struggle for gender equality has not yet been won.
  • Girlie Girls and Manly Men: children's stigma consciousness of gender in sports and physical activities, Schmalz D and Kerstetter D, Journal of Leisure Research, Volume 38(4), (2006). Research has identified that children as young as two are aware of and practice gender roles and the perception of boys' sports and girls' sports persists. Stereotypes and stigmas assigned to participants are common in leisure activities and sports. This study examined the relationship between stigma consciousness and sport participation in gender-typed sports (i.e. traditionally all male or all female sports) among boys and girls ranging in age from 8 through 10 years. The results suggested that stigma consciousness is negatively related to participation in feminine sports; that is boys participating in perceived ‘female sports’ were stigmatised. There was no statistically significant relationship between stigma consciousness and participation in either ‘male’ or gender neutral sports. On the basis of this research, the authors suggest that girls may experience greater social latitude in their sport participation than boys; exercising greater freedom to try a wider variety of sports.
  • Integrity in Sport Literature Review (PDF  - 1.4 MB), Treagus M, Cover R and Beasley C, The Fay Gale Centre for Research on Gender, University of Adelaide, prepared for the Australian Sports Commission (2011). This review of literature was conducted to provide an evidence base for the Australian Sports Commission’s (ASC) ‘National Integrity in Sport Strategy’. The review looked at published material in four areas: (1) negative attitudes, behaviours and values that influence the integrity of sport; (2) the circumstances in which negative attitudes prevail; (3) key drivers or influences on integrity issues, and; (4) the progress, programs and key factors that influence positive behaviours that enhance the integrity of sport.
  • Masculinities and sexualities in sport and physical cultures: three decades of evolving research, Anderson E, Journal of Homosexuality; Volume 58(5), (2011). This article traces the study of sport and physical cultures and masculinities and sexualities, principally by examining homophobia. The author shows that the intense homophobia of the mid-1980s waned throughout the 1990s, and has continued to diminish. This has resulted not only in improved conditions for sexual minorities, but it has also promoted a culture of softer, more tactile and emotional forms of heterosexual masculinities.
  • Sportophobia, why do some men avoid sport? (PDF  - 118 KB), Plummer D, Journal of Sport & Social Issues, Volume 30(2), (2006). The present study examines homophobic dynamics in boys’ and men’s sport to better understand the relationship. The authors explore the use of homophobic words in the context of boys’ sports. The use of these words and the meanings associated with them provide valuable insights into the relationships between homophobia and sport. Prominent Australian gay sporting stars are considered noteworthy not because they are typical, but because their sexuality makes them exceptional in the face of prevailing sporting stereotypes. 
  • Visions of gender justice: untested feasibility on the football fields of Brazil, Knijnik J, Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Volume 37(1), (2013). From 1941 to 1979 women in Brazil were forbidden by law to play the national sport of football. This paper focuses on the political ideas of Juliana Cabral, captain of the Brazilian women’s football team that won the silver medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004, and the struggle for women to participate in this important aspect of Brazil’s social life. 

resources iconResources

  • Canadian Sport Risk Registry. The Canadian Sport Risk Registry contains a list of common risks already identified by sport leaders including the risk of 'lack of inclusion'. The risks and solutions have been presented generically and anonymously, with a view to providing helpful insight to help sport leaders.

Sexual orientation

LGBTQ cartoon

Many of the attitudes, behaviours, and values that have a negative impact on the development and maintenance of sports integrity tend to centre on sex, gender, or sexuality (i.e. often expressed through reference to a person’s known or perceived sexual identity). The most commonly used sexual identities are: heterosexual, homosexual (gay, lesbian), or bisexual. Gender and sexuality stereotypes are intimately entwined; for example, men who are seen as being ‘highly masculine’ will often be assumed to be heterosexual, while women who are seen as being ‘non-feminine’ will often be assumed to be lesbian. 

It is beyond doubt that sport can be a site of discrimination on the basis of someone’s (known or assumed) sexuality or gender identity. Within a sporting environment, behaviour or attitudes that produce prejudice, exclusion, or harassment not only tarnish the reputation of individuals, but clubs and sport as a whole. Experiences of discrimination and harassment within sport in Australia have included verbal and physical abuse, as well as exclusion and silencing tactics. These actions can be very hurtful and offensive to those who are targeted, causing depression, anxiety, and isolation. While some incidences are highly visible, the majority are never discussed.  

Experiences of harassment, discrimination, and exclusion by lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) sports participants have been documented in multiple Australian and international reports and research projects, such as the 2015 Repucom Out on the Fields research report. some clear trends are evident: 

People who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transsexual often feel unwelcome in sporting environments, particularly team sport environments. 
  • More than half of respondents conceal their sexuality from team mates and others affiliated with their clubs. 
  • Gay men are less likely to play team sports than lesbian women, potentially because abuse among men is more likely to be physical as well as verbal.
  • Gay men were also more likely to feel unwelcome and worried about rejection and discrimination by team mates and coaches. 
  • The overwhelming majority of respondents (of any sexuality) reported frequent homophobic jokes and comments occurring in the sports environment, generally more frequently in team sports.  
Not only are gay and lesbian athletes vulnerable, but gay and lesbian coaches as well. As with LGBT athletes, LGBT coaches generally keep their identities a secret, usually because they fear being discriminated against or harassed. They may also fear that declaring their sexual identity will divert attention from their accomplishments and put the public spotlight on their sexuality rather than their team or athlete's performance. Even when members of the sporting community acknowledge the presence of LGBT coaches, there may be subtle discrimination or prejudicial attitudes. Research has uncovered prejudicial attitudes and qualified acceptance of LGBT sport coaches. 

Many sporting organisations seem to be ignorant of the impact that homophobia and discrimination of gays and lesbians in a sport setting can have on their personal wellbeing and enjoyment of sport. Discrimination and exclusion in sport because of a persons' sexuality and/or gender identity, and the failure by sport to provide an open and welcoming culture creates some unique challenges; not only for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people, but also for the culture within sporting codes.  

The Australian Government has been forthright in acknowledging that homophobia exists in sport and seeking to address it. The Harassment-free Sport (PDF  - 166 KB) guide was published in 2000. This document has been cited internationally as a 'best practice' example of sporting leadership in addressing homophobia. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has also published a position statement on harassment and abuse in sport that includes LGBT athletes.

As more institutions, coaching associations, and sport governing organisations adopt inclusive non-discriminatory policies and implement educational programs for staff and athletes, the climate will change. The end result will be fewer cases of discrimination and harassment of athletes and coaches once fans and the general public learn to accept LGBT as part of life.  

Where possible, direct links to full-text and online resources are provided. However, where links are not available, you may be able to access documents directly by searching our licenced full-text databases (note: user access restrictions apply). Alternatively, you can ask your institutional, university, or local library for assistance—or purchase documents directly from the publisher. You may also find the information you’re seeking by searching Google Scholar.
Radio Icon

Audio

  • Field of tainted dreams (audio, 6 minutes, advance of full program), Dingle S, Radio National (10 May 2015). Homophobia is rife in Australian sport. Whether playing at the local park or representing their country, gay and lesbian athletes routinely hide their sexuality to avoid abuse while pursuing the sport they love. Sarah Dingle investigates how difficult it is to come out on the field. 

books iconBooks

  • Diversity & Inclusion in Sport Organizations (third edition), Cunningham G, Holcomb Hathaway Publishers, (2015). This book provides a comprehensive understanding of the ways in which people differ--including race, sex, age, mental and physical ability, appearance, religion, sexual orientation, and social class--and how these differences can influence sport organisations. Grounded in research and theory, this user-friendly book emphasises the practical applications of research findings and provides relevant sport-related examples. 
  • The Gay Games: a history, Symons C, Routledge, Critical Studies in Sport (2010).
  • In the Game: Gay Athletes and the Cult of Masculinity, Anderson E, SUNY Press, (2005). Normative heterosexuality is portrayed as one of the most important virtues to measure in athletic men. However, to be considered at the top of the “masculine” rank, athletes are not supposed to be merely heterosexual, but, as argued in this book, they need to provide constant visible proof of heterosexuality. This book explores the metrosexual phenomenon and its association with the world of professional sport, both of which are subject to high levels of media coverage and scrutiny.
  • Routledge Handbook on Sport, Gender and Sexuality, Hargreaves J and Anderson E (editors), Routledge, (2014). Chapters are authored by experts and organised into eight parts: (1) historical perspectives; (2) views from countries across the world; (3) diversity and division; (4) gender conformity and its challenges; (5) homosexuality – issues and challenges; (6) questioning and transgressing sex; (7) power, control and abuse, and; (8) gender and sexuality in the mediation of sport. (view list of contributors and chapter titles). 
  • Sport and Gender Identities: Masculinities, Femininities and Sexualities, Aitchison C (editor), Routledge, (2007).
  • ‘Strong Women, Deep Closets – Lesbians and Homophobia in Sport’, Griffin P, Human Kinetics, (1998). The author draws upon personal experience and informal interviews with lesbian sportspeople. Sharing these experiences may help to make administrators more tolerant, coaches more accepting, parents more understanding, and lesbians more open and happy. 

Finder iconPosition statements

  • The IOC Consensus Statement: harassment and abuse (non-accidental violence) in sport, Mountjoy M, Brackenridge C, Arrington M, et.al., British Journal of Sports Medicine, (26 April 2016). All athletes have a right to engage in ‘safe sport’, defined as an athletic environment that is respectful, equitable and free from all forms of non-accidental violence to athletes. This Consensus Statement extends the 2007 IOC Consensus Statement on Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Sport, presenting additional evidence of several other types of harassment and abuse—psychological, physical and neglect. All ages and types of athletes are susceptible to these problems but science confirms that elite, disabled, child, and lesbian/gay/bisexual/trans-sexual (LGBT) athletes are at highest risk, that psychological abuse is at the core of all other forms and that athletes can also be perpetrators. Harassment and abuse arise from prejudices expressed through power differences. Perpetrators use a range of interpersonal mechanisms including contact, non-contact/verbal, cyber-based, negligence, bullying, and hazing. Attention is paid to the particular risks facing child athletes, athletes with a disability, and LGBT athletes. Impacts on the individual athlete and the organisation are discussed. Sport stakeholders are encouraged to consider the wider social parameters of these issues, including cultures of secrecy and deference that too often facilitate abuse, rather than focusing simply on psychopathological causes. A systematic multiagency approach to prevention is most effective, involving athletes, entourage members, sport managers, medical and therapeutic practitioners, educators, and criminal justice agencies.  

ReadingReading

  • Australian sporting codes response to anti-homophobia, inclusion framework (PDF  - 487 KB), 2015. Major professional sporting codes (AFL, FFA, ARU, NRL and CA) have listed their programs and promotions that respond to homophobia in sport.
  • Homophobia in sport and why it’s different for women, Warby D, Blog (17 February 2014). The content of this article was presented by Danielle Warby at Queer Thinking: Out in Sport as part of the 2014 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival. She discusses stereotypes in sport, how sexism and homophobia are connected, and why it’s damaging for both men and women.
  • LGBT discrimination in sport highlighted after a week in the headlines, Candice Prosser, ABC News, (5 May 2019). In a week when issues of gender and sexuality in sport have been in the spotlight, new research has found many LGBT athletes feel unsafe and vulnerable — but attitudes are changing.
  • List of LGBT sportspeopleWikipedia, (accessed 18 June 2019).
  • More than Playing Games (PDF  - 5.9), European Gay and Lesbian Sports Federation, Report of the Conference held in Antwerp (12 July 2007). This includes a Declaration on the equal treatment of heterosexuals, gays, lesbians and bisexuals in sport.
  • Netballer Ashleigh Brazill's civil union: my sexuality has never been an issue, Delahunty E, The Guardian (2 February 2016). What sets 26-year-old netballer Ashleigh Brazill apart from the handful of other elite athletes who have come out, she says, is that there has been no prejudice to smash, no homophobia to confront. “Not once in my career has someone said something, either on the court or off it. It’s never been an issue and I’ve always been open about it. I came out pretty young and everyone around me has always been unbelievably supportive, especially my parents”, said Brazill.
  • 'Out in the open', Mead A, Inside Rugby, Issue 1 (2014). Four years after becoming the first professional Rugby player to openly announce he's gay, Welsh international player Gareth Thomas is still feeling the impact. There have been other sports stars to come out, but few in a sport as mainstream and masculine as Rugby.
  • Physical punishment of children in sport and recreation (PDF  - 283 KB), Ensom R and Durrant J, Coaches Plan, Volume 15(4), (2008-09). This article discusses what counts as physical punishment.
  • Playing it straight, Brady N, The Age, (23 October 2011). This story highlights the difficulty faced by gay and lesbian elite athletes in Australia. Initially the story is about Gus Johnston, who represented Victoria for 12 years in the sport of Hockey. He was little known outside hockey circles until he posted an emotional 12-minute video on YouTube in which he outed himself as gay. In the video, which Johnston called ''the reality of homophobia in sport'' he explains why he has waited until retiring from sport to make his announcement and in part to let young gay athletes know that they are not alone. Johnston also wants to tell the broader sporting community that gossip and 'jokes' about sexuality that are routinely peddled in locker rooms are homophobic and hurtful. By coming out, Johnston joins an exclusive club of elite Australian athletes who admit to being gay. It is estimated that in Australia 10 per cent of the population is homosexual, yet only a small number of elite male athletes, and an even small number of female athletes, have come out and declared they are homosexual.  
  • Sport, the media and the construction of compulsory heterosexuality (PDF  - 165 KB), Write J and Clarke G, paper presented at the Australian Association for Research in Education, Brisbane (1997). The authors contend that heterosexism and homophobia work together to marginalise sporting women. They explore these interconnections through an analysis of media coverage of women's participation in rugby union, a sport which has traditionally been taken to be central to hegemonic masculine identity in Britain, Australia and New Zealand. They show how choices in language and visual representations of women's rugby work to normalise these female rugby union players engaged in a “man's game”. Thus, denying the existence of, and the social reality and social relations of, both heterosexual women and lesbian women playing the game. 
  • United Nations – Statement from the Secretary-General, Sochi, Russian Federation, (6 February 2014). This statement contains the remarks of Secretary-General Ban Key-moon at the 126th Session of the International Olympic Committee. The Secretary stated that the Olympics show the power of sport to bring together individuals regardless of age, race, class, religion, ability, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Report iconReports

  • Come out to play: the Sports experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people in Victoria (PDF  - 834 KB), Symons C, Sbaraglia M, Hillier L, and Mitchell A, VicHealth, (2010). This report is based on a survey of over 300 persons who identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transsexual (LGBT). It is the first comprehensive survey of the LGBT sport experience in Australia and provides rich insight through closed and open ended responses into the sporting lives, passions, rewards, and challenges of these sports participants, supporters, volunteers, and workers. Insights gained from the analysis of data include the following:
  1. Sport participation and physical education at school – Participants were asked to retrospectively explain their experiences of sport and physical education while at school. There was a marked gender difference in the quality of their experiences, with more men than women reporting negative experiences from discrimination and homophobia. Although sexism in sport is commonly associated with damaging outcomes to women, the women participating in this study had more success in sport than the men, and this was a critical factor in shaping attitudes.
  2. Sport participation – Participants were involved in a variety of sports and physical activities, only small numbers had no involvement in sport. Involvement in team sports was more likely for women (63.3%) than men (44.7%). Participants had a high involvement in club sports (84%), but only about a third (33.5%) were identified within the club as LGBT; 46% kept their sexual identity a secret, and 20.5% were known to some (but not all) members of the club. Sixteen percent of the survey participants indicated they belonged to clubs that identified with gay or lesbian members. 
    • Women in this survey were discouraged from playing team sports by being called lesbians, insulted, and told they could not play. This had the effect of removing the lesbians and therefore maintaining a heterosexual team. Where women played traditionally ‘masculine’ team sports (such as rugby), whole teams of players were perceived as lesbian and were often subjected to verbal abuse regardless of the individual participants’ sexual identity.
    • Men had their gender and heterosexuality called into question when they played badly or in an attempt to spur them on to a better performance. This produced feelings such as shame and hurt, and was often the reason for dropping out of team sports. Gay men were significantly less likely to play team sport than lesbian women (45% versus 62% respectively) because the abuse among men could be serious (i.e. physical abuse as well as verbal abuse).
  3. Gender perceptions in sport – Gender and sexuality are very strong organising features in society, but deviation from the norm (i.e. heterosexuality) is generally discouraged in sport, particularly in team sports.
  4. Sporting cultures – Participants in this study who did not disclose their sexuality described the sporting environment as being unsafe, unpredictable, isolating, and intimidating. More male participants than females said they kept their sexuality secret (i.e. ‘in the closet’) especially within team sports.
  • Discrimination of sexual and gender minorities in sports and exercise (PDF  - 851 KB), Kokkonen M, National Sports Council, Finland, (2014). This report is a summary of a study published in Finland and funded by a grant awarded by the Ministry of Education and Culture. Its starting point was concern about whether lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender identity (LGBTI) children, young people and adults have equal opportunities to adopt a physically active lifestyle. This study reports that more than one-third of LGBTI respondents were engaged in competitive sports and more than half in recreational sports. A detailed breakdown of survey results is provided.
  • Gender Diversity in the ACT: a survey of trans experiences (PDF  - 1.2 MB), David F, Hyndal L, Hyndal P, Ion J and Yates J, A Gender Agenda and Pink Tennis (2011). This report provides the results of a community-based survey of sex and gender diverse (SGD) members of the Canberra community and the issues they face. On the issue of social interactions, the majority (77% of survey respondents) indicated that they had no social interactions with teammates in sporting or other social activities. This indicates a significantly lower level of social engagement than that enjoyed by the general population.
  • Growing up queer: issues facing young Australians who are gender variant and sexuality diverse, Robinson K, Bansel P, Denson N and Ovenden G, Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, (February 2014). Growing up queer investigates the issues facing young Australians who are gender variant and sexuality diverse. More than 1000 young Australians aged between 16–27 years participated in a research study, with almost two-thirds reporting homophobic or transphobic harassment or violence across different aspects of their lives. From the information acquired, the researchers hope to develop innovative, relevant and engaging educational resources that would contribute to increasing professional and community awareness of their experiences and needs.
  • The impact of homophobic bullying during sport and physical education participation on same-sex-attracted and gender-diverse young Australians’ depression and anxiety levels (PDF  - 805 KB), Symons C, O’Sullivan G,  Borkoles E, Andersen M and Polman R, Institute for Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL), Victoria University (2014). Past research suggests that sport can be a challenging place for same-sex-attracted and gender diverse (SSAGD) young people. The aim of this study was to investigate whether homophobic bullying and abuse occurring in sport and physical education (PE) settings were associated with the mental health and wellbeing of young SSAGD Australians. The study not only explored the welfare of these young people in these spaces, but also examined whether barriers exist for SSAGD young people participating in, or continuing to participate in, sport and PE. Key messages from this research include:
    • SSAGD youth reported significantly higher mental health and wellbeing concerns than heterosexual youth.
    • Verbal homophobic abuse in these settings was strongly associated with poor mental health and wellbeing of SSAGD youth. Unconditional self-acceptance was found to be a strong protective factor against such abuse and interventions targeting self-acceptance may strengthen resilience.
    • Despite many SSAGD youth thriving in sport and PE settings, homophobia and transphobia communicates to them that ‘they are not welcome here’, which can prevent them from enjoying the many physical, mental and social health benefits of participation and to maintain lifelong participation.
    • PE class was a particular concern for SSAGD youth, where verbal and physical abuse was reported more often than in other sport settings.
    • The gendered nature of sport and PE provides challenges for gender diverse young people, and more focus should be placed on understanding their needs and on ways to encourage safer and more welcoming participation for this group.

