LGBTQ+ athletes might encounter considerations other athletes don’t have to face. With the help of our ED&I Ambassador Michael Gunning, LGBTQ+ Ambassador Robyn Love, and Sports Media LGBT+ founder Jon Holmes, we answer some of the key questions below.
If you’re an elite athlete and you need support or advice on anything else, please do get in touch with the BEAA.
What are my rights as an LGBTQ+ athlete?
Exactly the same as all athletes. If you feel you are experiencing prejudicial treatment due to your sexuality or gender identity, please reach out to one of the below services.
We want to ensure athletes feel safe and supported to live as their true authentic selves, and sexual orientation/identity and athlete identity shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.
Who can I speak to if I have concerns, require support or wish to raise a negative experience?
There are a variety of support channels for elite athletes.
The British Elite Athletes Association provide independent and confidential support and advice. You can reach our expert staff through:
Alternatively, reach out directly to our LGBTQ+ and ED&I Ambassadors Robyn Love and Michael Gunning:
Your NGB will have mechanisms in place to support you or handle concerns. If you feel comfortable speaking with them about your concern, we suggest talking with a Performance Lifestyle Advisor or another trusted member of staff.
Sport Resolutions can potentially support with pro bono legal advice. Reach out to the BEAA if you feel you’re facing a matter that would benefit from legal input.
Sport Integrity is a confidential reporting line for all athletes and staff on Olympic and Paralympic performance programmes to report allegations of unacceptable behaviour.
Raise a concern via:
There is a full directory of organisations that relate to LGBTQ+ athletes below, from useful figures in the media to sport-specific LGBTQ+ networks.
I think my sport would benefit from guidance on its LGBTQ+ policies. Who can provide it?
Similar to how we consult on selection policies, the BEAA can support your NGB to consult on their LGBTQ+ policy development and provide reassurance to your athlete community that an independent body is involved in the process.
I’m concerned about disclosing my sexuality to others. What should I do?
Sports Media LGBT+ founder Jon Holmes says: “When you’re under pressure, the prospect of going public with what could be a closely-guarded secret – or just part of your life that you’ve previously thought of as private – is hard to contemplate.
“Yet when the circumstances are right, and the tension has eased, just articulating a part of who you are makes perfect sense. In many instances, it turns out to be the best decision an LGBTQ+ athlete makes.
“Swimmer Dan Jervis discussed this with curler Bruce Mouat for Team GB’s Pride Month coverage, saying that his public coming out was ‘really empowering… an amazing experience.’
“But how do you prepare for that moment? Having first accepted yourself, it’s important to know there’s no set path to follow here. It won’t be non-stop sunshine and rainbows the entire way – but rest assured, there is plenty of good advice available.
“These are roads that are still rarely travelled, more so in certain sports than others. We are still in a time of trailblazers. However this isn’t a sprint; you set the pace.”
I’m concerned about how my teammates will react if I disclose my sexuality to them. What do you recommend?
Michael says: “In many sporting environments, it’s normal to feel worried or concerned about ‘coming out’ to your teammates, but my best advice would be to start off by telling one or a couple of people in your team that you can trust.
“It can be overwhelming telling a large group, but don’t rush into it – telling one person (such as a teammate, coach or support staff) can really put your mind at ease when telling a larger group. Remember that everyone is on their own path, so don’t feel pressured to tell anyone before you are ready, and know that some people might need longer to get their head around the fact you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community. I found that I over-analysed how my team would react to my coming out, but actually when I did, their reaction was better than I could have imagined.”
Robyn: “Coming out to teammates can be a significant and personal decision so it’s natural to have concerns about how they might react. Before you decide to disclose your sexuality, make sure you are 100% ready and confident. Having a strong support network can help with moments like this. Perhaps taking a one-on-one approach would be best if you’re concerned about group dynamics. It’s important to remember that not everyone might react how you hope or in the same way, but teammates who might not react how you hope maybe just need more time to process. Acceptance and understanding can evolve over time.
“Ultimately, coming out is a personal decision and you should do it in a way and at a time that feels right for you. Remember to prioritise your own well-being and mental health throughout the process. If you’re unsure about how your teammates will react or worried about your safety, the BEAA can provide support and guidance to help with your situation.”
I’m ready to share my sexuality publicly. What steps can I take next?
Jon Holmes: “Having a solid purpose on the start line is paramount. One approach is to advocate for good mental health among fellow athletes who can relate to you when you reflect on your struggles.
“Both Dan Jervis and Dame Kelly Holmes made such an impact when they did this last summer, and whether you’re a past, present or potential Olympian or Paralympian, your unique story will have power too.
