LGBT young people in sport

Last updated: 12 Jan 2016
Swimming 3

Many young lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people have difficult experiences when they reveal their sexual orientation or identity, but there is support available.

It's very important that children get support in what can be a difficult time in their life, and have opportunities to talk about any issues. The care and understanding of parents or carers, other family members and peers is vital.

Despite some of the potential challenges, for many young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, it can be a very exciting stage in their lives.

Many children and young people will know that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or will have questioned their sexuality or gender identity from a young age.

A large number don’t tell anyone until they are older. This may be because they are scared and worried about others’ perceptions of LGBT people. The window of time between first questioning their identity and starting to accept it can lead to young people suffering from lower self-esteem, depression or feeling a sense of isolation.

Changes in legislation over recent years have ensured that in many areas of life gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people should enjoy and can demand the same rights as everybody else.

Some people still discriminate against anyone who is seen as different and demonstrate discriminatory attitudes or behaviors. The changes to the law mean that organisations have a responsibility to provide services and support for all children and young people – including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

There are things that you can do to help make sure LGBT children and young people feel included and valued in the group. These include identifying and challenging homophobic and transphobic bullying

Further resources

Working with LGBT young people
Tag rugby

Providing support for LGBT children and young people

LGBT-specific services aim to improve outcomes for LGBT young people by working to ensure they receive the same entitlements and quality of service as any other service user in a ‘safe’ environment.

All settings should aim to provide an atmosphere where LGBT young people are free to just be themselves. They should feel accepted by adults and other young people.

Providing accessible and welcoming information for LGBT young people embraces diversity. It creates an environment where everyone should feel valued and LGBT young people have their needs fully taken into account, without prejudice or homophobia/transphobia.

Good practice for working with LGBT young people

Many sports organisations already work with a wide range of children and young people from different backgrounds and with different needs. Effectively meeting the needs of LGBT young people should be an element of this.

Considering the issues below and applying good practice will allow LGBT young people to feel safe and supported in and by the services they use:

  • the organisation treats everyone with respect and fully implements equal opportunities, tackling homophobia and transphobia in the same way as racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination
  • anti-bullying policies take into account LGBT issues and are visible within the group setting
  • the images the organisation presents and displays reflect LGBT diversity
  • practices are open and inclusive
  • do not automatically assume that everyone is heterosexual or with their assigned birth gender
  • mainstream services are available to everyone
  • positive action is taken to attract a representative group of young people to attend
  • the service undertakes sensitive monitoring of sexuality
  • staff have LGBT awareness training and understand the needs and vulnerabilities that LGBT young people have
  • staff teams reflect the diversity in the community in terms of sexuality as well as race, gender, religion, ability, age, etc
  • there is knowledge within the organisation about the range of LGBT facilities and resources available – both nationally and in the local community

Helping parents and carers

Children and young people who are LGBT are more likely to be happy and positive about their sexual orientation or identity if their parents or carers are supportive and understanding.

Not every LGBT young person will want their parents to know about their sexual orientation or identity and this will need to be managed carefully.

When a young person begins to question their identity or comes out, it can sometimes be a difficult time for parents/carers and other family members. It is important to try to offer them support and point them towards resources and guidance.

Most parents are only concerned for their child’s wellbeing and would worry about their children being bullied about their sexual orientation or identity. Parents may be anxious about the impact this bullying will have on their child and their future life.

Some parents struggle with the issues raised either due their own beliefs/values or lack of knowledge. A balanced position should be maintained when discussing the topic with them. Providing parents with advice or information can be helpful.

Other sources of support

Where LGBT young people experience a difficult relationship with their parents, other adults or agencies that can offer support and listen to their needs include:

  • other family members
  • GPs
  • local council services
  • youth workers
  • teachers
  • specific LGBT services – helplines, youth clubs, etc
  • Childline
  • Young Stonewall
Useful definitions

Glossary of LGBT terms

An alphabetical list of terms relating to gender and sexual orientation.


Agender ('without gender') - Denoting or relating to a person who does not identify themselves as having a particular gender. Also see non-binary.

Asexual, asexuality or non-sexuality - A lack of sexual attraction to any person, or low or absent interest in sexual activity.