  • Inclusive Sport Survey: The Sport Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex People in the Australian Capital Territory (PDF  - 2.1 MB), Australian Capital Territory Government, Sport and Recreation Services (April 2014). This survey looked at attitudes and behaviours among the ACT’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community groups and territory sporting associations. The main themes to emerge from participants’ best sporting experiences include a feeling of achievement, being part of a team or community, being accepted and welcomed, experiencing health benefits, having the opportunity to travel and broaden life experiences, having fun and friendship, gaining confidence and providing a positive contribution. Most people responding to the survey were ‘not out’ regarding their sexuality and/or being transgender. Key findings were that about 41% of respondents have felt unsafe in a sporting environment; 34% had experienced sexism in sport with women experiencing the most sexism, followed by transgender people and men; 32% had experienced verbal homophobia or bullying in a sporting environment, but only 3.6% had experienced homophobic assault.
  • Out for Sport, Smith M, Cuthbertson S and Gale N, Equality Network Scotland (2012). This report recognises that while tackling homophobia and transphobia in Scottish sport is in its early stages, the approach needs to be positive. The report contains a review of literature, results of survey and interview research conducted in Scotland, identification of problems, and proposed solutions. 
  • Out on the Fields: The first international study on homophobia in sport, Denison E, Moseley L and Kitchen A, Repucom (10 May 2015). The Out on the fields study provides insight into the experiences of LGB athletes, such as how many remain in the closet, but it also looks at the experiences of LGB people generally, their experiences as participants and as spectators. The study takes a particular focus on issues of sexuality, rather than gender, which is why the report uses the term LGB, rather than the now standard LGBTI. The study goes beyond capturing the experiences and views of LGB people, as it also includes the experiences and perspectives of nearly 2500 heterosexual participants who make up about 25% of the sample. By including people with a wide range of sexualities, this study provides an opportunity to compare attitudes between these sexualities. The survey included six main countries (USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and Ireland) and a collective sample from several other countries. The Australian portion of the survey included 3006 participants. Key findings include:
    • 54% of gay men felt unwelcome in sport, saying they are ‘not at all accepted’ or ‘accepted a little’; 36% of lesbians felt the same way.
    • 27% of gay men said they did not participate in youth team sports.
    • 84% of all survey respondents said homophobic jokes occur ‘all the time, often, or sometimes’ in a sporting environment.
    • 62% of all survey respondents, and 73% of gay respondents, believed homophobia is more common in team sports than in other environments.
    • 81% of gay men and 74% of lesbian women under the age of 22 had reported concealing, or only partially revealing, their sexual identity while playing sport. Approximately half of gays and a third of lesbians said they hid their sexuality because they were worried about being rejected by teammates; 31% of gays and 15% of lesbians were also worried about discrimination from coaches and officials.
  • Study on gender-based violence in sport: Final Report (PDF  - 2.3 MB), Mergaert L, Arnaut C, Vertommen T and Lang M, European Commission, Directorate for Education and Culture (2016). This study provides an overview of legal and policy frameworks; describes initiatives promoted by sport and civil society organisations; identifies best practice in combatting gender-based violence in sport; and makes recommendations for future action. To establish a common understanding and to delimit the scope of the study, the definition of gender-based violence used was: “violence directed against a person because of that person's gender (including gender identity or expression) or violence that affects persons of a particular gender disproportionately”. Several forms of gender-based violence in sport were considered: verbal, non-verbal, physical abuse and sexual harassment. These forms are not mutually exclusive, but overlap. This study explicitly included violence against LGBTQ persons, and considered both male and female victims as well as perpetrators. Main findings from this study include: (1) The main focus of policies has been on prevention and protection actions. Other topics, such as assessment of any gender-based violence, measures to prosecute violence, and support programs for victims have received less attention. (2) The legal provisions in place across EU Member States use different terminology and vary greatly; there remains a general lack of clarity in legal contexts in relation to what a ‘sexual act’ entails.  (3) Less than half of the EU Member States make explicit reference to forms of gender-based violence in sport in their policy frameworks. Policy implementation (in many cases) is neither mandatory, nor followed up. (4) Initiatives taken by the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee are important because of their visibility and influence on national committees to comply. (5) Reliable data on gender-based violence is missing across the EU, and the problem may be underestimated; there is also a lack of research in this area. (6) Most of the identified prevention approaches target sports organisations and coaches. Efforts and resources to ensure a continuous implementation of activities and/or dissemination of materials appear to be scarce. Initiatives are generally not given enough visibility and are not easily accessible. The effectiveness of practices is rarely monitored or evaluated. (7) The concept of gender-based violence in sport brings together several concerns that tend to be addressed separately (rather than under a unified policy), such as: ethics; child protection; safe sport environments; and athletes’ welfare.
  • Writing Themselves in, 3 (PDF  - 2.8 MB), Hillier L, Jones T, Monagle M, Overton N, Gahan L, Blackman J and Mitchell A, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, (2010). This is the third national study on the sexual health and well-being of same sex attracted young people in Australia. This research suggests that the biggest issue is the ongoing and persistent damage done by homophobia in the lives of same sex attracted and gender questioning (SSAGQ) young people. Several recommendations were made that involve the sporting environment: (1) public safety—SSAGQ young people continue to experience high levels of homophobic violence and abuse not just at school but also on the street, in sport and at public and private events. Police programs which liaise with the gay community and seek to make reporting easier should be protected and expanded, and: (2) education—schools should have a specific policy on homophobic bullying which offers well-publicised protection to SSAGQ students.

Research iconResearch

  • Attitudes and Sexual Prejudice in Sport and Physical Activity (PDF  - 125 KB), Gill D, Morrow R, Collins K, Lucey A and Schultz A, Journal of Sports Management, Volume 20(4), (2006). This study focused on attitudes and sexual prejudice as part of a larger project on inclusive practice in sport and physical activity settings. A large sample of undergraduate university students was surveyed to determine their attitudes toward gays, lesbians, and transgender groups. The survey results confirm persistent sexual prejudice toward these minority groups and suggest that to achieve effective diversity management these groups must be considered.
  • Blood, sweat, and jeers: The impact of the media's heterosexist portrayals on perceptions of male and female athletes (PDF  - 527 KB), Knight J and Giuliano T, Journal of Sport Behaviour, Volume 26(3), (2003). Sport media often heterosexualises the female athlete by emphasising their relationship with men; but this pattern is not found in the coverage of male athletes. This research examined the extent of these portrayals and how they affect perception of female and male athletes. 91 university students were asked to read a fictitious newspaper article about an Olympic athlete in which the athlete was portrayed as clearly hetrosexual or as having no clear sexual orientation. As predicted, both female and male athletes described as clearly hetrosexual were perceived more favourably than were athletes with an ambiguous sexual orientation.
  • Coverage of the Gay Games from 1980-2012 in U.S. newspapers: An analysis of newspaper article framing (PDF  - 226 KB), Lee S, Kim S and Love A, Academia.edu, (published online 2014). Many members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community have viewed the Gay Games as an opportunity to challenge dominant ideologies concerning sexuality and sport participation. In conjunction with the growth of LGBT social movements, media coverage of LGBT individuals and issues has increased substantially in recent years. The ways in which an event such as the Gay Games might impact public perceptions can depend upon how the event and its participants are portrayed in mass media coverage.
  • Creating and Sustaining Workplace Cultures Supportive of LGBT Employees in College Athletics, George Cunningham, Journal of Sport Management, Volume 29(4), pp.426-442, (2014). The purpose of this study was to understand (a) how participants conceptualized lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) inclusiveness in their athletic departments, (b) the antecedents of such workplace environments, and (c) the outcomes associated with inclusion. To do so, the author conducted a collective case study of two college athletic departments located in the U.S. Northeast. Data sources included individual interviews with coaches and administrators (n = 17), a reflexive journal, websites, university materials, and external publications. Participants described the athletic departments as characterized by community and cohesion, respect and inclusion, and success oriented. Various antecedents contributed to these workplace environments, including those at the individual level, leader behaviors, inclusive organizational policies, and macro-level influences. Finally, while some negative outcomes were identified, LGBT inclusion was predominantly associated with a host of positive outcomes for the employees, athletes, and organizations as a whole.
  • Diversity Training in Intercollegiate Athletics, George Cunningham, Journal of Sport Management, Volume 26(5), pp.391-403, (2012). The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence, antecedents, and outcomes of diversity training in intercollegiate athletics. Only 53% of the athletic departments offered training. Logistic regression indicated that gender diversity, sexual orientation diversity, divisional affiliation, and the presence of a proactive diversity culture were all predictive of whether the department offered training. Additional analysis indicated that sensitivity to individual needs and understanding different cultures were the topics most covered in the training. Finally, the motivation for training (either compliance- or effectiveness-based) and the degree to which the training was systematically integrated were predictive of transfer of training, with the latter variable holding the strongest association. Implications, limitations, and future directions are discussed.
  • Exploring the relationship between homosexuality and sport among the teammates of a small, Midwestern Catholic college soccer team, Adams A and Anderson E, Sport, Education and Society, Volume 17(3), (2012). Openly gay male athletes are still rare in organised, competitive team sports. In this action research the principle researchers explore the effect of a gay male soccer player coming out to his teammates. Although the authors do not suggest their results are generalisable; their guided discussions with two gay players and other team members appeared to open up players’ perspectives on homosexuality and this led to better social cohesion within the team.
  • Gender, sexual prejudice and sport participation: Implications for sexual minorities, Sartore M and Cunningham G, Sex Roles, Volume 60(1),  (2009). This inquiry assessed the influence of gender and sexual prejudice on decision making within sport. In Study 1, subjects (N=229) were former and current athletes in the USA. Their attitudes predicted an unwillingness to participate in sport when a coach was identified as gay or lesbian. In Study 2, the attitudes of parents (N=76) toward gays and lesbians predicted an unwillingness to allow a homosexual coach to work with their children; justification was most often based on negative gay and lesbian stereotypes. Such findings suggest a pattern of compulsory heterosexuality in sport, or the belief that heterosexuality is the only legitimate sexual orientation.
  • Gendered homophobia in sport and coaching: Understanding the everyday experiences of lesbian coaches, Norman L, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Volume 47(6), (2012). This article discusses a theory of everyday gendered homophobia as a way of understanding lesbian coaches’ experiences in their profession. Ten professional women coaches who identified themselves as lesbian, from both individual and team sports within the UK, were interviewed.
  • Homophobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the EU Member States: Part II, The Social Situation(PDF  - 1.0 MB), 2009. Chapter 8 of the this report deals with sport. Within the European Union, the majority of country reports note that homophobia in sport is present in a number of sport contexts and that there are significant challenges related to being an openly LGBT person in sport. Existing research and data focus primarily on professional football.
  • Masculinities and sexualities in sport and physical cultures: three decades of evolving research, Anderson E, Journal of Homosexuality; Volume 58(5), (2011). This article traces the study of sport and physical cultures and masculinities and sexualities, principally by examining homophobia. The author shows that the intense homophobia of the mid-1980s waned throughout the 1990s, and has continued to diminish. This has resulted not only in improved conditions for sexual minorities, but it has also promoted a culture of softer, more tactile and emotional forms of heterosexual masculinities.
  • Sexuality matters in physical education and sport studies, Hemphill D and Symons C,Quest, Volume 61 (2009). Although sport is touted as the ‘great equaliser’, an activity that cuts through gender, race, or religious boundaries to unite people around a common interest; the mainstream sport environment for gay, lesbian, and bisexual participants is still a difficult one. This paper examines the nature and impact of homophobia in an Australian context. It also provides examples of strategies designed to make teaching physical education more inclusive.
  • Varying degrees of support: Understanding parents’ positive attitudes toward LGBT coaches, Cunningham G and Melton E, Journal of Sport Management, Volume 28(4), (2014). This study examined parents’ supportive attitudes toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) coaches, as well as the sources of that support. The authors drew from the model of dual attitudes and a multilevel framework developed for the study to guide the analyses. Interviews were conducted with 10 parents who lived in the southwest United States. Analysis of the data revealed three different types of support: indifference, qualified support, and unequivocal support. In each of these examples, participants express support for LGBT coaches, but they did so in ways that were qualified and served to perpetuate underlying stereotypes about sexual minorities, including those that sexual minorities have ulterior motives, promote their sexual orientation to others, and are sexual predators. These stereotypes persist even though most heterosexual American adults acknowledge that the claims are baseless. It is also interesting that such conditional statements are seldom included when discussing heterosexual coaches or coaches in general (assumed to be heterosexual). By expressing support for LGBT coaches the parents absolve themselves of expressing prejudicial attitudes. That is, they communicate support for sexual minorities and therefore cast themselves as egalitarian, accepting individuals. By offering qualified support, the parents in this study discriminate in very subtle ways that can otherwise be explained away. Their conditional statements are largely institutionalised as a form of heterosexism and thus part of the societal norm. 
  • Vulnerability/prevention: Considering the needs of disabled and gay athletes in the context of sexual harassment and abuse, Kirby S, Demers G and Parent S, International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, Volume 6(4), (2008). This paper describes the international sport context of sexual harassment and abuse, while considering the needs of disabled and gay athletes. The authors state there is little scientific literature on sexual harassment and abuse that focuses on these vulnerable groups or specific prevention measures. They further explore some of the programs being implemented in Canada and identify program gaps. 

resources iconResources

  • Canadian Sport Risk Registry. The Canadian Sport Risk Registry contains a list of common risks already identified by sport leaders including the risk of 'lack of inclusion'. The risks and solutions have been presented generically and anonymously, with a view to providing helpful insight to help sport leaders.
  • Fair Go, Sport! Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.
  • Good practice handbook, No. 4 – LGBT inclusion in sport, Englefield L, Council of Europe (2012). This handbook on good practices gives a practical look at the political commitment made by Council of Europe member states in the fight against homophobia in sport. This handbook also  examines the reasons for the widespread and continued exclusion of LGBT people from mainstream sport; examines the nature and mechanisms of prejudice and discrimination towards LGBT people in sport, and; highlights the costs of this exclusion. The handbook gives examples of good practice in working with both young people and adults to tackle homophobia in sport and to create more inclusive and tolerant sporting environments in which all LGBT athletes can flourish.
  • Harassment-free Sport: Guidelines to address Homophobia and sexuality discrimination in sport (PDF  - 166 KB), Australian Sports Commission, (2000). Sexuality discrimination and homophobia are usually hidden, ignored, and brushed aside in our society. Because sexuality discrimination is also against the law, those who allow such discrimination to occur can be vulnerable to legal claims from those who’ve been hurt as a result. At its best, sport can provide many personal and social benefits. However, some participants in sport find that these values are not extended to them because of their sexual orientation, or because of what someone thinks is their sexual orientation. Sexuality is, or should be, entirely irrelevant to sports participation, and to all persons engaged in sporting activities. This document will help those engaged in sport to: (1) recognise forms of discrimination that operate within a sporting organisation; (2) recognise forms of discrimination and harassment to which you or others might be subject, or might participate in; and (3) deal with homophobia and sexuality discrimination in appropriate ways. 
  • Homophobia and sexuality discrimination, Play by the Rules, (accessed 17 June 2019). his activity will provide you with information about: myths and stereotypes about homosexuality; the rights and responsibilities of club administrators, coaches and players in relation to sexuality issues in sport; the actions administrators can take to provide positive leadership. 
  • It Takes A Team! Education Campaign for LGBT Issues in Sport: a resource for high school and collegiate athletic programs (PDF  - 55 KB), Case Western Reserve University. This power-point presentation is intended to educate persons working in sport about issues related to sexual identity, and make sport a safe place for lesbian and gay athletes and coaches.
  • Lesbians and gays in sport, Recommendations 1635 of the European Union Parliamentary Assembly (2003). The Parliamentary Assembly declared itself to be against discrimination in sport and has made a number or recommendations.
  • Media reference guide, 8th edition (PDF  - 478 KB), Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), (2010). Fair, accurate, and inclusive news media coverage has played an important role in expanding public awareness and understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) lives. The use of appropriate language and terminology helps to eliminate defamatory rhetoric that may fuel prejudice and discrimination.
  • No to Homophobia campaign. The No to Homophobia campaign is the result of a partnership between the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, TransGender Victoria and the Anti-Violence Project of Victoria, with support from the Human Rights Law Centre and the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission. The No To Homophobia campaign received funding from the Victorian Department of Health in 2010, as part of the With Respect Awareness Project.
  • Pride Sports. This UK organisation has published several guides to assist National governing bodies, including:
  • Sporty & Gay, You can be both (PDF  - 102 KB), Sport Charter, Sport Wales (2014). [note: text in English and Welsh] Sport Wales has a vision to create a thriving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) sporting community within Wales, where individuals feel welcome, safe and free from discrimination. We believe that everyone should be able to participate in, and enjoy sport, whoever they are and whatever their background and as such we commit to encouraging and supporting current and future generations of fans, officials, volunteers, coaches, staff and participants from all communities to join the sporting family. 

Video iconVideos

  • #OneTeam. Athletes share their stories in this powerful Public Service Announcement by Team Canada (Canadian Olympic Team) exploring and promoting LGBTQ inclusion in sport.
  • Discrimination, Ben Hartung, Play By The Rules Forum, (19 April 2012). Fair go, sport! is a Hockey Victoria project that’s aimed at increasing the awareness of sexual and gender diversity and promoting safe and inclusive environments in Hockey.
  • Gus Johnston: The reality of homophobia in sportYouTube. After many years of competing in hockey at an elite level, Gus Johnson decided to share his story and experience with homophobia in sport. These are his personal views and experiences.
  • NRL to tackle homophobiaNational Rugby League/YouTube, (9 April 2014). NRL CEO Dave Smith has joined the heads of four of Australia's largest sporting bodies in a united front against homophobia.
  • You Can PlayPlay by the Rules - An anti-homophobia in sport initiative supported by Play by the Rules.

