Sports clubs, groups and organisations thrive when they engage a diverse range of individuals and ensure that everyone can be their authentic selves when participating or volunteering. To achieve this, more needs to be done to encourage lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBTQ+) people to take part in sport and physical activity. 

Why is it important to be LGBTQ+ inclusive?

Discrimination, LGBTQ+ phobia and a lack of awareness of the issues faced by LGBTQ+ people are reportedly still common within sport and physical activity settings. Participating and volunteering within a sports club or group setting can therefore be an intimidating experience and may give rise to feelings of anxiety and fear.

We need to robustly address this. Sport is everyone’s game, and it’s important to ensure that LGBTQ+ people are given as many opportunities and as much support to get active as other people, including those with other protected characteristics.

The Equality Act 2010 gives organisation’s a legal obligation to protect people from discrimination including harassment and victimisation based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression as well as other protected characteristics.

Being LGBTQ+ inclusive is not just the right thing to do, it has wider benefits to an organisation and it’s people including:

  • Improving your growth and sustainability by bringing in new people and retaining existing people.
  • Creating a more welcoming environment for everyone.
  • Enabling everyone to give their all to your organisation and be the best they can be.
  • Having a culture that is respectful and celebrates diversity.
  • Having increased diversity of thought in decision making and governance.
  • Being more representative of all aspects of your community.

What are the barriers facing LGBTQ+ people?

Being able to identify and understand the barriers faced by the LGBTQ+ community can help you make small, practical changes to your offer to make it as inclusive as possible. It is important to recognise that the LGBTQ+ community are not a homogenous group and that individuals will all face different barriers to participating and volunteering in sport and physical activity. What affects one person may not affect another. People’s experiences, gender, age, ethnicity, disposable income, family commitments, disabilities, health and wellbeing and other factors will all continue to play a part in influencing their behaviours, so it is important to take the time to understand people’s individual needs and requirements. Check out our understanding your people section for more information.

Research from Pride Sports, Stonewall, Sport England and other partners suggests that some of the commonly faced barriers for LGBTQ+ people include:

  • Negative perceptions based on previous experiences of school sport, particularly within organised team sport. Pride Sport research shows that LGBTQ+ people still prefer solitary, informal sport and physical activity.
  • A lack of awareness about opportunities or inclusive organisations.
  • A lack of LGBTQ+ role models or seeing other LGBTQ+ people participating or volunteering within community organisations
  • Fear of discrimination or abuse from teammates, other participants and club officials
  • Concerns about understanding and education on inclusion amongst the sector’s workforce and other participants.
  • Lack of appropriate changing facilities
  • A preference for some to play in mixed-gender environments, or to take part in solo sport and individual activity, which makes them less visible.

Tips for embedding LGBTQ+ inclusivity at your organisation

The way your organisation is governed, managed and run can play a large part in developing positive, inclusive culture where people feel safe to be their authentic selves. There are a few things you can do to ensure your commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusivity runs throughout your policies and practices including:

  • Appoint an equalities, diversity and inclusion lead to your committee to help oversee your organisation’s governance and decision-making processes.
  • Actively encourage LGBTQ+ representation on your committee/board and within your volunteer workforce. Check out Energise Me, Pride in our Workforce guide for further information.
  • Ensure you have an anti-discrimination statement within your governing document and organisations rules. 
  • Ensure you have an up-to-date equality and diversity policy which covers LGBTQ+ inclusion. Display and share your policy and make sure it is easily available to all.
  • Ensure that your organisations polices and procedures do not refer to specific genders. If they do, consider removing these references.
  • Develop an anti-bullying policy which covers bullying of LGBTQ+ people and put in place reporting and disciplinary procedures that enable people to report discrimination in confidence and to sanction where necessary. Ensure that appropriate action is taken should discrimination be reported. As this will help to build trust and confidence that your organisation will not tolerate this.
  • Incorporate diversity awareness training for committee board members and volunteers.
  • Connect with other local groups who have a reputation of being inclusive to seek advice on how to run and adapt sessions and activities that make LGBTQ+ people feel more comfortable and confident.

  • Showcasing and celebrating LGBTQ+ role models within your committee/board, volunteer workforce and participants.
  • Encouraging people to become LGBTQ+ allies and ensure they are visible and active within your organisation.
  • Supporting LGBT+ campaigns and events like Stonewall Rainbow Laces, Pride Month, LGBT+ History Month. For information see the Pride Sports Website for a calendar of events.
  • Running fundraising events for LGBTQ+ charities.
  • Considering joining an LGBTQ+ network (if they exist in your sport) to discuss ideas, share experiences and support inclusive change. Examples of existing networks include British Athletics and British Swimming.

Marketing and communications are essential mechanisms to help you recruit and retain your people. Demonstrating and promoting that you offer an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ people is an important way of breaking down barriers and letting people know they can be themselves. There are a number of ways you can do this:

  • Ensuring you use diverse imagery on your website, social media pages and marketing materials.
  • Incorporating LGBTQ+ friendly symbols and having LGBTQ+ friendly imagery into your website, club house and promotional material shows a clear and inclusive message.
  • Incorporate support for LGBTQ+ campaigns and events in your communications.
  • Use gender-neutral language in any communications where appropriate, for example, use of the word ‘team’ and sportsperson rather than sportsman or sportswoman.  
  • Encouraging everyone at your organisations to introduce their pronouns (if comfortable to) at the start of meetings, training sessions and on social media. The pronouns of other people should not be assumed just by looking at them. Introducing pronouns clearly will signal to trans and non-binary people that their pronouns will be respected at your organisation.  
  • Provide information on your website about facilities and what participants can expect when they arrive at your club. Include photos where possible.

  • Encouraging your coaches to speak to participants to ensure that their needs are met, and consideration is given to what can be done to improve their experience.  
  • Encouraging everyone taking part in activities or using your facilities to challenge all stereotypes and discriminatory language when they hear it, if it safe to do so.  Encourage everyone involved in your organisation to embrace inclusivity will help to create an environment where everyone feels welcome.
  • Encouraging your coaches and volunteers to use LGBTQ+ inclusive language for example, avoid using gender specific language such as ladies or gents but use everyone, team etc. 
  • Having mixed gender sessions for people who feel more comfortable in a mixed environment.
  • Using your membership/registration forms provide an early opportunity to show LGBTQ+ people they are welcome and recognised at your organisation. Review the language used in your forms to ensure it is LGBTQ+ inclusive and ensure they capture data on sexual orientation and gender identity and provide an opportunity for non-binary people to describe themselves in any gender monitoring.
  • Providing gender neutral kit or have relaxed restrictions on what can be worn to enable participants to wear clothes they feel comfortable in.
  • Aiming to create a more inclusive facility. Changing rooms and showers can often be daunting for non-binary and transgender people. To create a more inclusive facility consider speaking to any people at your organisation to see what changes would make them feel most comfortable.  

Last modified: Tuesday, 6 June 2023, 3:19 PM