“Raising awareness of a charity or cause, like the NFL’s Carl Nassib did when he came out by donating to the Trevor Project, is commendable. Sharing happy news of a relationship or another life event is also an invitation to celebrate.
“Wanting to be the role model that the younger you never had, stating your gender identity, or silencing your inner saboteur, are among the acts someone has in mind when they share their truth.
“What’s proven to be particularly effective for athletes in recent years is a synchronised approach. You post to your social profiles; around the same time, your club, team, NGB and other relevant organisations acknowledge your personal news and affirm their support for your message.
“Through all this, the most important voice is yours. You could choose to record a video where you look into the camera and connect directly with the viewer. It might look very slick and professional in the way it’s produced, as with Australian footballer Josh Cavallo in October 2021; it could be very casual and matter-of-fact, like Nassib on Instagram a few months prior to Cavallo; or followers may just see a Pride flag, accompanied by text that’s short but sweet.
“As for speaking to a stranger – such as a journalist or media officer – there’s no denying that can be daunting. However, taking this route can help you to frame your narrative across the wider media.
“Look around at what’s on offer. Which platform can deliver the audience that you want to reach? Who can you turn to in confidence who has a proven track record?
“One more piece of advice: let someone else monitor your social media before, during and after your announcement, such as an agent, manager, trusted friend or family member.
“Say what you want to say, then let it breathe. While the weight is lifting off your shoulders (you might suspect this is a coming-out cliche, but it does happen!), everything else can wait.
“It’s only human to worry about what we don’t know, and visibility arrives suddenly when you come out publicly. How will you be perceived? There’s a relevant quote attributed to Dr. Seuss, whose books for children made him a household name: ‘The best advice I ever heard: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because people who mind don’t matter and people who matter don’t mind.”’
“But for an out athlete, the best is yet to come: the power-up, the turbo boost, the spring in your step, with a whole community cheering you on. Now you get to go and deliver your personal best.”
How can I use my platform to give back to the LGBTQ+ community?
Michael: “Representation matters, so I think it’s important to keep being a role model for the up and coming generation of athletes so they know they’re not alone. As athletes, we have a platform and many people around the world will be exposed and feel inspired by our stories, so make sure you speak honestly about your experiences and remember that everyone is on their own path.”
Robyn: “Using your platform to give back to the LGBTQ+ community can be a powerful way to make a positive impact. You can use your platform to raise awareness about LGBTQ+ issues and challenges, and sharing stories can highlight the experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals and help educate others. You can use your voice and personal experiences to advocate for inclusivity and equality, support LGBTQ+ causes and be a voice for those who don’t yet have one.”
I have a training camp or competition in a country where there are laws against LGBTQ+ sexualities. What can I do?
We can work with your NGB and athlete cohort to provide support services during competition time. This can include extended hours to access the BEAA’s confidential and independent support and signposting to relevant agencies or support services.
Athletics Pride Network
If you would like to join or find out more about the Athletics Pride Network, please email: AthleticsPrideNetwork@britishathletics.org.uk.
Or follow them on Twitter/X at @AthleticsPride1.
They also have a private Facebook group. Email them for more details.
BBC’s LGBT Sport Podcast
Hosted by BBC Cornwall’s Jack Murley, the LGBT Sport Podcast interviews leading LGBTQ+ figures from across sport.
Commonwealth Sport Pride Network
The Commonwealth Sport Pride Network brings together athletes, coaches, Commonwealth Games Associations’, stakeholders, partners and allies across the Commonwealth Sport Movement.
LEAP Sports Scotland
LEAP Sports Scotland (Leadership, Equality and Active Participation in Sports for LGBTI people in Scotland) works for greater inclusion for LGBTI people in sport and against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in a sports context.
Mermaids supports transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse children, young people, and their families.
Pride House International
Pride Houses provide safe, welcoming and inclusive environments at major sporting events, including the Commonwealth, Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Pride House France will operate during the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Pride in Tennis
Dedicated to making British tennis open and accessible for all LGBTQ+ communities.
Pride in Water
A network across British Swimming, aiming to enhance the support, visibility and engagement of the LGBT+ community within the aquatic disciplines.
Pride Sports challenge homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in sport and improve access to sport for LGBT+ people.
Sports Media LGBT+
A network group and consultancy that advocates for inclusion in the media and across sport in general. Reach out for advice on the media, publicity, and being an LGBTQ+ figure in the media.
Stonewall is the largest LGBT rights organisation in Europe. You can reach out to them here.
Know someone who should be added? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.