Gender determination and sports competition

From 1968 to 1998, participants in women's Olympic events had to undergo ‘gender verification’ which required female athletes to undergo either a chromosomal test or physical inspection to verify their gender. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) instituted this practice in response to concerns that some athletes from then Communist countries of Eastern Europe were actually men masquerading as women to give them a competitive advantage. The first tests, which were invasive and controversial gynaecological examinations, were conducted in 1966; then a sex chromosome test was introduced at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. The principle was that genetic females (46 XX) show a single X-chromatic profile, whereas males (46 XY) do not. Sex chromatin analysis fell out of common diagnostic use by geneticists shortly after the IOC began its testing program and in 1999 the IOC Medical Commission reviewed its practices and agreed to change the implementation of gender verification tests from mandatory for all female athletes, to random.

  • Gender identity and sport: is the playing field level? Reeser J, British Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 39 (2005). This review examines the issue of how organised sport has attempted to safeguard the promise of fair competition by offering a division of disciplines into sex specific events. Specifically, this article discusses the practical consequences of the policies on gender verification and the participation of transsexuals in sport at the international level.
  • Sex tested, gender verified: controlling female sexuality in the age of containment, Ritchie I, Sport History Review, Volume 34(1), (2003). This paper traces the history of gender stereotyping in sport and provides background about the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to institute and then modify its gender verification policy for Olympic athletes.
  • We shall never know the exact number of men who have competed in the Olympics posing as women: sport, gender verification and the Cold War, Wiederkehr S,International Journal of the History of Sport, Volume 26(4), (2009). This paper analyses newspaper articles related to this topic mainly from the United States. It argues that in order to explain why gender verification was introduced at the Olympics, we have to combine different methodological approaches from the fields of gender studies, the history of international relations, media history and history of medicine that focus on the interdependency of society and technological innovation.

The lack of laboratories routinely performing the test and the problem of errors in interpretation yielded a number of false-positive and false-negative results. However, an even greater ethical dilemma was the fact that some phenotypic females (i.e. with a uterus, ovaries, etc.) show a male sex chromatin (XY) pattern (e.g. androgen insensitivity, XY gonadal dysgenesis). These individuals may have no athletic advantage as a result of their congenital abnormality and reasonably should be considered as females for the purposes of athletic competition. In addition, chromosomal sex typing does not consider the anatomical or psychosocial characteristics of the athlete. For these reasons sex chromatin testing may unfairly exclude some female athletes.

Although the IOC offered follow-up physical examinations to laboratory tests, problems remained with the IOC’s testing policy. Many international sports governing bodies concluded that gender verification testing was not reliable and screening for gender was discontinued prior to the 2000 Sydney Olympic & Paralympic Games.   

The debate around gender determination and eligibility to compete in women's competitive sports events was re-ignited in when South African athlete Caster Semenya [Wikipedia] cruised to victory in the 800m at the 2009 World Athletic Championships in Berlin.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the IOC then adopted a policy that was not overtly intended to determine whether someone was ‘really’ a woman. Instead, their policy focused on defining hyperandrogenism, a condition of naturally raised testosterone levels. It set a benchmark for the serum androgen level used to determine whether an athlete was eligible to compete in a female category. Under these rules Caster Semenya was allowed to compete as a women in the 2012 London Olympics, where she finished second in the Women’s 800m track competition.

  • IOC Regulations on Female Hyperandrogenism, Games of the XXX Olympiad in London, 2012 (PDF  - 71 KB), International Olympic Committee, Medical and Scientific Department (June 2012). The IOC in accordance with Rule 19.3.10 of the Olympic Charter, and pursuant to Rule 44 of the Olympic Charter, issued these regulations regarding female hyperandrogenism and participation in the 2012 London Olympic Games. The regulations are not intended to make any determination of sex. They are designed, however, to identify circumstances in which a particular athlete will not be eligible (by reason of hormonal characteristics) to participate in the 2012 Olympic Games competitions in a female category. 

The use of serum androgen levels to determine whether an athlete is 'female' is based on the presumption that testosterone is the key reason for mens' often superior strength and speed. However, there is little evidence that testosterone alone is the determining factor of ‘maleness’. The level is also currently based upon population norms and its validity has been questioned by several studies. Research on elite athletes (male and female) and elite female athletes indicates that an athlete population may show a different profile from a non-athlete population because of a number of confounding factors, such as body type, ethnicity, menstrual status, or the use of oral contraceptives. Therefore, using normative (i.e. population) data as a benchmark may be misleading. 

  • Debating the testosterone ‘sex gap’, Karkazis K and Jordan-Young R, Science Magazine, Volume 348(6237), (22 May 2015). Sexual dimorphism of testosterone in elite athletes was at the centre of a case before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in which teenage Indian sprinter Dutee Chand challenged a policy that regulates competition eligibility of women with naturally high testosterone levels. The idea of a ‘sex gap’ in testosterone is a cornerstone of this policy, which implies that men’s higher testosterone is a significant factor that makes a difference between men’s and women’s athletic performances. Therefore, women having naturally high testosterone may unfairly enjoy an ‘androgenic advantage’ over other female athletes. This article reports on the emerging scientific debate regarding the testosterone sex gap, as it applies to elite athletes. 
  • Endocrine profiles in 693 elite athletes in the post-competition setting, Healy M, Gibney J, Pentecost C, Wheeler M and Sonksen P, Clinical Endocrinology, Volume 81, Issue 2 (2014). This research measured the hormone profile of a group of retired elite athletes from 15 different sports. Hormone profiles showed significant differences in 19 of the 24 measured variables between sexes and between all of the 15 sporting disciplines in men; and 11 out of 24 measured variables in women. 16·5% of male elite athletes had low testosterone levels, whereas 13·7% of women had high levels, with complete overlap between the sexes. This study concluded that hormone profiles from elite athletes differ from non-athlete reference ranges. Individual results are dependent on a number of factors including age, gender and physique. Differences in profiles between sports suggest that an individual's profile may contribute to proficiency in a particular sport.
  • Serum androgen levels in elite female athletes, Bermon S, et.al., Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, (published online 19 August 2014). This research looked at the serum androgen levels among a large sample (N=849) of high-level female athletes as well as the prevalence of biochemical hyperandrogenism and some disorders of sex development. The study found that the prevalence of hyperandrogenic 46 XY in the athletic population was approximately 7 per 1000, which is 140 times higher than expected in the general population. This is the first study to establish normative serum androgens values in elite female athletes, while taking into account the possible influence of menstrual status, oral contraceptive use, type of athletic event, and ethnicity. These findings should help to develop the blood steroidal module of the Athlete Biological Passport and to refine more evidence-based fair policies and recommendations concerning hyperandrogenism in female athletes.
  • Sex in Sport, Doriane Lambelet Coleman, 80 Law and Contemporary Problems, pp.63-126, (2017). The analysis focuses on competitive sport’s traditional sex classifications, and particularly on its commitment to setting aside the women’s category for biological females only. It returns in the end to the applicability of this methodological approach to other institutional settings in which the legal and policy question whether to erase sex also arises. 
  • Testosterone is not exclusively a male hormone, Brown A and Westbury I, The Sports Integrity Initiative, published online (20 April 2016). Testosterone is not exclusively a male hormone. It is produced in significant quantities by males and females – especially by elite athletes, who need it to aid muscle growth and recovery. Externally administered testosterone is known as exogenous, and is the main ingredient in anabolic steroids, which are banned in sport as they artificially elevate the body’s natural testosterone levels, stimulating muscle growth. A person taking on exogenous testosterone is cheating. Testosterone naturally produced within the body is known as endogenous. What is less certain is the impact that endogenous testosterone levels have on muscle growth, as this is tied to many other biological factors. What is very uncertain is the impact that endogenous testosterone has on athletic performance and whether it results in a competitive advantage.
  • The Trouble With Too Much T, Karkazis K and Jordan-Young R, The New York Times, (10 April 2014). From 2011, major sports governing bodies, including the International Olympic Committee, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association and the International Association of Athletics Federations, instituted new eligibility rules that were intended to quell the outrage over the handling of the Caster Semenya case. Instead, as recent cases attest, they may have made things worse.  

The IAAF Hyperandrogenism regulations were challenged in 2014 by athlete Dutee Chand in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and initially suspended for two years to give the opportunity for more scientific evidence to be produced/provided.

In response to the interim CAS award, Chand v AFI and IAAF CAS 2014/A/3759 (24 July 2015), the IOC Consensus Meeting recommended that rules should be in place for the protection of women in sport and the promotion of the principles of fair competition. The IAAF, with support from other International Federations, National Olympic Committees, and other sports organisations, were encouraged to revert to CAS any arguments and evidence to support the reinstatement of hyperandrogenism rules that are based upon evidence. Finally, to avoid discrimination, if an athlete is not eligible for female competition, they should be eligible to compete in male competition.

Dutee Chand challenge to the IAAF Hyperandrogenism Regulations (2014)  

After being ruled ineligible to compete as a female athlete at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games Indian athlete Dutee Chand challenged the validity of the IAAF to have a ‘hyperandrogenism’ (e.g. a naturally occurring condition in which a female has an abnormally high level of testosterone) regulation that excludes female athletes from competing. In hearing the evidence, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) determined that the regulation unlawfully discriminated against female athletes who possess a particular natural physical characteristic. CAS also determined that the regulation may be flawed in its factual assumptions saying that the relationship between testosterone and improved athletic performance was unclear, particularly when the relationship is naturally occurring. The case raised complex legal, scientific and ethical issues regarding the naturally occurring variation in human physiology. In its decision, CAS suspended the IAAF regulation for a period of two years, allowing the IAAF and the scientific community time to study the complex nature of naturally occurring human variation.

  • CAS suspends the IAAF hyperandrogenism regulations (PDF  - 9.4 MB), Court of Arbitration for Sport, Case Number CAS 2014/A/3759 (2014). The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has issued an Interim Award in the arbitration procedure between the Indian athlete, Dutee Chand, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). The judgement suspends, for a two year period, the IAAF regulation governing the eligibility of females with hyperandrogenism (e.g. naturally high level of testosterone) to compete in women’s events. The IAAF can use the two year period to provide CAS with scientific evidence about the quantitative relationship between enhanced testosterone levels and improved athletic performance in hyperandrogenic athletes. Ms Dutee Chand is permitted to compete in athletics events at both national and international level as a female athlete.

In July 2017 the IAAF announced the release of new research funded by the IAAF and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The study, Serum androgen levels and their relation to performance in track and field: mass spectrometry results from 2127 observations in male and female elite athletes, describes and characterises serum androgen levels and their potential influence on athletic performance in both male and female elite athletes who participated at the 2011 and 2013 IAAF World Championships. It found that female athletes with high testosterone levels performed better in 400m, 400m hurdles, 800m, hammer throw, and pole vault. The margins of competitive benefit were between 1.8% and 4.5% better than female athletes with lower testosterone levels. This pattern was not found in male athletic events, or other female athletic events. The study formed part of the IAAF's evidence presented to the CAS in July. However, the IAAF confirmed that it would not have any effect on the World Championship in July 2017.

On July 28 2017 the CAS panel extended the suspension of the IAAF regulations for a further 2 months (until end September 2017). The decision noted that if the IAAF did not file any scientific evidence within the additional two-month period the Hyperandrogenism Regulations will be declared void. As no further evidence was provided these guidelines no longer applied anywhere in the sport.  

  • Levelling The Playing Field In Female Sport: New Research Published In The British Journal Of Sports Medicine. IAAF, (3 July 2017). New research has been published today in support of the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) currently suspended Hyperandrogenism Regulations.
  • Serum androgen levels and their relation to performance in track and field: mass spectrometry results from 2127 observations in male and female elite athletes. Bermon S., Garnier P., British Journal of Sports Medicine, (03 July 2017). The study describes and characterises serum androgen levels and their potential influence on athletic performance in both male and female elite athletes who participated at the 2011 and 2013 IAAF World Championships. It found that female athletes with high testosterone levels performed better in 400 m, 400 m hurdles, 800 m, hammer throw, and pole vault. The margins of competitive benefit were between 1.8% and 4.5% better than female athletes with lower testosterone levels. This pattern was not found in male athletic events, or other female athletic events.
  • Serum androgen profile and physical performance in women Olympic athletes. Eklund E., Berglund B., Labrie F., et.al., British Journal of Sports Medicine, (23 June 2017). This study examined the serum androgen profile in relation to body composition and physical performance in women Olympic athletes and to compare endocrine variables and body composition to controls. The results suggest that endogenous androgens are associated with a more anabolic body composition and enhanced performance in women athletes. These results are of importance for the current discussion regarding hyperandrogenism in women athletes.

IAAF Eligibility Regulations for the Female Classification (Athletes with Differences of Sex Development) (2018) 

In April 2018 the IAAF introduced new eligibility regulations for female classification, which will take effect from November 2018. These regulations require athletes with a Difference of Sexual Development (DSD) which increase serum testosterone levels to reduce and maintain a level of blood testosterone to below 5 nmol/L in order to be able to compete in 'Restricted Events'. These events include: 400m, hurdles races, 800m, 1500m, one mile races, and combined events over the same distances.

In June 2018 Caster Semenya and Athletics South Africa then filed a request for arbitration with the CAS to have the new Regulations ruled invalid.  

On 1 May 2019 the CAS ruled that the joint requests of Caster Semenya and Athletics South Africa had failed to establish that the DSD Regulations were 'invalid'. The Panel found that the DSD Regulations are discriminatory but the majority of the Panel found that, on the basis of the evidence submitted by the parties, such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF’s aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics in the Restricted Events. However, the Panel also expressed some concerns about the regulations including the difficulties of implementing the DSD Regulations, the limited amount of reliable evidence of significant athletic advantage in some events (suggesting that the IAAF should defer applying the regulations in the 1500m and 1 mile events until sufficient evidence was produced), and concerns about potential side effects for the athletes which might, in future, lead to a different conclusion regarding the DSD Regulations. Following the Ruling Caster Semenya has stated that she will not take hormonal treatment to reduce her testosterone levels, and the World Medical Association has strongly advocated for doctors to not implement the new regulations, citing ethical and individual health concerns. 

Temporary suspension of IAAF Eligibility Regulations for the Female Classification (Athletes with Differences of Sex Development) (June 2019)

On 3 June 2019, following an appeal against the CAS decision filed by Caster Semenya and Athletics South Africa, the Swiss Federal Tribunal issued a temporary suspension of the IAAF Regulations until 25 June 2019. The IAAF has stated that they will respond to the appeal submission by this time. During the suspension Caster Semenya is able to continue competing in middle distance events, but the 'superprovisional order' does not apply to any other athlete. 

There have been an increasing number of researchers suggesting that there may be a need to re-think gender and sport competition as more nuanced than a strict male/female segregation. 

One alternative classification procedure to the current IOC standards has been suggested by Roger Pielke. He argues that since biological factors are not the sole determinant of gender the current policies are inadequate, and not in-line with the stated aims of the relevant international bodies (i.e. IOC and IAAF).

Sugar, spice and everything nice: how to end ‘sex testing’ in international athletics. Roger Pielke Jr., International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, (28 August 2017). For more than a half century, sports officials have looked to science to provide a clear distinction between men and women for purposes of determining who is eligible to participate in women’s athletic competitions. However, the science of sex provides overwhelming evidence that there is no such clear biological demarcation that differentiates men and women. Despite this evidence, the IOC and the IAAF in 2011 implemented a form of ‘sex testing’ based on androgens, and specifically, testosterone levels in females. This paper evaluates this policy, finding it contradictory to scientific understandings of sex and counter to widely held social norms about gender. The paper recommends an alternative approach to determining eligibility for participation in women’s sports events, one more consistent with the stated values of sports organisations, and more generally, with principles of human dignity.  

In summary, Pielke instead proposes that:  

  • The athlete’s legal status would alone be insufficient to determine the eligibility to participate athletic events.
  • Participation in the men’s or women’s competitions would be determined initially by the athlete in the first instance of participating in organised national or international competition segregated into men’s and women’s categories.
  • Upon reaching senior competition and legal adulthood, the athlete would sign an affidavit testifying to his/her gender.
  • Consistency in participation in men’s or women’s competitions would be required from the first instance through senior (i.e. adult, open) competitions.
  • In those rare cases where an athlete wishes to change gender categories, policies and procedures would cover this contingency.
Are ‘sex testing’ policies ready for change? Mads A. Wickstrøm, Play the Game, (4 September 2017).

Time to re-evaluate gender segregation in athletics? Foddy B and Savulescu J, British Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 45(15), (2011). The case of Caster Semenya provides a vivid illustration of the ways in which natural genetic variation can generate large differences in athletic performance. Once we recognise that gender is not a binary quantity, sex segregation in competitive sport must be seen as an inconsistent and unjust policy, no matter what stance we take on the goals of sport. 

Transwomen in elite sport: scientific and ethical considerations, Taryn Knox, Lynley C Anderson, Alison Heather, Journal of Medical Ethics, Volume 45(6), (July 2019). The inclusion of elite transwomen athletes in sport is controversial. The recent International Olympic Committee (IOC) (2015) guidelines allow transwomen to compete in the women’s division if (amongst other things) their testosterone is held below 10 nmol/L. This is significantly higher than that of cis-women. Science demonstrates that high testosterone and other male physiology provides a performance advantage in sport suggesting that transwomen retain some of that advantage. To determine whether the advantage is unfair necessitates an ethical analysis of the principles of inclusion and fairness. Particularly important is whether the advantage held by transwomen is a tolerable or intolerable unfairness. We conclude that the advantage to transwomen afforded by the IOC guidelines is an intolerable unfairness. This does not mean transwomen should be excluded from elite sport but that the existing male/female categories in sport should be abandoned in favour of a more nuanced approach satisfying both inclusion and fairness.

No clear evidence of trans women athlete advantage - researcher, Radio New Zealand, (18 July 2019). A suggestion transgender women athletes should compete in their own category to remove any unfair advantage is being challenged. 

Why it might be time to eradicate sex segregation in sports, Roslyn Kerr, Senior Lecturer in Sociology of Sport, Lincoln University, New Zealand, The Conversation, (15 January 2018). In our research we argue that one way to move beyond problematic gender barriers is to eradicate sex segregation completely and replace it with a system similar to that used in Paralympic sport. 

