Poster for may 17th International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia 2010 break the silence homophobia and transphobia damage the world of sports
Poster for may 17th International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia 2010 break the silence homophobia and transphobia damage the world of sports

Silence as a system

Team sports

Sports teams are not reputed for being welcoming to gay men and lesbians. The sports system has grown on the presumption that everyone is heterosexual. By all appearances, this would seem true as only very few gay men and lesbians on professional teams are known. In team sports people act as if being gay or lesbian didn’t exist.

Individual sports

Individual sports afford some leeway for male and female athletes wanting to reveal their homosexual orientation but it can still affect their career. Even if the system is less constraining and performance calls the shots, it still takes a lot of courage and determination to come out as gay or lesbian. Some athlete fear losing their sponsors and their fans if they come out.

The locker room

In the sports world, hitting the locker room is the norm and the first time people become aware of sexuality-related taboos. Gay men and lesbians are often traumatised by such an exposing experience whereas other people learn their first lessons in how to taunt and be homophobic.

Fighting the silence

Fighting prejudice is all of society’s concern. Everyone is called on to break the silence surrounding the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity in the sports world, by speaking about:

  • the silence of those who are targeted by jokes and taunts for being gay or lesbian;

  • the silence on moral damage to gay men and lesbians which results in their exclusion;

  • the silence over the need to hide being gay or lesbian in the sports world;

  • the built-in silence in the sports world;

  • the silence by sports world figures who still deny that sexual minority issues exist;

  • the silence by the media about being gay and lesbian in the sports world;

  • the silence by athletes who do nothing about homophobic comments, attitudes, and behavior they witness.

Did you know ?

In a study conducted in 2014 in 6 English-speaking countries including the US, Canada and the United Kingdom, 44% of adult gay men said they hide their orientation for fear of being rejected by their teammates.


Speaking about silence


Changing attitudes and behaviour is no small affair. Like society as a whole, the sports world has been built on values from a time when being gay or lesbian was forbidden and condemned. Combating homophobia requires a joint effort from everyone involved in the sports world. Tackling the silence surrounding sexual diversity in the sports world is the responsibility of all those involved.

Educational institutions

Youth who participate in athletic activities should be able to count on the support of their community where sexual diversity is respected and in which displays of homophobia will not be tolerated.

Sponsors of sporting events

Sponsors and advertisers associated with the sports world are called on to include sexual diversity in their announcements.

Sports organisations

Professional sports are at the top, attract media attention, stir up fans’ excitement, and act as an example to follow. All sports organisations should adopt an anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia policy and see that it is enforced.


Sports enjoy wide media coverage. All those who work in the media, especially in sports media, have an enormous responsibility. They must break the silence on sexual diversity.

Sports fans

Sports fans should not tolerate any discrimination against athletes based on sexual orientation. If you hear someone usign homophobic or transphobic slurs or by speaking out against homophobic speech and acts.

If you hear something, say something.


Athletes should lead by example. Come out if they can, or at least show that diversity is important to them and that discrimination is not acceptable. 

Déclaration contre l'homophobie

No discrimination in sports international day against homophobia and transphobia may 17th


Changing rooms and showers

The sometimes toxic atmosphere of changing rooms means that locker rooms and showers are often unsafe spaces for trans people. The installation of non-gendered premises or individual cabins for changing and showering would make the sports environment more welcoming for trans people and for many other people.

Legitimacy and competition

Sports enthusiasts should not tolerate discriminating against athlete on the basis of their expression or their gender identity.

Still today women trans athletes are suspected of "cheating" while trans athletes men remain in the shadows.


Trans people are often excluded or face significant difficulties in accessing competitive sport opportunities. Whether joining a federation, registering for a competition, or accessing health and insurance services, the non-inclusiveness of the policies of most organizations remains problematic.


Survey results

In 2010, not all Canadians seemed ready for a gay athlete

According to our survey, conducted in 2010:

  • 78% of Quebecers and 72% of other Canadians find that in the world of sport, the question of homosexuality is kept silent. Only 14% of Canadians disagreed.

  • 1 in 5 Canadians think that knowing an athlete's sexual orientation would influence the public's appreciation of that athlete in a negative way.

  • One-third of Canadians think that gay athlete do not have the same chance to succeed in their career as heterosexual athlete.

  • 61% of respondents agree that the world of sport is an unwelcoming environment for gay men and 45% think it is unwelcoming for lesbians.

Original edition


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