Sports Study Asks LGBT Athletes to Tackle Homophobia

Sports HomThe CBA Southern Stars batter Alex Blackwell is calling for an end to homophobia in sport. She has recorded a video, to be distributed by Cricket Australia and others, encouraging people to spend 10 minutes to tell their story in the first national and international study on homophobia in sport.

Alex said, “The first thing we need to do is understand the issue, which is the whole purpose of the “Out on the Fields” study. It will quantify and qualify what the experience of homophobia is for athletes providing real evidence and information to develop very solid solutions.”

“Homophobia still exists in sport, which is disappointing, however I’m really excited that all the major codes in Australia and others around the world are coming together to fight against homophobia. As a gay athlete, I feel encouraged that there’s a lot more attention around this issue now,” said Alex Blackwell.

Dr. Caroline Symons, from Melbourne’s Victoria University, is one of the seven experts from around the world advising and helping to review the study results.

“Homophobia presents a challenge and potential barrier for the participation of women athletes in sport. Past research, which was mostly qualitative, shows that girls and women, broadly speaking, experience the negative effects of homophobia whilst involved in sport,” said Symons, who’s internationally respected for her research into sport and homophobia. “The survey is important as it allows us to hear women’s perspectives. There are huge numbers of women in sports, but they are generally under-represented, poorly recognized and under-resourced compared to their male counterparts. Lesbians, in particular, are often invisible in the sporting culture and they need to be heard. Hopefully the sample size of the survey will be large and the national comparative nature of the survey will also produce unique and important findings”.

The study, called “Out on the Fields” is an initiative of the organizers of Bingham Cup Sydney 2014 and is the first broad-based Australian and international study on the issue of homophobia in sport. Participation is open to everyone regardless of sexuality. Those interested can visit www.outonthefields.com. Among other things, the study looks at whether people choose not to play team sports because of fear of discrimination as well as the prevalence of homophobia, such as slurs, among athletes and fans.

Andrew Purchas is a current player as well as founder of the Sydney Convicts Rugby Club, Australia’s first gay rugby team and president of the Bingham Cup Sydney 2014, the world cup of gay rugby. “We want to ensure the Bingham Cup is inclusive for all and addresses the challenges around sexuality faced by everyone in our community. Aside from this broad-based study, this Bingham Cup will also be the first to include a women’s tournament. We expect between four to eight teams will play a series of seven a side rugby matches, with four local teams already committed to play,” said Andrew Purchas.

“The experiences of athletes like Alex Blackwell demonstrate the need to talk about the issue of homophobia in sport and how it affects everyone regardless of gender. We need to understand the extent of the problem so it can be immediately and effectively addressed.  This is why it’s very important that women take part regardless of whether they identify as lesbian or bi-sexual,” said Purchas.

The Australian Sports Commission will conduct similar research on homophobia in future years using this survey as the baseline. “Out on the Fields” is being conducted pro bono by sports research company Repucom. The results and final report will be reviewed by researchers at six universities around the world.

The seven researchers involved are from Victoria University (Melbourne), Pennsylvania State University, University of Massachusetts, Laval University (Canada), University of Winnipeg (Canada), and Brunel University (London).

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