 

Transgender people and sport

Transgender image

The high profile case of American Tennis player Renee Richards [Wikipedia] highlights the transitory nature of sports policy relating to gender determination and highlights that it is often a matter for the legal system to determine. Born a male, Richard Raskind competed as a junior tennis player and became nationally ranked and a high school champion. He continued to compete as an adult male and reached the final of the US national 35-and-over tennis championships in 1972. Richard Raskind then underwent gender reassignment surgery and hormonal treatment, becoming Renee Richards. Ms Richards sought to compete as a female tennis professional but was barred from playing as a woman in the 1976 U.S. Open Tennis tournament unless she submitted to chromosomal testing. Richards brought legal action against the United States Tennis Association and won the right to compete in 1977 without submitting to any testing. Richards played as a tennis professional from 1977 to 1981 and achieved a career high ranking of 20 in 1979 and reached the women’s doubles final at the U.S. Open in 1977.

Robust research studies on the performance capabilities of elite transgender athletes currently do not exist, primarily because of methodological considerations involving sample size and measurement protocols. However, existing evidence suggests that transgender athletes, particularly male to female, do not automatically have an advantage once their gender reassignment is complete.  

The doctrines of law, fairness, ethics, and personal gender identity have been applied to make the case for transgender athletes to compete. 

Transgender policies and practices

Federal organisations 

Australian Human Rights Commission

In 2019 the Australian Human Rights Commission (ARHC), Sport Australia [formerly the Australian Sports Commission], and the Coalition of Major Professional & Participation Sports (COMPPS) published guidelines to provide clarity on the law, particularly the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, and to help promote the inclusion and participation of trans, gender diverse and intersex people in sport. The guidelines are relevant to both elite and non-elite organisations and individuals. In June 2018 an issues paper was released by the AHRC to help guide the consultation process with stakeholders. It provides participants with: an overview of the Act, including the exemption provisions, and information regarding common barriers to inclusion faced by trans and intersex athletes. 

  • Guidelines for the inclusion of transgender and gender diverse people in sport, Australian Human Rights Commission in partnership with Sport Australia and the Coalition of Major Professional & Participation Sports, (June 2019). These Guidelines have been developed by the Australian Human Rights Commission (the Commission), in partnership with Sport Australia and the Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports (COMPPS), to provide guidance to sporting organisations on promoting the inclusion and participation of transgender and gender diverse people in sport.The Guidelines provide information about the operation of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (the Act) in relation to unlawful and permissible discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity, sexual harassment, and victimisation as well as practical guidance for promoting inclusion in line with fundamental human rights-based principles. 
  • Reflective Practice Framework, Australian Human Rights Commission, (June 2019). The Commission has also developed this Reflective Practice Framework to assist Sport Australia and COMPPS monitor the implementation and impact of the 2019 Guidelines for the inclusion of transgender and gender diverse people in sport.

Sport Australia

As well as being a key partner in the development of the 'Guidelines for the inclusion of transgender and gender diverse people in sport', Sport Australia has also developed a 'Member Protection Policy Template' to assist National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) to develop their own sport-specific member protection policies. Section 6.6 of the Template includes information relevant to Gender Identity and a statement by the organisation that they are committed to providing a safe, fair and inclusive sporting environment where all people can contribute and participate. 

  • Member protection policy template, Sport Australia, (April 2016). NSOs recognised by Sport Australia are required to have a Member Protection Policy or equivalent. The Template was developed to assist NSOs to write their own sport-specific member protection policy. It is one of several steps to address issues of harassment, discrimination and child protection within organisations.

State organisations

Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

  • Everyone Can Play: Guidelines for local clubs on best practice for inclusion of transgender and intersex participants (PDF  - 1.6 MB), Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Human Rights Commission (2017). This publication is aimed at local, state/territory and national sporting organisations and clubs involved in non-elite sporting activities. It can also help individuals and players to understand their rights within a non-elite sporting context. It offers practical information about intersex and transgender issues within a non-elite sporting context where the focus is on facilitating participation of all people.

Victoria
  • Guideline: Trans and gender diverse inclusion in sport – complying with the Equal Opportunity Act 2010Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission (2017). This guideline outlines obligations under the Equal Opportunity Act regarding discrimination against trans and gender diverse people in sport. It provides practical guidance for sporting clubs and organisations about promoting an inclusive environment, being proactive in preventing discrimination and responding appropriately if it occurs.
  • School Policy & Advisory Guide: Gender IdentityGovernment of Victoria, Department of Education and Training (last updated July 2017). The purpose of these guidelines is to ensure schools support students’ gender identity, including those with intersex status, in line with State legislation, the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act 2010 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1984.
    • New state guidelines for transgender students and school sport, Cook H, The Age (21 January 2016). Transgender students are often excluded from school sport programs, and can spend years on the sidelines while their classmates play sport. Victorian schools will soon have to follow strict new participation guidelines aimed at tackling discrimination against transgender students in sport. for the first time, school policy will explicitly mention transgender and gender diverse students. The Victorian Department of Education is working with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to support the Fair go, sport! schools project designed to make schools safer and more inclusive for same-sex attracted and sex and gender diverse students, primarily through sport.

Sporting organisations 

National and state sporting organisation polices may specifically address transgender participation (i.e. particularly in regard to competitive events) or transgender athletes may be covered under more comprehensive member protection policies. As all NSOs recognised by Sport Australia are required to have a Member Protection Policy or equivalent this is not a comprehensive list of all such policies, however, examples of how sports have incorporated the wording from the Member Protection Policy Template into their policy documents is evident in several of the documents below. 

Archery iconArchery

  • Transgender Policy, Archery Australia, (June 2018). Archery Australia adopts the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Transgender Policy currentlyin place or which can be amended from time to time by the IOC.

AFL iconAustralian Football 

  • AFL Victoria Community League Affiliate Regulations (PDF  - 205 KB), AFL Victoria, (February 2019). Regulation 4 – Gender Regulation specifies the requirements for participation of males and females within Australian Football competitions conducted by AFL VIC and AFL VIC Affiliates, in accordance with the Equal Opportunity Act 1995 (VIC). 
Basketball-smallBasketball
  • Basketball Australia Member Protection By-Law (PDF  - 758 KB), Basketball Australia (June 2018). Item 6.6 of this policy covers ‘Gender Identity’. In general, Basketball Australia (BA) will facilitate transgender persons participating in the gender with which they identify. If issues of performance advantage arise, we will consider whether the established discrimination exceptions for participation in sport are relevant in the circumstances. For transgender persons intending to compete at an elite level BA will encourage these athletes to obtain advice about the IOC’s, Commonwealth Games Federation and FIBA's criteria which may differ from BA's. 

cricket-smallCricket

  • Cricket Australia takes action to include transgender and gender diverse people, Cricket Australia media release, (8 August 2019). Cricket Australia has today announced the direction for the inclusion of transgender and gender diverse people in elite and community cricket. Commencing consultation with key stakeholders in October 2018, Cricket Australia has developed an Elite Cricket Policy and Guidelines for Community Cricket to support players electing to participate in cricket in line with their gender identity, whether or not this aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth.
    • The CA inclusion of transgender and gender diverse players in elite cricket (PDF  - 375 KB) aligns closely with the International Cricket Council’s Eligibility on the Basis of Gender Recognition and provides transgender and gender diverse cricketers guidance on how they can compete at the highest levels of the sport, consistent with their gender identity. As an additional measure, a referral process to an Expert Panel has been established to ensure fair and meaningful competition. 
    • The Guidelines for the inclusion of transgender and gender diverse people in community cricket (PDF  - 2.2 MB) will assist clubs, players, administrators, coaches and other volunteers deliver a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment, free of harassment and discrimination for gender diverse players at the game’s grassroots.
    • Inclusion of transgender and gender diverse people in Australian Cricket, Cricket Australia, YouTube, (7 August 2019). Alex Blackwell (Australian Cricketer and former Australian Captain) and Erica James (transgender cricketer from Universities Women’s Cricket Club in Sydney, NSW) explain the Elite Cricket Policy and Community Cricket Guidelines
  • The International Cricket Council Gender Recognition Policy (PDF  - 645 KB), International Cricket Council, (February 2017).  
cyclingCycling
  • Cycling Australia National Member Protection Policy (PDF  - 289 KB). Cycling Australia, (April 2018). Position Statement 6.6 relates to Gender Identity and sets out clear expectations about providing safe, fair, and inclusive sporting environments for all CA members regardless of gender identity or intersex status. Additionally in regards to participation CA has a two-pronged approach to pre-elite and elite competition: In the case of club or inter-club events we support participation on the basis of the gender with which a person identifies. In the case of participation at State, National and International levels CA will apply the International Olympic Committee (IOC) criteria for selection and participation. Where a transgender person intends to compete at these levels, we will encourage them to obtain advice about the IOC’s criteria which may differ from the position we have taken.

golf-smallGolf

  • Golf Australia Gender PolicyGolf Australia, (last updated 5 August 2016). This policy applies to participation in all Golf Australia (GA) National Championships and the issuing of Australian Golf Handicaps. There are no medical eligibility restrictions on female to male transgender persons, and they are eligible to compete in male Competitions and to hold a Men’s GA Handicap upon declaration to GA that their gender identity is male. Male to female transgender persons are eligible for participation in female Competitions and eligible to hold a Women’s GA Handicap, under the following conditions:  
    • the Player has declared to GA that her gender identity is female. The declaration cannot be changed, for sporting purposes, for a minimum of four years;  
    • the Player must demonstrate to GA that her total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to participation in her first female Competition (with the requirement for any longer period to be based on a confidential case-by-case evaluation, considering whether or not 12 months is a sufficient length of time to minimise any advantage in women's Competition);
    • the Player's total testosterone level in serum must remain below 10 nmol/L throughout the period of desired eligibility to compete in the female category; o compliance with these conditions may be monitored periodically by testing by GA. In the event of non-compliance, the Player's eligibility for female Competition will be suspended for 12 months. 
    • If the gender of a Player is questioned by any party, the Medical Delegate of GA shall have the authority to take all appropriate measures for the determination of the gender of a Player as set out in the Clauses below. A confidential case-by-case evaluation will occur.
Netball-smallNetball
  • Netball Australia Member Protection Policy (PDF  - 307 KB), Netball Australia (April 2017). Section 11 of this policy includes a position statement on ‘Gender Identity’. In general, Netball Australia and its Member Organisations and Affiliates will support participation in netball on the basis of the gender with which a person identifies. If issues of performance advantage arise, Netball Australia will seek advice on the application of relevant laws in the particular circumstance.  
  • Gender Regulation, Netball Victoria, (January 2019). NV supports participation in netball on the basis of the gender with which a person identifies. If issues arise, NV and its Affiliates will seek advice on the application of the applicable Victorian discrimination laws for the particular circumstances.  NV is committed to providing a safe, fair and inclusive sporting environment where all people can contribute and participate. 

rugby-Union-smallRugby Union

  • Gender Identity Dispensation Procedure  (PDF  - 324 KB), Rugby Australia, (accessed 13 August 2019). Rugby Australia recognises that encouraging people to participate in sporting events and activities is beneficial for their health, wellbeing and involvement in community life. Rugby Australia is committed to supporting a player’s participation in the gender with which they identify, provided that it is safe for them and all other participants. In order to ensure safe participation in a gender competition that differs from the gender identified on a player’s birth certificate, this ‘Gender Identity Dispensation Procedure’ must be followed.

Sport climbing imageSport Climbing

  • Transgender Transsexual Athlete Policy (PDF  - 450 KB), Sport Climbing Australia, (2017). Changing social views and laws affecting sexuality has meant an increasing number of cases of transgender/transsexual athletes in sport. In this policy, a transgender/transsexual means a person who was born one sex and now identifies with, and lives as, another sex, and includes a person who has undergone a sex reassignment procedure and a person who does not identify as either a man or woman (intersex).  

The Medical and Scientific Commission of the International Olympic Committee met in 2015 to create updated guidelines that international sport governing bodies could adopt regarding transgender athletes competing internationally. The new policy removed the need to undergo gender-reassignment surgery to compete (as per the 2003 Stockholm Consensus Statement on Sex Reassignment in Sports).

Changes were made because of the growing recognition of the importance of autonomy of gender identity in society, as reflected in the laws of many jurisdictions worldwide. However, as there are also jurisdictions where autonomy of gender identity is not recognised in law it was considered necessary for the IOC to ensureinsofar as possiblethat trans athletes are not excluded from the opportunity to participate in sporting competition. 

The overriding objective of the IOC is, and remains, to guarantee fair competition. Restrictions on participation are appropriate only to the extent that they are necessary and proportionate to achieve that objective. Nothing in the IOC guidelines is intended to undermine in any way the requirement to comply with the World Anti-Doping Code and the WADA international standards. The IOC guidelines are considered to be a living document and will be subject to review in light of any scientific or medical developments. In this spirit, the IOC Consensus Meeting agreed the following guidelines need to be taken into account by sport organisations when determining eligibility to compete in male and female competition. Two general principles are applied:

  1. Athletes who transition from female to male are eligible to compete in the male category without restriction; and,
  2. Athletes who transition from male to female are eligible to compete in the female category under the following conditions:
    2.1 The athlete has declared that her gender identity is female. The declaration cannot be changed, for sporting purposes, for a minimum of four years.
    2.2 The athlete must demonstrate that her total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to her first competition; with the requirement for any longer period to be based on a confidential case-by-case evaluation, considering whether or not 12 months is a sufficient length of time to minimize any advantage in women's competition.
    2.3 The athlete's total testosterone level in serum must remain below 10 nmol/L throughout the period of desired eligibility to compete in the female category.
    2.4 Compliance with these conditions may be monitored by testing. In the event of non-compliance, the athlete's eligibility for female competition will be suspended for 12 months.

Many international governments and their agencies (e.g. UK Sport, Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES), etc.) are working with sports organisations to improve policies and practices as they relate to transgender participants. A number of guidelines have been published to assist sport organisations in developing policies and practices for transgender participants that will help to make sport more inclusive.

Canada

United Kingdom (UK)

  • Transsexual People and Competitive Sport: Guidance for National Governing Bodies of Sport (PDF  - 1.7 MB), Faulkner L, UK Sport (2013). As more transsexual people are involved in competitive sport in the UK and as our understanding of the issues that they face, both legally and medically, increases UK Sport will continue to share good practice and knowledge in this area. The purpose of this guidance is to assist National Governing Bodies of sport (NGBs) in determining what steps they can take to provide an inclusive environment that is supporting and welcoming to transsexual people. The specific aims of this publication are to: (1) increase the confidence and competence of administrators in sport with regard to supporting transsexual people to play competitive sport; (2) provide a ten‐point action plan that, when implemented, will support NGBs to provide a more inclusive environment for transsexual people; (3) ensure administrators in sport are dealing with the issues facing transsexual people seeking to play competitive sport in a way that is fair to everyone; (4) provide the legal and relevant compliance framework within which all sports operate; (5) promote inclusion for all people within the sport by providing model frameworks for transsexual people to play competitive sport; and (6) provide technical information to help sports develop the appropriate policies and procedures. 
  • Transsexual people and sport: Guidance for sporting bodies (PDF  - 108 KB), Government of the United Kingdom, Department of Culture, Media and Sport  and UK Sport (2005). The purpose of this guidance is to assist those involved in running or administering organised and competitive sport in the United Kingdom to deal with the very special set of circumstances that transsexual people present.

United States (USA)

  • Transathlete. This website provides a comprehensive overview of available policies for schools (K-12), College, Recreation leagues, by organisation (which includes international), and Professional sports leagues. There is significant variation in the requirements - from self-identification to requiring surgical intervention across the various jurisdictions and individual organisations. 
  • NCAA Inclusion of Transgender Student-Athletes, NCAA, (2010). The recommended NCAA policy requires one year of hormone treatment as a condition prior to competing on a female team. Conversely, athletes assigned female at birth remain eligible to compete in women’s sports unless or until that athlete begins a physical transition using hormones (testosterone).
  • USA Cycling Policy on Transgender Athlete Participation (PDF  - 289 KB), USA Cycling, (June 2016). A detailed and specific policy that clearly identifies USA Cycling's commitment to equal access and opportunities to participate for all. At a non-elite level members may self-select gender with provisions available for members who have transitioned to be evaluated and placed into an appropriate category based on experience. At an elite level USA Cycling follows IOC guidelines. 

In October 2017 the Australian Football League (AFL) discovered some of the issues which can arise when an organisation does not have a clear policy on transgender participation, particularly at the elite level.

Hannah Mouncey [Wikipedia], a transgender female, was blocked from entering the AFL Women’s (AFLW) Draft to compete in the 2018 season. The decision—taken by a subcommittee established only shortly before the Draft—determined that due to the early stage of maturity of the AFLW competition (i.e. only the second season), and Mouncey’s individual circumstances she would not be allowed to nominate for the 2018 competition.The ‘personal circumstances’ appear to be related to her physique, being 190cm tall and weighing 100kg, and potential strength/stamina advantages from prior to transition, although her testosterone levels were also reported to be below the IOC’s recommended thresholds. The decision referenced the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act, which states that athletes can be discriminated against based on their sex or gender "if strength, stamina or physique is relevant".

Despite this decision in regards to the elite AFLW competition Mouncey was allowed to continue playing in the ACT AFLW competition and also played in the Victorian VFLW in 2018. The AFL also stated that the decision did not mean that she could not apply for future AFLW drafts. 

The decision elicited widespread commentary in the media and community, with many arguing both for and against the decision. However,whether one believes that in-or-ex-clusion of transgender athletes is good or bad for women’s competitions, the case clearly demonstrates the importance of having clear gender and inclusion policies, guidelines, and pathways for all levels of competition, and particularly at the elite level. The AFLW is a professional league where players can earn a living. Unclear or unequal application of guidelines could potentially lead to a discrimination case in court.

In August 2018 the AFL released their Gender Diversity Policy - AFLW & AFL to provide a framework for the inclusion of gender diverse players at the elite level of Australian Rules Football. The policy requires a transgender woman, or non-binary person, who wishes to play at the elite level in the sport to show that their testosterone levels are below 5 nanomoles per litre of blood at the time they apply and have been so for at least the previous 2 years before the date of their application. They also must provide a range of data about their physical characteristics and athletic output that will be compared to data from cis-gendered AFLW players [cis-gender is a term used to describe a person whose personal identity and gender ate he same as their birth sex]. The policy will be reviewed every two years and a new policy and guideline for community AFL is expected to be published in 2019. 

In September 2018 Mouncey announced that she would not nominate for the 2018 AFLW draft, despite meeting the new medical conditions, citing poor treatment by the AFL behind the scenes and the ongoing toll on both herself and her loved ones. The Policy was also met with criticism (including from Mouncey) for using weight as one of the key physical measures for potential exclusion of transgender women. Some commentators argued that this factor of the policy was potentially damaging and stigmatising for larger women (both cis and trans-gender) at all levels of the game.  

Since withdrawing from playing Australian football Mouncey has been selected as a member of the Australian Women's Handball team. 

  • Hannah Mouncey helps Australia qualify for Women's World Handball Championships, WWOS staff, (11 December 2018). Hannah Mouncey has helped the Australian women's team qualify for the Handball World Championships. 
  • Representing my country again, Hannah Mouncey, PlayersVoice, (31 August 2018). I have always been a handball player first. It’s the one constant I’ve had in my life from the age of 18 up until now, almost 30, and all the changes that have happened in between. As much as I’ve tried to get that across, it has somehow always got lost in the media’s obsession with football and the mainstream sporting codes.

Where possible, direct links to full-text and online resources are provided. However, where links are not available, you may be able to access documents directly by searching our licenced full-text databases (note: user access restrictions apply). Alternatively, you can ask your institutional, university, or local library for assistance—or purchase documents directly from the publisher. You may also find the information you’re seeking by searching Google Scholar.

print-mediaMedia releases

Finder iconPosition statements

ReadingReading

  • Cricket Australia’s new gender rules give much-needed clarity to athletes and clubs, Daryl Adair, Associate Professor of Sport Management, University of Technology Sydney, The Conversation, (8 August 2019). Cricket Australia has made a significant contribution to gender diversity policy by producing a very detailed set of rules for elite-level cricket, and guidelines for community cricket. They provide much needed clarity around what’s expected of transgender and gender diverse athletes, and what’s being asked of cricket clubs.
  • LGBT discrimination in sport highlighted after a week in the headlines, Candice Prosser, ABC News, (5 May 2019). In a week when issues of gender and sexuality in sport have been in the spotlight, new research has found many LGBT athletes feel unsafe and vulnerable — but attitudes are changing.
  • List of LGBT sportspeopleWikipedia, (accessed 18 June 2019).
  • Paving the way for transgender cyclists: The story of Jillian Bearden. Anne-Marije Rook, Ella Cycling Tips, (10 December 2016). Article provides background information on American racer Jillian Bearden who won the El Tour de Tucson in November 2016 after previously competing at an elite level as a man. Also includes her pre- and post-transition power numbers.
  • Schuyler Bailar to be first openly transgender collegiate swimmer, Merrill E, Swimming World Magazine, published online (17 June 2015). Swimming is a sport where men and women may train together, but compete separately by gender. Schuyler Bailar was an extremely talented age-group swimmer, having been part of a girls 15-18 years National Age-Group record relay team. He is now a rising freshman member of the Harvard Men’s Swimming Team. An article appearing in the Washington Post, traces the athlete's self-reckoning and a lifelong quest to feel comfortable with his own sexual identity. Bailar, a 172cm, 77kg athlete, struggled for years as a woman with depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and eating disorders. Now he is seen as a pioneer and role model for transgender persons as society openly addresses traditional male/female gender lines. Switching from the women’s to the men’s swimming squad meant that Bailar would go from being one of the school's strongest female swimmers to possibly the back of the pack on the men's team. "It meant giving up the goals I had set for myself as a swimmer," Bailar said. Though he bears scars across his chest from surgery to remove his breasts and mammary glands - and he faces some fears about living as a man - he feels better now than he ever has. And the world, so far, has been far more accepting than he imagined.
  • Testing, hormones, hatred: What it’s like to compete as a transgender athlete, Edwards M, McCormack A, Lauder J and McVeigh S, ABC Radio Triple J, text published online (28 July 2016). The 2016 Olympics in Rio will be more inclusive to transgender athletes, as trans men and women for the first time will not be required to undergo gender reassignment surgery to compete. Transgender athletes Chris Mosier (triathlon) and Joanna Harper (distance running) tell their stories.
  • The transgender athlete, Torre P and Epstein D, Sports Illustrated, Volume 116, Issue 22 (2012). For transgender men and women, the physiological traits that distinguish them as male or female don't conform to how they feel about themselves. Some transgender’s have undergone sex reassignment surgery or hormone therapy to make their biological and gender identities match. Others, such as the 28-year-old hammer thrower from the United States, Keelin Godsey, have not. He was born as a female and therefore competes as a female, but he identifies as male. Godsey is the first American Olympic contender in any sport to openly identify as transgender. This article discusses the ethical issue of transgender athletes in US sports and points out how the concept of being transgender still provokes extreme prejudice and hostility; transgender athletes are subjected to a high degree of victimisation. 
  • United Nations – Statement from the Secretary-General, Sochi, Russian Federation, (6 February 2014). This statement contains the remarks of Secretary-General Ban Key-moon at the 126th Session of the International Olympic Committee. The Secretary stated that the Olympics show the power of sport to bring together individuals regardless of age, race, class, religion, ability, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • USA Volleyball hits back at criticism after transgender player cleared to compete, Etchells D, Inside the Games, (10 April 2017). This article summarises the case of male-born Tia Thompson, who was approved by USA Volleyball to compete as a female, thus opening the possibility of earning a place on the USA Women’s Olympic Volleyball team. USA Volleyball has transgender guidelines that allow inclusion of transgender athletes in USA Volleyball events in the gender in which they self-identify, yet also prioritises a fair and competitive landscape. However, the guidelines do not apply to athletes desiring to represent the United States in the Olympic Games, Paralympic Games, and all other international competitions which USA Volleyball controls, as the relevant governing body. In this case the transgender athlete was required to provide medical documentation to the USA Volleyball’s Gender Committee demonstrating that her testosterone levels do not exceed the upper limit of the normal reference range in their desired gender of play for their respective age group (i.e. in this case ‘adult’). The process took three years to complete.

Report iconReports

  • Discrimination of sexual and gender minorities in sports and exercise (PDF  - 851 KB), Kokkonen M, National Sports Council, Finland, (2014). This report is a summary of a study published in Finland and funded by a grant awarded by the Ministry of Education and Culture. Its starting point was concern about whether lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender identity (LGBTI) children, young people and adults have equal opportunities to adopt a physically active lifestyle. This study reports that more than one-third of LGBTI respondents were engaged in competitive sports and more than half in recreational sports. A detailed breakdown of survey results is provided.
  • Gender Diversity in the ACT: a survey of trans experiences (PDF  - 1.2 MB), David F, Hyndal L, Hyndal P, Ion J and Yates J, A Gender Agenda and Pink Tennis (2011). This report provides the results of a community-based survey of sex and gender diverse (SGD) members of the Canberra community and the issues they face. On the issue of social interactions, the majority (77% of survey respondents) indicated that they had no social interactions with teammates in sporting or other social activities. This indicates a significantly lower level of social engagement than that enjoyed by the general population.
  • Growing up queer: issues facing young Australians who are gender variant and sexuality diverse, Robinson K, Bansel P, Denson N and Ovenden G, Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, (February 2014). Growing up queer investigates the issues facing young Australians who are gender variant and sexuality diverse. More than 1000 young Australians aged between 16–27 years participated in a research study, with almost two-thirds reporting homophobic or transphobic harassment or violence across different aspects of their lives. From the information acquired, the researchers hope to develop innovative, relevant and engaging educational resources that would contribute to increasing professional and community awareness of their experiences and needs.
  • Issues Paper - National Guidelines: Trans and intersex inclusion in sportAustralian Human Rights Commission, (21 June 2018). This issues paper was released by the AHRC to help guide the consultation process with stakeholders in relation to the development of guidelines for trans and gender diverse inclusion in sport. It provides participants with: an overview of the Act, including the exemption provisions, and information regarding common barriers to inclusion faced by trans and intersex athletes.  
  • Study on gender-based violence in sport: Final Report (PDF  - 2.3 MB), Mergaert L, Arnaut C, Vertommen T and Lang M, European Commission, Directorate for Education and Culture (2016). This study provides an overview of legal and policy frameworks; describes initiatives promoted by sport and civil society organisations; identifies best practice in combatting gender-based violence in sport; and makes recommendations for future action. To establish a common understanding and to delimit the scope of the study, the definition of gender-based violence used was: “violence directed against a person because of that person's gender (including gender identity or expression) or violence that affects persons of a particular gender disproportionately”. Several forms of gender-based violence in sport were considered: verbal, non-verbal, physical abuse and sexual harassment. These forms are not mutually exclusive, but overlap. This study explicitly included violence against LGBTQ persons, and considered both male and female victims as well as perpetrators. Main findings from this study include: (1) The main focus of policies has been on prevention and protection actions. Other topics, such as assessment of any gender-based violence, measures to prosecute violence, and support programs for victims have received less attention. (2) The legal provisions in place across EU Member States use different terminology and vary greatly; there remains a general lack of clarity in legal contexts in relation to what a ‘sexual act’ entails.  (3) Less than half of the EU Member States make explicit reference to forms of gender-based violence in sport in their policy frameworks. Policy implementation (in many cases) is neither mandatory, nor followed up. (4) Initiatives taken by the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee are important because of their visibility and influence on national committees to comply. (5) Reliable data on gender-based violence is missing across the EU, and the problem may be underestimated; there is also a lack of research in this area. (6) Most of the identified prevention approaches target sports organisations and coaches. Efforts and resources to ensure a continuous implementation of activities and/or dissemination of materials appear to be scarce. Initiatives are generally not given enough visibility and are not easily accessible. The effectiveness of practices is rarely monitored or evaluated. (7) The concept of gender-based violence in sport brings together several concerns that tend to be addressed separately (rather than under a unified policy), such as: ethics; child protection; safe sport environments; and athletes’ welfare.
  • Writing Themselves in, 3 (PDF  - 2.8 MB), Hillier L, Jones T, Monagle M, Overton N, Gahan L, Blackman J and Mitchell A, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, (2010). This is the third national study on the sexual health and well-being of same sex attracted young people in Australia. This research suggests that the biggest issue is the ongoing and persistent damage done by homophobia in the lives of same sex attracted and gender questioning (SSAGQ) young people. Several recommendations were made that involve the sporting environment: (1) public safety—SSAGQ young people continue to experience high levels of homophobic violence and abuse not just at school but also on the street, in sport and at public and private events. Police programs which liaise with the gay community and seek to make reporting easier should be protected and expanded, and: (2) education—schools should have a specific policy on homophobic bullying which offers well-publicised protection to SSAGQ students. 

Research iconResearch

  • Attitudes and Sexual Prejudice in Sport and Physical Activity (PDF  - 125 KB), Gill D, Morrow R, Collins K, Lucey A and Schultz A, Journal of Sports Management, Volume 20(4), (2006). This study focused on attitudes and sexual prejudice as part of a larger project on inclusive practice in sport and physical activity settings. A large sample of undergraduate university students was surveyed to determine their attitudes toward gays, lesbians, and transgender groups. The survey results confirm persistent sexual prejudice toward these minority groups and suggest that to achieve effective diversity management these groups must be considered.
  • Coverage of the Gay Games from 1980-2012 in U.S. newspapers: An analysis of newspaper article framing (PDF  - 226 KB), Lee S, Kim S and Love A, Academia.edu, (published online 2014). Many members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community have viewed the Gay Games as an opportunity to challenge dominant ideologies concerning sexuality and sport participation. In conjunction with the growth of LGBT social movements, media coverage of LGBT individuals and issues has increased substantially in recent years. The ways in which an event such as the Gay Games might impact public perceptions can depend upon how the event and its participants are portrayed in mass media coverage.
  • Do transitioned athletes compete at an advantage or disadvantage as compared with physically born men and women: A review of the scientific literature (PDF  - 130 KB), Devries M, Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (2008). A review of the literature indicates that (at this time) there is no concrete evidence to either support or refute the position that transitioned athletes compete at an advantage or disadvantage as compared with physically born men and women athletes. Overall there is insufficient data regarding the effect of transitioning on athletic performance, and what data does exist has been taken from retrospective study designs. Much more rigorous research is needed before a consensus can be made. However, due to the low prevalence of transitioned athletes in the population, conducting these studies will be challenging.
  • Homophobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the EU Member States: Part II, The Social Situation(PDF  - 1.0 MB), 2009. Chapter 8 of the this report deals with sport. Within the European Union, the majority of country reports note that homophobia in sport is present in a number of sport contexts and that there are significant challenges related to being an openly LGBT person in sport. Existing research and data focus primarily on professional football.
  • Inclusive Spaces and Locker Rooms for Transgender Athletes, George B. Cunningham, Erin Buzuvis and Chris Mosier, Kinesiology Review, Volume 7(4), pp.365-374, (2017). The purpose of this article is to articulate the need for a strong commitment to transgender inclusion in sport and physical activity, including in locker rooms and team spaces. The authors begin by defining key constructs and offering a theoretical overview of stigma toward transgender individuals. The focus then shifts to the changing opportunities for transgender athletes at all participation levels, case law and rulings germane to the topic, and the psychological, physical, and social outcomes associated with inclusion and exclusion. Next, the authors present frequently voiced concerns about transgender inclusion, with an emphasis on safety and privacy. Given the review, the authors present the case for inclusive locker rooms, which permit access by transgender athletes to facilities that correspond to their gender identity. The authors conclude with the official AKA position statement—“The American Kinesiology Association endorses inclusive locker rooms, by which we mean sex-segregated facilities that are open to transgender athletes on the basis of their gender identity”—and implications for sport and physical activity.
  • Race times for Transgender Athletes, Harper J, Journal of Sporting Cultures and Identities, Volume 6(1), (2015). Despite International Olympic Committee regulations that now allow athletes who have undergone gender reassignment to compete in their chosen gender, there is still a widespread belief that transgender female athletes have a performance advantage over 46XX female competitors. This study analysed race times for eight transgender female runners, who have competed in distance races as both male and female, using a mathematical model called age-grading. Collectively, the age graded scores for these eight runners are the same in both genders. The reduction of testosterone and hemoglobin levels of transgender women after transition would suggest that endurance capabilities of transgender women athletes should be similar to those of 46XX women. It should be noted that these results are only valid for distance running; transgender women are generally taller and somewhat larger, on average, than 46XX women and this may present some potential advantage in other sports. From this small sample of high performance (but not elite) distance runners the author concludes that transgender women race at approximately the same level, for their respective age and gender, both before and after gender transition. 
  • Transgender and gender nonconforming athletes: Creating safe spaces for all, Morris J and Van Raalte J, Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, (2 June 2016). Transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) athletes face a number of challenges in a sport setting. This article provides information on how coaches can create more welcoming environments by using appropriate language, educating team members, and offering social support for TGNC athletes.
  • Transgender Netballers: ethical issues and lived realities, Tagg B, Sociology of Sport Journal, Volume 29(2), (2012). This article discusses the specific case of transgender players in men’s netball in New Zealand as a case study example of emerging issues surrounding transgender athletes’ participation in sport more broadly. While netball is primarily considered a female’s sport, it is also played by New Zealand men and there are men’s leagues as well as mixed-gender competitions. This article explores the debate and ideology surrounding the ‘fairness’ of gender assignment and sports competition. Men’s netball in New Zealand has historically provided a safe space for transgender players to network and find social support. Immigration to New Zealand of people from the Pacific Islands during the 1970s drew groups of predominantly Maori and Pacific Island transgender, or ‘fa’afafine women’ to sport. The fa’afafine people in Samoan culture are those who are biologically male but who express a range of stereotypically feminine gender identities. During the 1980s many male netball competitions were dominated by Maori and Polynesian gay, transgender, and fa’afafine athletes. This article examines the lived experiences of players during that era.
  • [Transgender] young men: gendered subjectivities and the physically active body, Caudwell J, Sport, Education and Society, Volume 19, Number 4 (2014). This paper discusses the social, physical, and embodied experiences of transgender young men’s participation in sport. To date, much of the work on sport and gender has focused on lesbian's and gay men’s participation in sport and physical education. The general ignorance surrounding transgender participation perpetuates prejudice at both institutional and individual levels. Transgender people face multiple exclusions in sport, and these exclusions involve rejection of the transgender body and abjectification of transgender participants. This abjectification is evident at institutional and policy level as well as at the level of informal individual interactions between students. 
  • Transsexual and transgender policies in sport, Sykes H, Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal, Volume 15(1), (2006). This article examines the state of gender policies in sport in relation to transsexual rights legislation and gender identity activism. The author concludes that current policies do not demonstrate an overall increase in acceptance of gender variance in the world of sport.
  • Transsexuals in Sport: fairness and freedom, regulation and law (PDF  - 248 KB), Coggona J, Hammondb N, and Holm S, Sport, Ethics and Philosophy, Volume 2, Issue 1 (2008). This paper provides an analysis of the justification for maintaining sex segregation in some sports, as well as making a case for the rights of transsexuals to be recognised in their new sex. On the basis of British law the authors evaluate existing rules for the participation of transsexuals in elite sports; considering: (1) the UK guidelines issued in pursuance of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, and (2) the International Olympic Committee’s guidelines. The authors argue that the IOC guidelines conflict with British law and a modified set of criteria is justified.  

resources iconResources

  • Canadian Sport Risk Registry. The Canadian Sport Risk Registry contains a list of common risks already identified by sport leaders including the risk of 'lack of inclusion'. The risks and solutions have been presented generically and anonymously, with a view to providing helpful insight to help sport leaders.
  • Fair Go, Sport! Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.
  • Good practice handbook, No. 4 – LGBT inclusion in sport, Englefield L, Council of Europe (2012). This handbook on good practices gives a practical look at the political commitment made by Council of Europe member states in the fight against homophobia in sport. This handbook also  examines the reasons for the widespread and continued exclusion of LGBT people from mainstream sport; examines the nature and mechanisms of prejudice and discrimination towards LGBT people in sport, and; highlights the costs of this exclusion. The handbook gives examples of good practice in working with both young people and adults to tackle homophobia in sport and to create more inclusive and tolerant sporting environments in which all LGBT athletes can flourish.
  • Guideline: Trans and gender diverse inclusion in sport – complying with the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission (2017). This guideline is an update of the Commission’s 2015 Guideline: Transgender people and sport. It outlines obligations under the Equal Opportunity Act regarding discrimination against trans and gender diverse people in sport. It provides practical guidance for sporting clubs and organisations about promoting an inclusive environment, being proactive in preventing discrimination and responding appropriately if it occurs.
  • It Takes A Team! Education Campaign for LGBT Issues in Sport: a resource for high school and collegiate athletic programs (PDF  - 55 KB), Case Western Reserve University. This power-point presentation is intended to educate persons working in sport about issues related to sexual identity, and make sport a safe place for lesbian and gay athletes and coaches.
  • Media reference guide, 8th edition (PDF  - 478 KB), Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), (2010). Fair, accurate, and inclusive news media coverage has played an important role in expanding public awareness and understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) lives. The use of appropriate language and terminology helps to eliminate defamatory rhetoric that may fuel prejudice and discrimination.
  • NCAA inclusion of transgender student-athletes (PDF  - 1.3 MB), Griffin P and Carroll H, National Collegiate Athletic Association (2011). The NCAA believes in, and is committed to, diversity, inclusion and gender equity among its student-athletes, coaches and administrators. This resource provides guidelines for NCAA athletic programs, so they can ensure that a fair, legal, and inclusive environment exists for transgender student-athletes. There are also policy and best practice recommendations for college administrators to ensure the safety, privacy and dignity of transgender athletes.
  • Pride Sports. This UK organisation has published several guides to assist National governing bodies, including:
  • Sporty & Gay, You can be both (PDF  - 102 KB), Sport Charter, Sport Wales (2014). [note: text in English and Welsh] Sport Wales has a vision to create a thriving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) sporting community within Wales, where individuals feel welcome, safe and free from discrimination. We believe that everyone should be able to participate in, and enjoy sport, whoever they are and whatever their background and as such we commit to encouraging and supporting current and future generations of fans, officials, volunteers, coaches, staff and participants from all communities to join the sporting family.
  • Transsexual people and sport: Guidance for sporting bodies (PDF  - 108 KB), Department of Culture, Media and Sport (Sport Division) and UK Sport (2005). The purpose of this guidance is to assist those persons involved in running or administering organised and competitive sport in the United Kingdom to deal with the very special set of circumstances that transsexual people present. It draws attention to the legal framework regarding transsexual people and provides practical suggestions on best practice regarding facilities, participation, drug testing and gender verification.

Video iconVideos

Sexual harassment and abuse

All forms of harassment are serious and should be dealt with by the respective sport governing organisations. Sexual abuse, or actions that constitute criminal sexual behaviour, are offenses that must be referred to the criminal justice system for action. In 2007 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) released a Consensus Statement on Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Sport. An updated and extended edition was released in 2017. 

The definition of sexual harassment may include a range of behaviours which, for example, might include sexually suggestive conversation, jokes, innuendo and similar acts that are offensive, degrading, or unwanted. Such actions may not always sit specifically into a legal context, but can be forms of sexual harassment and bullying.

Homophobic abuse 

Homophobic inspired comments and actions are considered a form of harassment, and may also take the form of psychological or physical sexual abuse. Homophobia encompasses a range of negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality or people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). It can be expressed as antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion, or hatred, may be based on irrational fear, and is sometimes related to religious or cultural beliefs [source: Wikipedia]. An international survey of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) persons revealed prevailing attitudes of discrimination in a sporting environment, particularly targeting LGB youth and occurring frequently in team sports. Homophobic attitudes, actions, and language expressed by fellow participants, coaches, administrators and spectators made LGB persons feel 'unsafe' or unwelcome in many sporting environments.

Use of 'punishment' 

The use of ‘punishment’, particularly in children’s sport, may have sexual abuse implications. Physical tasks and/or abusive language used as punishment in a sporting environment may (in some cases) be interpreted as abuse or harassment. While no one would sanction a coach’s striking an athlete, there is some uncertainty about what constitutes psychological punishment. A Statement by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport implies that ‘forced physical exertion’ which is emotionally and psychologically harmful to a child or youth, can be interpreted as punishment. When the coach assigns extra push-ups or running or verbally abuses or degrades an athlete, this is ‘punishment’. The authority position of the coach can also make ‘punishment’ a form of sexual abuse. Two tests are generally applied to any specific situation; intent and consent; to determine whether an action is punishment or legitimate physical exertion as part of a training program. 

More information about child protection legislation and practices in sport can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport topic, Child Protection in Sport.

It is difficult to determine the exact prevalence of sexual harassment and/or abuse in sport. Figures can range from less than 10% to over 50% depending on a range of factors including differences in definitions (i.e. what constitutes harassment, abuse or assault), research methodologies (e.g. interviews, surveys, choice of subjects), and reporting trends (many people do not report harassment or abuse, and reporting rates between different gender and sexuality cohorts are also often significantly different).

However, despite a lack of robust figures research and several high profile cases, both Australian and international (eg. Larry Nasser and USA Gymnastics), have demonstrated that sexual harassment and abuse are issues which need to be addressed by sport at all levels. 

Evidence does suggest that talented athletes at or around puberty are the most vulnerable to sexual harassment and abuse, especially by an authority figure. Risk factors include the acceptance of psychologically abusive coaching practices to achieve competitive success and the unregulated power of authority figures. The causes and consequences of sexual harassment and violence in sport appear to have similar characteristics as in other environments (i.e. home, school, etc.).

The majority of studies on sexual harassment/abuse in sport have investigated relationships between male coaches and underage female athletes. More research is needed to provide a better understanding of who is likely to be a perpetrator and in what circumstances abuse is likely to occur. The factors of gender, age, race, ethnicity, culture, and religion may form part of the context of sexual harassment or abuse, and the interaction among these factors is not well understood. 

The outcome of sexual harassment/abuse in sport can be psychological as well as physical.  The post-trauma symptoms can exhibit themselves asbut are not limited toeating disorders, problems forming relationships, and early dropout from sport.

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse logoOn Friday 11 January 2013, The Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO, then Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, appointed a six-member Royal Commission to investigate Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. 

The Royal Commission investigated how institutions such as schools, churches, sporting bodies, and Government organisations have responded to allegations and instances of child abuse.

public hearing into sporting clubs and institutions was held in April 2016.

The scope and purpose of the public hearing was to inquire into:

1. The experiences of men and women who were sexually abused as children in sporting clubs.
2. The response of Tennis Australia, Tennis NSW, and the New South Wales Institute of Sport to allegations of child sexual abuse by a tennis coach.
3. The response of Football NSW to allegations of child sexual abuse by a soccer coach.
4. The systems, policies, practices, and procedures in relation to child protection and for receiving, investigating, and responding to allegations of child sexual abuse promoted and implemented by:

  • Australian Olympic Committee
  • Australian Paralympic Committee
  • Australian Sports Commission (now Sport Australia)
  • New South Wales Institute of Sport
  • Netball Australia
  • Little Athletics Australia
  • Surf Life Saving Australia
  • Football Federation Australia
  • Football NSW
  • Tennis Australia
  • Tennis NSW
  • Cricket Australia
  • Queensland Cricket
  • A local Queensland cricket club
5. Other related matters.  

The role of the Royal Commission was to uncover where systems had failed to protect children and make recommendations on how to improve laws, policies, and practices. 

Reports

  • Report into sporting clubs released. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Commonwealth of Australia, (December 2016). 
  • Royal Commission Public Case Study 15 (Swimming Australia). The Royal Commission held a public hearing in Sydney from Monday 7 to Wednesday 16 July 2014. The public hearing examined the response of Swimming Australia Ltd to allegations of child sexual abuse.
    • Findings of the hearing (PDF  - 890 KB). Report of Case Study No. 15: Response of swimming institutions; the Queensland and NSW Offices of the DPP; and the Queensland Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian to allegations of child sexual abuse by swimming coaches, Commonwealth of Australia, (November 2015)
  • Report - Royal Commission: Working With Children Checks, (PDF  - 700 KB), (August 2015). This report contains the Royal Commission’s final recommendations on Working with Children Checks. It is based on laws, policies and information current as at 1 May 2015. It contains recommendations that aim to strengthen the protection children receive through Working With Children Checks.

Final Report 

On 15 December 2017 the Royal Commission officially ended with the publication of the Final Report. 

  • Final Report, Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, (December 2017). The Royal Commission's Final Report comprises 17 volumes and includes a total of 189 new recommendations, many of which are aimed at making institutions safer for children. Together with the three final reports already released – Criminal Justice, Redress and Civil Litigation and Working With Children Checks – Commissioners have made a total of 409 recommendations. An overview of findings and recommendations relevant to sport, recreation, arts, culture, community and hobby groups is available in the Preface and Executive Summary document.
    • Volume 14: Sport, recreation, arts, culture, community and hobby groups, Final Report, Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, (December 2017).  This volume examines what was learned about institutional responses to child sexual abuse in sport and recreation institutions. It describes children’s sport and recreation in Australia, child sexual abuse in this context, and the nature and adequacy of institutional responses to that abuse. This volume makes recommendations to prevent child sexual abuse from occurring in sport and recreation environments and, if it does occur, to help ensure effective responses.

Recommendations for sport and recreation organisations included: 

  • Recommendation 14.1 - Child Safe Standards. All sport and recreation institutions, including arts, culture, community, and hobby groups, that engage with or provide services to children should implement the Child Safe Standards identified by the Royal Commission. 
  • Recommendation 14.2 - A representative voice for the sector. The National Office for Child Safety should establish a child safety advisory committee for the sport and recreation sector with membership from government and non-government peak bodies to advise the national office on sector-specific child safety issues. 
  • Recommendation 14.3 - Expanding Play by the Rules. The education and information website known as Play by the Rules should be expanded and funded to develop resources – in partnership with the National Office for Child Safety – that are relevant to the broader sport and recreation sector. 
  • Recommendation 14.4 - Improving Communication. The independent state and territory oversight bodies that implement the Child Safe Standards should establish a free email subscription function for the sport and recreation sector so that all providers of these services to children can subscribe to receive relevant child safe information and links to resources. 

With the end of the Royal Commission process, Royal Commission CEO Philip Reed, stated that: 

We have now completed our work. It's up to governments and institutions to take the next steps and implement the Royal Commission's recommendations. 'Final Report released', media releaseRoyal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, (15 December 2017)

On 13 June 2018, the Australian Government tabled its response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The Government accepted all four recommendations in principle and identified that it had already announced in the 2018 Budget the intention to create a grass roots child safe sport initiative across Australia called ’Safe Sport Australia’. 

Safe Sport Australia will lead specifically on generating awareness of positive child safe sport practices and the exchange of child safe information and resources. A social change initiative, Safe Sport Australia will digitally connect to the millions of Australians in the grass roots sport community, targeting parents, adults and children. It will also incorporate the National Principles, based on the 10 Child Safe Standards identified by the Royal Commission. Safe Sport Australia, guided by an industry advisory committee that reflects the voice of the sport sector, will also use insights from the uptake of its resources to continue to build its knowledge base and identify areas of risk and relevant trends to inform further action around child abuse prevention and promotion of child safe sport. The Safe  Sport Australia initiative and recent child safe sport work led by the Australian Sport Commission combine to address Recommendations 14.1-14.4.Australian Government Response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, p.47, 2018

Related

Surf Life Saving

In August 2015 Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) announced that they were working with the Australian Childhood Foundation (ACF) to develop a comprehensive safeguarding children policy and strategy to enhance the safety and protection of children and young people across surf life saving organisations in Australia. 

Tennis 

  • Tennis Australia strengthens safeguarding children measures. Tennis Australia media release, (19 June 2017). The head of Tennis Australia’s Integrity and Compliance Unit, Ann West – a leading sports administrator and former law enforcement officer, has been tasked with implementing the new measures which include a 24-hour telephone reporting and assistance service, online form for lodging complaints, and a dedicated child-safety section on the Tennis Australia website. “The Royal Commission identified that we needed to improve our procedures and process in relation to child safety within the tennis family. We want to do everything we can to ensure what has happened in the past will never happen again,” Ms West said.
  • Tennis Australia criticised for lack of action after abuse claims, Mary Gearin, ABC news, (2 February 2017). Tennis Australia has been criticised for not adequately responding to last year's royal commission hearing into the alleged sexual abuse of young tennis players by a coach.
In one of the most high profile sex abuse scandals in years Larry Nassar, former doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, was sentenced in early 2018 to more than 360 years in prison. Over 250 women, including several Olympic champions, accused Nassar of sexual abuse, with incidents occurring over decades under the guise of ‘medical treatment’. The scandal led the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) to demand the resignation of the entire USA Gymnastics board. USOC also committed to launching an independent investigation into whether anyone in USA Gymnastics knew of the abuse and the systematic failures that led to the abuse being unchecked for so long. These, and some other stipulations, were required to be met or the organisation would be decertified. Additionally, a number of high profile sponsors withdrew support from USA Gymnastics. 

In February 2018 a media investigation alleged institutional cover-up of long-term abuse by high level swimming coaches, staff, and executives at USA Swimming. Investigations by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and Department of Homeland Security have reportedly been opened and just days after the initial media reports were released two high-level executives resigned. Tim Hinchey, USA Swimming president and CEO, has publicly stated that “While we disagree on several of the reported statements and many of the conclusions in recent media reports, members were failed, and we are doing everything we can to make sure it never happens again”. 
Where possible, direct links to full-text and online resources are provided. However, where links are not available, you may be able to access documents directly by searching our licenced full-text databases (note: user access restrictions apply). Alternatively, you can ask your institutional, university, or local library for assistance—or purchase documents directly from the publisher. You may also find the information you’re seeking by searching Google Scholar.

books iconBooks

  • Critical Essays in Applied Sport Psychology, Gilbourne D and Andersen M (editors) Human Kinetics (2011). 'Sexual abuse in sport', Leahy T. 
  • Spoilsports: Understanding and preventing sexual exploitation in sport, Brackenridge C. Routledge, (2001). Participation in sport is supposed to enhance an individual’s mental, physical and spiritual health and “bring out the best in us”. Yet, the number of incidents of sexual abuse suggests otherwise. This book has two main aims: to fill the scholarly vacuum on sexual exploitation in sport; and to review, shape, and inform policy and practice. The book is divided into two major sections – the first section serves as an introduction and critical review of the empirical and theoretical research conducted to date; the second offers the reader a critical outline and analysis of policy and practice. Brackenridge draws upon research and literature from an array of social scientific disciplines including sociology, clinical psychology, criminology; and feminist, cultural, social and policy studies. The author also draws upon personal experience and informal interviews with sportspeople. 

Finder iconPosition statements

  • International Olympic Committee consensus statement: Harassment and abuse (non-accidental violence) in sport, Mountjoy M, Brackenridge C, Arrington M, et.al., British Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 50(17), (2017). Despite the well-recognised benefits of sport, there are also negative influences on athlete health, well-being and integrity caused by non-accidental violence through harassment and abuse. This consensus statement extends the scope of the 2007 document by presenting additional evidence of several other types of harassment and abuse—psychological, physical and neglect. All ages and types of athletes are susceptible to these problems but science confirms that elite, disabled, child, and lesbian/gay/bisexual/trans-sexual (LGBT) athletes are at highest risk, that psychological abuse is at the core of all other forms of abuse and that athletes can also be perpetrators. Harassment and abuse arise from prejudices expressed through power differences. Perpetrators use a range of interpersonal mechanisms including contact, non-contact/verbal, cyber-based, negligence, bullying, and hazing. Attention is paid to the particular risks facing child athletes, athletes with a disability, and LGBT athletes. Impacts on the individual athlete and the organisation are discussed. Sport stakeholders are encouraged to consider the wider social parameters of these issues, including cultures of secrecy and deference that too often facilitate abuse, rather than focusing simply on psychopathological causes. The promotion of safe sport is an urgent task and part of the broader international imperative for good governance in sport. A systematic multiagency approach to prevention is most effective, involving athletes, entourage members, sport managers, medical and therapeutic practitioners, educators and criminal justice agencies. Structural and cultural remedies, as well as practical recommendations, are suggested for sport organisations, athletes, sports medicine and allied disciplines, sport scientists and researchers. The successful prevention and eradication of abuse and harassment against athletes rests on the effectiveness of leadership by the major international and national sport organisations. 
  • Position Paper: Abuse, harassment, and bullying in sport, Stirling A, Bridges E, Laura Cruz E and Mountjoy M, Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine (December 2010). It is essential that sport medicine specialists be educated on issues of abuse, harassment and bullying in sport, and be equipped with strategies to intervene if, or when, potential cases arise. This position statement seeks to provide the medical community with the knowledge to appropriately identify and address cases of abuse, harassment, and bullying, and proposes recommendations for the potential role of sport medicine professionals in athlete protection. 
  • The use of physical punishment of children and youth in sport and recreation (PDF - 445 KB), Position Statement, Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (2013). The CCES defines physical punishment of children and youth in sport as any activity or behaviour required as a consequence of poor sport performance or some other undesirable behaviour that causes an athlete physical pain, discomfort, or humiliation and is: (1) disconnected from, or not logically related to, the sport performance or behaviour it is intended to change; or (2) disconnected from, or not logically related to, improving performance in the sport; and (3) not consented to by the athlete (and/or their parent or guardian) engaged in such activity or behaviour.

ReadingReading

  • The Grooming Process in Sport: Narratives of sexual harassment and abuse, Brackenridge C and Fasting K (2004). This article explores the process of ‘grooming’ in the context of sport. Two case studies are presented; both athletes experienced grooming for sex by their male coaches yet were able to stop the process at a particular point. Grooming has been used to demarcate ‘sexual harassment’ and ‘sexual abuse’ as separate points on a continuum of sexually exploitative behaviours. 
  • How to prevent sexual violence through and in sport, Zoe George, Fair Play/Radio New Zealand, (27 February 2019). Questions have been lobbed at sporting organisations of late about what they are doing to prevent sexual violence, but experts say it’s about the wider sporting community taking responsibility.
  • Myths and evidence – learning from our journey (PDF  - 177 KB), Brackenridge C, Centre for Youth Sport and Athlete Welfare, Brunel University, Keynote address to the Conference How Safe is Your Sport, (25 February 2010). This paper looks at the body of quantitative and qualitative research that provides evidence on which to base our safeguarding policies and procedures and our all-round approach to athlete welfare. Research has helped us to understand two basic elements of the issues: first, the behaviour of abuse perpetrators and the consequences of abuse for victims; and secondly, the extent and impact of safeguarding policies in sport.
  • Physical punishment of children in sport and recreation (PDF  - 283 KB), Ensom R and Durrant J, Coaches Plan, Volume 15(4), (2008-09). This article discusses what counts as physical punishment. 

Report iconReports

  • Ending sexual violence in one generation: sports culture as an opportunity to prevent sexual violence, (PDF  - 79 KB), Center for Gender Equity and Health at the University of California, San Diego for Raliance, (2018). Argues that sports systems are uniquely positioned to reach youth and transmit values and behaviors to prevent sexual violence in America as both an avenue and platform for change. Provides highlights of relevant research and an overview of next steps. 
  • The experiences of children participating in organised sport in the UK (PDF  - 267 KB), Child Protection Research Centre, University of Edinburgh (2014). Young people in this study reported emotionally harmful treatment and unacceptable levels of sexual harassment (29%). Peers were the most common perpetrators of all forms of harassment, with coaches sometimes failing to effectively challenge this behaviour. Coaches were the second most common perpetrators of harm with verbal abuse common, particularly as young athletes advanced through the competitive ranks.
  • Growing up queer: issues facing young Australians who are gender variant and sexuality diverse, Robinson K, Bansel P, Denson N and Ovenden G, Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, (February 2014). Growing up queer investigates the issues facing young Australians who are gender variant and sexuality diverse. More than 1000 young Australians aged between 16–27 years participated in a research study, with almost two-thirds reporting homophobic or transphobic harassment or violence across different aspects of their lives. From the information acquired, the researchers hope to develop innovative, relevant and engaging educational resources that would contribute to increasing professional and community awareness of their experiences and needs.
  • Inclusive Sport Survey: The Sport Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex People in the Australian Capital Territory (PDF  - 2.1 MB), Australian Capital Territory Government, Sport and Recreation Services (April 2014). This survey looked at attitudes and behaviours among the ACT’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community groups and territory sporting associations. The main themes to emerge from participants’ best sporting experiences include a feeling of achievement, being part of a team or community, being accepted and welcomed, experiencing health benefits, having the opportunity to travel and broaden life experiences, having fun and friendship, gaining confidence and providing a positive contribution. Most people responding to the survey were ‘not out’ regarding their sexuality and/or being transgender. Key findings were that about 41% of respondents have felt unsafe in a sporting environment; 34% had experienced sexism in sport with women experiencing the most sexism, followed by transgender people and men; 32% had experienced verbal homophobia or bullying in a sporting environment, but only 3.6% had experienced homophobic assault.
  • Out on the Fields: The first international study on homophobia in sport (PDF  - 12.5 MB), Denison E, Moseley L and Kitchen A, Repucom (10 May 2015). This report summarises data gathered from an international survey on homophobia in sport. Approximately 9500 persons (including 2494 heterosexuals) took part in the survey from English speaking countries; Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, New Zealand and the United States. Survey results were reviewed by academic experts on homophobia in sport. The study focused primarily on issues of sexuality affecting lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) persons in a sporting context. Some of the key findings include:
    • 84% of survey respondents said homophobic jokes occur ‘all the time, often, or sometimes’ in a sporting environment.
    • 62% of all survey respondents, and 73% of gay respondents, believed homophobia is more common in team sports than in other environments.
    • 80% of all respondents said they have witnessed or experienced homophobia in sport. Young LGB persons (under the age of 22) were more likely to report personal experiences of homophobia.  
  • Pro Safe SportCouncil of Europe, European Union (2017). The project entitled Pro Safe Sport +: Put an end to sexual harassment and abuse against children in sport (PSS+) is a nine-month project that commenced in April 2017, aimed at promoting a safe and healthy environment for young athletes. Sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation of children are widespread violations of the rights of the child, compromising the children’s social development and often having devastating mental and physical health consequences. Sport is an environment that encourages close relationships and trust between peers, coaches, team and support staff. Combating and preventing all forms of gender-based violence in the field of sport, and in particular sexual violence against children, is a priority for both the European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe (CoE). Progress has been made to implement policy standards that can help to effectively protect children; and prevent and respond to sexual and other forms of gender-based violence in sport. Despite the calls for reform and efforts to create standards that apply to sporting environments, progress is still slow and fragmented. A number of EU member states and sport organisations still have not prepared and adopted a national policy against sexual violence in sport.
  • Study on gender-based violence in sport: Final Report (PDF  - 2.3 MB), Mergaert L, Arnaut C, Vertommen T and Lang M, European Commission, Directorate for Education and Culture (2016). This study provides an overview of legal and policy frameworks; describes initiatives promoted by sport and civil society organisations; identifies best practice in combatting gender-based violence in sport; and makes recommendations for future action. To establish a common understanding and to delimit the scope of the study, the definition of gender-based violence used was: “violence directed against a person because of that person's gender (including gender identity or expression) or violence that affects persons of a particular gender disproportionately”. Several forms of gender-based violence in sport were considered: verbal, non-verbal, physical abuse and sexual harassment. These forms are not mutually exclusive, but overlap. This study explicitly included violence against LGBTQ persons, and considered both male and female victims as well as perpetrators. Main findings from this study include: (1) The main focus of policies has been on prevention and protection actions. Other topics, such as assessment of any gender-based violence, measures to prosecute violence, and support programs for victims have received less attention. (2) The legal provisions in place across EU Member States use different terminology and vary greatly; there remains a general lack of clarity in legal contexts in relation to what a ‘sexual act’ entails.  (3) Less than half of the EU Member States make explicit reference to forms of gender-based violence in sport in their policy frameworks. Policy implementation (in many cases) is neither mandatory, nor followed up. (4) Initiatives taken by the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee are important because of their visibility and influence on national committees to comply. (5) Reliable data on gender-based violence is missing across the EU, and the problem may be underestimated; there is also a lack of research in this area. (6) Most of the identified prevention approaches target sports organisations and coaches. Efforts and resources to ensure a continuous implementation of activities and/or dissemination of materials appear to be scarce. Initiatives are generally not given enough visibility and are not easily accessible. The effectiveness of practices is rarely monitored or evaluated. (7) The concept of gender-based violence in sport brings together several concerns that tend to be addressed separately (rather than under a unified policy), such as: ethics; child protection; safe sport environments; and athletes’ welfare.
  • Writing Themselves in, 3 (PDF  - 2.8 MB), Hillier L, Jones T, Monagle M, Overton N, Gahan L, Blackman J and Mitchell A, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, (2010). This is the third national study on the sexual health and well-being of same sex attracted young people in Australia. This research suggests that the biggest issue is the ongoing and persistent damage done by homophobia in the lives of same sex attracted and gender questioning (SSAGQ) young people. Several recommendations were made that involve the sporting environment: (1) public safety—SSAGQ young people continue to experience high levels of homophobic violence and abuse not just at school but also on the street, in sport and at public and private events. Police programs which liaise with the gay community and seek to make reporting easier should be protected and expanded, and: (2) education—schools should have a specific policy on homophobic bullying which offers well-publicised protection to SSAGQ students. 

Research iconResearch 

  • An examination of the perceptions of sexual harassment by sport print media professionals, Pedersen P, Lim C, Osborne B and Whisenant W, Journal of Sport Management, Volume 23, (2009). This study explored the extent to which female sports journalists were subjected to harassment in the workplace. Over half of the women who participated in the study (N = 112), had encountered some form of sexual harassment during the previous 12 months. The perpetrators included their immediate supervisors, co-workers, male members of the sport media, athletes, and employees of sport organisations.
  • Coaches, sexual harassment and education, Fastinga K and Brackenridgeb C, Sport, Education and Society, Volume 14(1), (2009). Interviews were conducted with 19 female elite athletes who were sexually harassed by their male coaches to determine the characteristics of the harassing coach. They found that such coaches could be described as one of three types: (1) a flirting-charming coach; (2) a seductive coach; and (3) an authoritarian coach. Sexual harassment prevention is often either missing from coach education programs altogether or subsumed within broader themes. The authors conclude that since the coaching environment is so closely linked to traditional male values, a transformation of the coaching culture and associated re-scripting of coach behaviour might be easier if more female coaches were involved in sport.
  • Consequences of sexual harassment in sport (PDF  - 70 KB), Fasting K, Brackenridge C and Walseth K, Journal of Sexual Aggression, Volume 8(2), p 37-48, (2002). This article reports on the findings from interviews with 25 elite female athletes in Norway who had experienced sexual harassment from someone in sport. The analyses of the qualitative interviews revealed that some of the incidents of sexual harassment, especially cases of harassment by another athlete, seemed to have no particular consequences for the athletes. However, sexual harassment episodes from a coach had damaged the coach-athlete relationship and led to changes in the athlete’s behaviour towards the coach.
  • The emotional abuse of elite child athletes by their coaches, Gervis M and Dunn N, Child Abuse Review, Volume 13(3), (2004). This study investigates the prevalence of emotional abuse of elite child athletes by their coaches in the UK. Participants were 12 former elite child athletes who competed as internationals in their respective age groups. The study was a retrospective analysis of their experiences as elite child athletes. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews and response-coding techniques. Abusive behaviours were categorised under eight headings: belittling, humiliating, shouting, scapegoating, rejecting, isolating, threatening and ignoring. Results showed that all of the participants reported experiencing belittling and shouting by their coach, nine athletes reported frequent threatening behaviour, nine reported frequent humiliation, seven reported scapegoating, six reported rejection or being ignored and four reported being isolated. The results provide tentative evidence that the behaviour of some coaches is a threat to the psychological well-being of elite child athletes.
  • The forbidden zone: intimacy, sexual relations and misconduct in the relationship between coaches and athletes, Nielsen J, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Volume 36(2), (2001). This study was the first of its kind in Denmark, it focused on the interpersonal relations between coaches and athletes and establish if and where boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable coach behaviour could be drawn. A questionnaire was used to survey the experiences of athletes and about one-quarter reported that they had experienced various types of inappropriate coach behaviour during their sports careers.
  • Gender and cultural bias in perceptions of sexual harassment in sport, Fejgin N and Hanegby R, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Volume 36(4), (2001). This study examines perceptions of what is considered sexual harassment of female athletes by male coaches. Perceptions of student-athletes in Israel were compared to a similar group in the United States. Statistically significant differences were found, Israeli student-athletes have stricter standards compared to American students in their perceptions of what constitutes sexual harassment in sport.
  • Male coach, female athlete relations: gender and power relations in competitive sport (PDF  - 2.7 MB), Tomlinson A and Yorganci I, Journal of Sport & Social Issues, Volume 21(2), (1997). This article explores the male coach and female athlete relationship among athletics participants in the United Kingdom. It points out the complexity and normalcy of this type of relationship within the sports culture and the forms of control exerted by a coach. Sports professionals are urged to recognise the serious implications of gender and power relationships that underpin the male coach and female athlete partnership.
  • Participation in college sports and protection from sexual victimization, Fasting K, Brackenridge C, Miller K, and Sabo D, International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, Volume 6(4), (2008). Previous research indicates that female athletes suffer higher rates of sexual victimisation from authority figures in sport than their non-athletic counterparts in education and the workplace. However, many studies fail to differentiate adequately between sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual assault, and other descriptions that imply variations in the severity of victimisation. This study performed a secondary analyses of data from the National College Health Risk Behavior Survey, conducted in 1995 (N = 4,814). A gender gap in the pattern of reported sexual victimisation also appeared between males and females across all student age groups, with females reporting more sexual victimisation than males.
  • The perceptions and occurrence of sexual harassment among male student athletes with male coaches (abstract), Van Niekerk R and Rzygula R, African Journal for Physical, Health Education, Recreation and Dance, Supplement, pp.49-62, (December 2010). This article explores the perceptions and the occurrence of sexual harassment among male student athletes with male coaches. A sample of 98 male student athletes from a Johannesburg university participated in this study. The results indicated that male student athletes clearly differentiate between coach behaviour that is unacceptable, one in five of the participants reported that they experienced unwanted sexual behaviour, while two out of five reported the occurrence of unacceptable physical and verbal behaviour with a sexual undertone.
  • Playing safe: assessing the risk of sexual abuse to elite child athletes, Brackenridge C and Kirby S, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Volume 32(4), (1997). Young athletes frequently suffer from being seen as athletes first and children second. This has consequences for their legal, civil and human rights as children and for the way in which sport organizations choose to intervene on their behalf to protect them from physical, psychological and sexual abuses. Sport careers peak at different ages depending on the sport: in some, children as young as 12 or 13 may reach the highest levels of competitive performance; in others, full maturity as an athlete may come late into adulthood or even middle age. Recognition of this variation has given rise to the concept of `sport age', referring to sport-specific athlete development. Drawing on data from these studies and from the previous work on sport age and athletic maturation, this paper proposes a possible means of identifying and assessing relative risk of sexual abuse to elite young athletes in selected sports. The concept of a `stage of imminent achievement' (SIA) is proposed as the period of peak vulnerability of young athletes to sexual abuse.
  • Prevalence of sexual abuse in organised competitive sport in Australia, Leahya T, Prettyb G and Tenenbaumc G, Journal of Sexual Aggression, Volume 8(2), (2002). A retrospective survey of 370 elite athletes found that 31% of female and 21% of male athletes reported experiencing sexual abuse at some time in their lives.
  • Preventing sexual abuse in sportFoundation for Global Sports Development (2014). Within the context of sport there are several dynamics and situations which make young athletes vulnerable. It is typical for athletes and their parents to trust coaches and respect their authority; coaches often serve as ‘parental figures’ for many athletes. This level of trust may be stronger if an athlete is participating in elite sports. Risk factors are generally linked to the culture of a sport or community; some of the risk factors identified for potential sexual abuse of athletes include: (1) an autocratic system; (2) close personal contact between athletes and authority figures; (3) a power imbalance between athlete and coach; (4) separation (time and space) of an athlete from peers; (5) a culture of secrecy; (6) rewards linked to compliance with authority; (7) rules that exclude outside consultation; and (8) lack of formal procedures for screening, hiring and monitoring staff. This article also outlines the challenges faced by federations and sports clubs in implementing comprehensive policies that deal with sexual abuse issues. 
  • The sexual abuse of boys in organized male sports, Hartill M, Men and Masculinities, Volume 12(2), (2009). In addressing the subject of the sexual abuse of male children in sport the author notes that official statistics are generally considered unreliable, largely due to the high rate of underreporting, whilst prevalence rates from research vary remarkably depending on the nature of the sample and the method of assessment. The author makes the case that a ‘male perpetrator-female victim paradigm’ that has dominated past research is inadequate and that social science needs to better understand the relationship between male-sport and the childhood sexual abuse of males. The author discusses research, primarily in the United Kingdom, over the past 25 years.
  • Sexual abuse in sport: What about boys? Parent S and Bannon J, Children and Youth Services Review, Volume 34(2), (2012). Despite the high number of young males who participate in Canadian sport, the issue of sexual abuse among male athletes has been mainly overlooked. Research has primarily focussed on female victims; and yet, some studies have shown that between 2% and 6% of male athletes have suffered sexual abuse in the context of their sport. This article presents the current knowledge on the topic and highlights the importance of further research in this area.
  • Sexual abuse of young people in sport, Parent S and Hlimi K, Government of Quebec, Canada, (November 2012). While sport is often considered to be a safe, healthy environment that contributes to the positive development of young people, it is also an area where violence can manifest itself in various ways, including sexual assault. The studies we currently have at our disposal show that between 2% and 8% of minor-age athletes are victims of sexual abuse within the context of sport.
  • Sexual harassment and professional sports organizations (PDF  - 230 KB), Shulman L and Clifton G, Professional Sports and the Law, Volume 1(6), (2011). Commitment to the principles of an anti-harassment policy sets the correct tone for a professional sports organisation. Proper training, emphasis, and the establishment of effective reporting mechanisms make it much more likely that management will be able to prevent instances of harassment or defend them effectively should allegations arise.
  • Vulnerability/prevention: Considering the needs of disabled and gay athletes in the context of sexual harassment and abuse, Kirby S, Demers G and Parent S, International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, Volume 6(4), (2008). This paper describes the international sport context of sexual harassment and abuse, while considering the needs of disabled and gay athletes. The authors state there is little scientific literature on sexual harassment and abuse that focuses on these vulnerable groups or specific prevention measures. They further explore some of the programs being implemented in Canada and identify program gaps. 

resources iconResources

Video iconVideos

Programs and policies to combat sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination

ACON Pride in Diversity

ACON Pride in Diversity is a not-for-profit organisation that supports all aspects of LGBTI inclusion. Pride in Diversity’s mandate is to reduce stigma, homophobia, and discrimination in the workplace and set a national benchmark for leading workplace practice in LGBTI inclusion. This is currently being realised via the national employer support program (Pride in Diversity) and the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI), Australia’s national benchmarking instrument for LGBTI workplace inclusion. An extension of the benchmarking program into the Australian sport sector is the Pride in Sport Index (PSI) that was launched in 2016. 

  • The Pride in Sport Index (PSI) is a joint initiative of the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australian Sports Commission, as a legacy of the Bingham Cup staged in 2014 in Sydney. The PSI is the first and only benchmarking instrument specifically designed to assess the inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex (LGBTI) people within Australian sport and sporting organisations. Australian sporting organisations will be able to assess their own practice as well as determine what constitutes good practice and benchmark their initiatives against other sporting organisations. The PSI initially targeted National and State Sporting Organisations (NSO/SSOs) and future iterations will include sporting clubs. 
  • Pride in Sport Awards recognise athletes, clubs and organisations for LGBTQ inclusion, Sport Australia media, (13 June 2019). Sport Australia congratulates the winners of the Australian Pride in Sport Awards.

Australian Human Rights Commission

Australian Human Rights Commission. Equality and freedom from discrimination are fundamental human rights that belong to all people, irrespective of sexual orientation, gender identity, or because they are intersex. Australian law, the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill Act 2013, and the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, ensure these rights. However, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people in Australia can experience discrimination, harassment, and hostility in many areas of everyday life. The Commission has undertaken a number of major projects to identify and build community awareness around the human rights issues faced by LGBTI people and advocates for stronger federal laws to protect people from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. 

Anti-Homophobia & Inclusion Framework for Australian Sports  

Anti-Homophobia & Inclusion Framework for Australian Sports (PDF  - 2.9 MB), Sydney Convicts Rugby Club (2016). This Framework provides a foundation for the development of a more inclusive and diverse sporting culture in Australia. The Chief Executive Officers of peak representative bodies: Australian Rugby; National Rugby League; Australian Football League; Football Federation Australia; and Cricket Australia have committed their organisations to the development and implementation of policies and international best practices to eradicate homophobia from these sports.

Building Cultures of Respect and Non-Violence 

Building Cultures of Respect and Non-Violence: A review of literature concerning adult learning and violence prevention programs with men (PDF  - 30 KB), Dyson S and Flood M, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University, Australian Football League, and VicHealth, Respect and Responsibility Program (2005). The Australian Football League (AFL) launched its Respect & Responsibility Policy to address the issue of violence against women. The Policy’s broad intention is to position the AFL as a leader in advocating cultural change that will lead to safe and inclusive environments for women and girls, across all levels of Australian Football. The implementation of the Policy included:

  • the introduction of model anti-sexual harassment and anti-sexual discrimination procedures across the AFL and its 16 Clubs;
  • training and education for AFL Players that may also be customised for players in state leagues;
  • changes to the player rules governing “conduct unbecoming”;
  • the development of resources for community clubs to ensure safe, supportive environments for women and girls; and,
  • the development of an AFL led public education campaign.

The emphasis of the program is on designing initiatives and program approaches that gain support from within the football community, where Clubs at the national state and local level recognise the unique role they play in promoting a consistent message with respect to women’s and girl’s treatment and participation.

No To Homophobia

The No To Homophobia campaign emphasises the fact that homophobic harassment is never acceptable, and it is often unlawful. A number of NSOs have lent their support to this campaign.

Play by the Rules

Play by the Rules is a national platform that promotes safe, fair, and inclusive sport. It is supported by multiple government and non-government partners including Sport Australia (formerly Australian Sports Commission), the Australian Human Rights Commission, all state and territory departments of sport and recreation and equal opportunity commissions, the Australian and New Zealand Sports Law Association, and the Office of Childrens Guardian (NSW). The website contains information and resources to help everyone in sport (i.e. players, coaches, administrators, spectators) understand the issues.  

  • You can play. This program is a national anti-homophobia in sport initiative bought to you by Play by the Rules
  • Homophobia in Sport Toolkit that contains a number of resources for sporting organisations. 

Pride Cup

The first Pride Cup was held after Jason Ball publicly came out as gay in 2012 and his teammates from the Yarra Glen Football Netball Club wanted to show him they had his back. The team came up with the idea to stage a Pride Cup, with players wearing rainbow jumpers, and 50 metre lines painted in rainbow colours. Since hitting the national stage, communities across Australia have joined the movement, with Pride Cups being expanded into other sporting codes nationally.

  • Victorian Sporting CEOs unite to make a 'Pledge of Pride', Hockey Victoria, (February 2019). The Pledge of Pride, an initiative of Pride Cup Australia, demonstrates a sport’s commitment to welcoming all athletes, employees and volunteers, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity. On Tuesday 26 February, Pride Cup Australia and VicHealth will also launch the official Pride Cup Handbook, designed with the support of the Victorian government and NAB.
  • Pride Cup Handbook (PDF  - 4.3 MB), Pride Cup, (October 2018). A guide for any sporting club, in any code, at any level, to host their own Pride Cup. 

Proud2Play

Proud2Play is an organisation that focuses directly on LGBTIQ (i.e. lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and questioning) education and participation by youth in community sports. Its mission is to combat the negative stigma associated with same sex attracted and sexual and gender diverse participants in sport. The goal of Proud2Play is to help contribute to the education of the LGBTIQ community in sporting environments and the sporting community generally, in order to help diminish homophobic, trans-phobic, and bi-phobic actions. 

Most professions have established codes of behaviour that provide boundaries or expectations for conduct, particularly relationships that involve authority, guidance, or decision making that may affect the welfare of another person. Coaching is no exception. Play by the Rules provides a Coach’s Code of Behaviour as a template that many sports have used to promulgate sport specific guidelines.

Codes of behaviour can also be included in member protection policies or policies adopted by professional organisations or associations. Examples of such policies or codes of behaviour include: 

  • Code of Ethics, Australian Track & Field Coaches Association, (accessed 14 June 2019). This code affirms that the coach’s primary role is to facilitate the process of individual development through achievement of athletic potential. In this role the coach accepts the athletes’ long-term interests to be of greater importance than short-term athletic considerations. To fulfil this role the coach must behave in an ethical manner. The code outlines what is ethical practice.
  • NRL National Code of Conduct (2018). The National Rugby League (NRL) Code of Conduct provides all participants – players, parents, coaches, referees, spectators and officials with some simple rules that assist in delivering a safe and positive environment to everyone involved in the game. One of the guiding ‘general principles’ is for everyone to demonstrate the greatest levels of respect, protecting the rights, dignity and worth of every person regardless of their gender, ability or disability, sexual orientation, cultural background, or religion.
  • Swimming Australia Member Welfare Policy (PDF  - 233 KB), (updated January 2014). This policy helps to ensure that every person involved in the sport of swimming is treated with respect and dignity, and is safe and protected from abuse. It also aims to ensure that everyone involved in the sport is aware of his or her legal and ethical rights and responsibilities.

Sporting policies and codes of behaviour use terms such as ‘abuse’ and ‘harassment’, although specific definitions or interpretations may come from both law and social norms. 

Competition structures - single sex, mixed or open

Female motorsport driver

The segregation of men and women in sport competition has been justified on the bases of body size, strength, and any number of physical attributes (some favouring women). Sometimes these factors are significant only when growth and maturity influences create a natural distinction between male and female physical capabilities (i.e. puberty/adolescence). However, the question remains should males and females compete against one another?  

There are a number of sports that do not rely upon physical capabilities and, in theory, could provide equitable competition among men and women at all ages. There are many compelling reasons from a biological, ethical, and legal perspective to eliminate single gender competition whenever possible, particularly among pre-adolescent children.

The Australian Sex Discrimination Act 1984 specifically states that children aged under 12 years cannot be excluded on the basis of sex or gender identity from participating in competitive sporting activity. It also states that people of one gender aged 12 and over can be excluded from participating in competitive sporting activities in which the strength, stamina, and physique of competitors is relevant. 

Although many sports have integrated their practices to include separate participation opportunities for males and females, or mixed gender competition, particularly at the junior level (i.e. usually under the age of 12 years), gender stereotypes often remain associated with sports participation.

Equestrian sport (i.e. dressage, show jumping, and eventing) is the only Olympic-level sport which is not organised around sex segregation. However, although sex integration does not lead to female participants being excluded from elite-level competition, statistically males continue to hold a disproportionately greater number of the available places on international teams. This suggests that although sex integration may be part of the sport and an important step towards breaking down gender hierarchies, there may be wider cultural changes needed to achieve gender equality.

In the sport of bowls, the relaxation of rules by Bowls Australia to allow men and women to participate in one another’s Pennant Bowls competitions has been welcomed by the majority of respondents in a major survey conducted by the Centre for Sport and Social Impact at La Trobe University. While there are still some bowlers that resent competing against the opposite sex, the benefits and flexibility afforded to small clubs that struggle to fill their team rosters is generally understood and accepted among the bowls community. However, the prevailing attitude among those surveyed remained that, whenever possible, competition would be divided into men’s, women’s, and mixed gender. The preference (among those surveyed) is for same sex competition, with the addition of a mixed gender competition stream.

Where possible, direct links to full-text and online resources are provided. However, where links are not available, you may be able to access documents directly by searching our licenced full-text databases (note: user access restrictions apply). Alternatively, you can ask your institutional, university, or local library for assistance—or purchase documents directly from the publisher. You may also find the information you’re seeking by searching Google Scholar.

Article iconAustralian legislation

  • Sex Discrimination Act 1984, Australian Government (1984). This federal legislation states that people aged under 12 years cannot be excluded on the basis of sex or gender identity from participating in competitive sporting activity. Also, it states that people of one gender aged 12 and over can be excluded from participating in competitive sporting activities in which the strength, stamina, and physique of competitors is relevant.

ReadingReading

  • Equal Opportunity in Sport: what you need to know about holding single-sex competitions, Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission, (July 2012). While equal opportunity law, like sport, is about promoting opportunity and participation, there are times when the law allows participation to be restricted to one sex to help ensure everyone has a fair go. The Equal Opportunity Act does this in a number of ways – through special measures, exceptions and temporary exemptions. 
  • Why it might be time to eradicate sex segregation in sports, Roslyn Kerr, Senior Lecturer in Sociology of Sport, Lincoln University, New Zealand, The Conversation, (15 January 2018). In our research we argue that one way to move beyond problematic gender barriers is to eradicate sex segregation completely and replace it with a system similar to that used in Paralympic sport. 

Report iconReports

  • Building an evidence base to increase participation in Lawn Bowls (PDF  - 2.6 MB), Hoye R, Brown K, Nicholson M, Sherry E and Clement T, La Trobe University, Centre for Sport and Social Impact (2013).
  • Gender equality and (elite) sport (PDF  - 399 KB), Pfister G, Council of Europe (2011). This report presents examples of gender influence in each of the interrelated fields of sports participation; leadership; coaching; and elite sport competition and uncovers common features and trends which are typical of most European countries. There is a trend towards greater inclusion of women in European sport, but there are still a considerable number of gendered hierarchies. This report cites a number of studies in European countries that indicate sport is still gendered, with male and female domains, where women seem more willing to enter male spheres of influence. The report speculates that it is doubtful whether a ‘de-gendering’ of sport is possible, not least because male and female participation in sport may have different meanings. 

Research iconResearch

  • Time to re-evaluate gender segregation in athletics? Foddy B and Savulescu J, British Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 45(15), (2011). The case of Caster Semenya provides a vivid illustration of the ways in which natural genetic variation can generate large differences in athletic performance. Once we recognise that gender is not a binary quantity, sex segregation in competitive sport must be seen as an inconsistent and unjust policy, no matter what stance we take on the goals of sport.
  • Together, yet still not equal? Sex integration in equestrian sport, Dashper K, Asia-Pacific Journal of Health, Sport and Physical Education, Volume 3(3), (2012). The author explores one of the few Olympic-level sports which is not organised around sex segregation – equestrian sport – in order to consider the implications of sex integration for female participants. 

resources iconResources

  • Girls playing in boys' teams. The Play by the Rules website has a number of information resources that explain anti-discrimination legislation and how it relates to girls playing in boys' teams and practical issues for coaches and administrators to consider.
  • Australian Rugby Union Inclusion Policy (PDF  - 391 KB), (August 2014). Males and females can participate in mixed gender rugby up to and including the calendar year in which they turn 12 years of age.
  • Australian Football League female participation information sheet (PDF  - 41 KB). The AFL Auskick program (ages 5 to 12 years) is a mixed-gender junior program using appropriate AFL junior rules. The development of a participation pathway for female participants beyond AFL Auskick is critical to the long-term growth and development of the game. Junior leagues and clubs are encouraged to offer structured youth girls competitions for female participants graduating from AFL Auskick and mixed AFL junior competitions. 

Sexploitation in sport

Various terms can be used to describe the sexualising of athletes (particularly female athletes), ‘sexploitation’ is one of the most common. Sexploitation applies to marketing, sponsorship, and promotion, or attempts to gain media coverage, on the basis of the sexual attributes of an athlete, especially the visibility of their body. This most frequently impacts female athletes with their implied value being measured in terms of their body type and attractiveness, rather than for any qualities that define them as an athlete (i.e. talent, physical capacity, skill).

As female athletes gain recognition, some media and advertising campaigns have used their image in a sexually provocative manner. Since sexuality is pervasive in a wider social context, to sell everything from food to automobiles, some people see this as a legitimate means of exposure for a sport and self-promotion of the athlete. Other people have different views regarding how female athletes should market themselves and their sport(s). The question of whether it is morally right for a female athlete to remove her clothes for a photo shoot is debatable.

Because sport and masculinity are linked in many cultures women have been trying to find a balance between sport and femininity for decades. Many female athletes have started to think of themselves differently depending upon the environment: for example, a woman may be rough and aggressive on the court or field, but also be elegant and graceful away from play.

In the case of female athletes the balance between athleticism and femininity may also involve additional opportunities to make money or gain recognition. The marketing world has offered women the opportunity to pose for magazines and photo shoots in a manner similar to actresses and models which bring attention to the sexuality of the woman, rather than focusing on athletic feats. Some female athletes deliberately capitalise on this blending of sex and sports, in an effort to promote themselves as well as their sport. Others disagree arguing that selling sex is not the way an athlete should endorse herself. Both sides present a strong case and in the end it comes down to the individual athlete's decision.

More information about the representation of women in sport media is available in the Clearinghouse for Sport Women's Sport topic.  

Where possible, direct links to full-text and online resources are provided. However, where links are not available, you may be able to access documents directly by searching our licenced full-text databases (note: user access restrictions apply). Alternatively, you can ask your institutional, university, or local library for assistance—or purchase documents directly from the publisher. You may also find the information you’re seeking by searching Google Scholar.

ReadingReading

  • Australia's elite female athletes express concern that they can only win if they look sexy, Jessica Halloran, Daily Telegraph, (26 October 2013). Athletes don't sell clothes, models do. Women don't sell bikes, men do. This was the conversation Australia's world champion BMX rider Caroline Buchanan had with some of the country's top advertising executives and it still leaves her frustrated.
  • Coast surf brands see no fuss in 'sexploitation' Roxy ad, Bill Hoffman, The Queensland Times, (10 July 2013). Where’s the line drawn between product advertising and sexploitation? What looks like a lingerie ad is, in fact, a YouTube promotion by Australian women's surf and swimwear giant Roxy for a womens' professional surfing contest. 
  • Photo Series Explores 'Sexploitation' in Athletic Uniforms, Julie Compton, NBC News, (22 August 2016). The 2016 Rio Olympics were a reminder of the often striking differences in how male and female athletes dress. In sports like beach volleyball and tennis, for example, women wore scanty sports bikinis and skirts, and the men shirts and shorts.
  • Playing the (wo)man: why women’s sport is still all about sex appeal, Hughes A, Lecturer, Research School of Management, Australian National University, The Conversation (21 July 2011). The marketing of women in sport in Australia in 2011 is simple – sex sells. Should Australian women focus on sex appeal to market themselves, or is it time to really start developing women’s sport in this country where the focus is on the sport and not the athlete?
  • Sexploitation (PDF  - 222 KB), Hughson S, Kilpatrick A, Paton M and Simms D, briefing paper for the Australian Sports Commission (2000). This paper outlines some of the Australian Sports Commission’s concerns and issues arising from the sexualising of female athletes to promote women’s sport. It provides some questions and strategies for sporting organisations to consider when promoting women’s sport.
  • Sexploitation: Helpful or harmful for female athletesThe Communique, University of California at San Diego. This article defines sexploitation in sport and presents the arguments for and against the use of this marketing tactic.  
  • These Male Olympic Athletes Are Getting “Magic Miked”, Hayley Halverson, Endsexualexploitation.org, (22 August 2016). Instead of focusing on the athletic accomplishments of swimmers, cyclists, or gymnasts, Cosmo has once again returned to one of its favorite recreational activities: sexual objectification.

Research iconResearch

  • The Media's Sexualization of Female Athletes: A Bad Call for the Modern Game, Emily Liang, Inquiries Journal, Volume 3(10), (2011). One of the most important issues today is the media’s sexualization of female athletes. Unlike male athletes, female athletes do not have the luxury of being primarily portrayed as performance athletes, as coverage of their beauty and sex appeal usually overshadow highlights of their on-field endeavors.
  • Reimagining athletic nudity: the sexualization of sport as a sign of a ‘porno-ization’ of culture, Jirasek I, Kohe G and Hurych E, Sport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics, Volume 16(6), (2013). To satisfy society's insatiable consumer needs and desires, sporting bodies have been sexualized to the extreme. This overt sexualization is symptomatic of a wider porno-ization of western culture. The authors contend that bodies that are sexualized in, through, and around sporting contexts are disempowering and constraining of the athlete, fulfilling societies' collective voyeuristic and sexually needs.

International practice

The Equality Act 2010 provides a legislative framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all, which protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society. The legislation makes it unlawful to discriminate against actual or potential users of services on grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity and this applies not only to National Governing Bodies of Sport, but also to all sports clubs with more than 25 members.  

Although monitoring of gender identity has not yet been included in the Active People Survey of Sport and Recreation, it is highly likely that LGBT people remain some of the most excluded and marginalized from sport and physical activity in the UK. Many LGBT people have reported they find organised sport to be intimidating and alienating, having experienced homophobia and transphobia, particularly in school sport at an early age. Community sport still has a long way to go in making itself accessible to LGBT people. 

  • Homophobia in Sport, Government of the United Kingdom; Culture, Media and Sport Committee of Parliament report (2017). According to government estimates, approximately 6% of the UK population is gay, and yet homophobia in sport remains a serious issue. Research findings on the problem of homophobia in sport in the UK are broadly in line with the international consensus, with 84% of participants reporting hearing homophobic jokes and humour within sport and 49% of UK participants believing that, within sporting environments, homophobia is most likely to occur by spectators. These findings were underpinned by a recent BBC programme where it was reported that 8% of football fans surveyed would stop watching their team if they signed an openly gay player. Additionally, a recent survey reported that 72% of football fans have heard homophobic abuse, and this problem is not confined to football alone. The Committee acknowledges there are also very serious issues in relation to transgender people in sport and the problems they face. However, there are significant differences between the issues of transgender and homophobia in sport. Because of continuing concerns, the Committee held a short inquiry into homophobia in sport. The Committee concluded that despite the significant change in society’s attitudes to homosexuality in the last 30 years, there is little reflection of this social progress in football, particularly in terms of LGB visibility; indeed, it is often LGB supporters who provide the only LGB visibility at football stadia. It is also clear that the use of homophobic epithets and terms has a wide-ranging and damaging affect. The Committee considers it very disappointing that a significant percentage of people use offensive anti-LGB language and think it is harmless. Offensive behaviour toward LGB persons should be treated in the same way as other offensive language, whether racist, sexist, or denigrating any other group. Summary of Conclusions and Recommendations
  • Sport, physical activity & LGBT: A study by Pride Sports for Sport England (PDF  - 3.5 MB), Englefield L, Cunningham D, Mahoney A, Stone T and Torrance H, Sport England (2016). This report reviews the existing research and reports on the issues affecting LGBT participation in sport and physical activity. Evidence regarding the impact and success of projects that address LGBT opportunities in sport are provided, with reference to the Government’s sports strategy – Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation. This report summarises the work undertaken and points out good practice in three distinct areas: (1) initiatives aimed at improving sports participation by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; (2) volunteering; and (3) spectating. 
  • Including LGBT young people in sport, a guide, LGBT Youth North West and Pride Sports, England (2014).  This guide provides some pointers for National Governing Bodies and other sport providers on how to make their sport more accessible. 

Title IX is a federal civil rights law passed in 1972 which made gender discrimination in schools illegal. It has led to a record increase in the number of women participating in college athletics but has also had unintended consequences, such as reducing the number of female coaches in leadership positions. In 1972 the majority of women's teams (over 90%) were coached by women. With the increase in resources and opportunities more men have now taken on coaching positions with women's teams and now less than half (42%) of NCAA division one teams are coached by women. 

  • Annual report card series, Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport, (accessed 20 June 2019). 40+ years after the passage of Title IX, female sport participation is at an all-time high but the percentage of women coaching women at the collegiate level has declined from 90+% in 1974 to near an all-time low today of 40%? To help stop this decline, increase the percentage of women in the coaching profession, provide an institutional accountability mechanism, create awareness, and foster a national dialogue on this issue, the Tucker Center, in collaboration with the Alliance of Women Coaches, continues its research series and annual report card.
  • Progress and Promise: Title IX at 40 (PDF  - 237 KB), Sabo D and Snyder M, SHARP Centre for Women and Girls, White Paper (2013). Forty years ago, the United States Congress passed Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. This legislation, which reflected the dramatic emergence of women’s rights and feminism, ostensibly ensured that all students from kindergarten through postgraduate should receive equal educational opportunities regardless of their gender. The implications for physical education and sport in US schools and tertiary institutions were dramatic. The number of girls in high school sports increased dramatically because of Title IX. Women’s participation in college athletics increased from 30,000 to more than 190,000 in 2011/12 (NCAA statistics).

Related Topics

 



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