Binary (or gender binary) - The idea that there are only two possible genders – male and female – which can be assigned on the basis of genitalia. This often also enforces masculinity for men and femininity for women through gender roles and socially-imposed restrictions.

Bisexual or bi - People who are physically, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to both men and women. 

Biphobia - A range of negative attitudes and feelings towards bisexual people. Biphobia is a source of discrimination against bisexual people.


Closeted or ‘in the closet’ - An LGBT person who has not disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Coming out - When a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person discloses their sexual orientation or true gender.


Gay - A person (male or female) whose sexual orientation is attraction to people of the same sex and/or gender.

Gender-blind (sex-blind) - A person who does not distinguish people by gender.

Gender fluid - A gender-fluid person may at any time identify as male, female or any other, non-binary identity. Their gender identity can vary at random or in response to different circumstances. Gender-fluid people may also identify as multi-gender, non-binary and/or transgender.

Gender neutrality or gender-neutralism - The idea that policies, language and institutions should avoid distinguishing roles according to one’s gender.

Genderqueer - An umbrella term with a similar meaning to non-binary. It can be used to describe any gender identities outside of the male–female gender binary imposed by society.


Heterosexual - People whose enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction is to people of the opposite sex. Also known as straight.

Homophobia - A range of negative attitudes and feelings towards lesbian, gay and, in some cases, bisexual or transgender people.

Homosexual - People whose enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction is to people of the same sex. This is an outdated clinical term, which is considered derogatory and offensive by many gay and lesbian people.


Intersex - A person with a variation in sex characteristics, including chromosomes and genitals, that does not allow the individual to be identified as male or female.


Lesbian - A woman whose enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction is to other women.

LGBT, LGB&T, LGBorT, GLBT or LGBTQ - Acronyms used for 'lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender'. LGBT (or one of the variations) is often used because it's more inclusive of the diversity of the community than just saying 'gay and lesbian'. The Q at the end of 'LGBTQ' typically stands for queer and/or questioning.


Multi-gender - Anyone who experiences more than one gender identity. It can be a gender identity in its own right, or can be an umbrella term for other identities that fit this description, such as gender fluid, non-binary and/or transgender.


Non-binary - Any gender identity that does not fit within the binary of male and female.


Openly gay (also openly lesbian, openly bisexual and openly transgender) - People who self-identify as gay in their personal, public, and/or professional lives. While accurate and commonly used, the phrase still implies a confessional aspect to publicly acknowledging one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Out - A person who self-identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender in their personal, public, and/or professional lives. Preferred term rather than saying 'openly gay'.

Outing - The act of publicly declaring (sometimes based on rumour and/or speculation) or revealing another person's sexual orientation or gender identity without that person's consent. Outing is considered inappropriate by a large portion of the LGBT community.


Pansexual or omnisexual - People who are physically, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to people of any sex or gender identity. Pansexual people may refer to themselves as gender-blind, since gender and sex are irrelevant when determining whether they will be sexually attracted to others.


Queer - Traditionally a negative term, 'queer' has been adopted by some LGBT people to describe themselves. However, it is not universally accepted even within the LGBT community and should be avoided unless in a direct quote or describing someone who self-identifies as queer.


Sexual orientation – The characteristic that describes whether a person has a physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to members of the same and/or opposite sex. It includes lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual orientations. Avoid using the term 'sexual preference', which is often viewed as offensive, as it can suggest that being gay, lesbian or bisexual is voluntary and therefore 'curable'.

Straight - Another term used for heterosexual.


Transgender or trans - An umbrella term for anyone whose assigned-at-birth gender (normally based on genitalia) does not match their internal experience of gender. Transgender people often experience discomfort or distress due to their gender not being recognised by others, and therefore wish to transition to being viewed as their true gender identity. 'Trans' may also be an abbreviation for transsexual, so should be avoided if not clear from the context. 

Transition - The process of changing a person’s sex characteristics, gender expression and/or lifestyle in order to align with their gender identity. Any transgender person may wish to transition, including those with non-binary identities. However, transition is not necessary to be transgender, and some transgender people prefer not to transition for a variety of reasons.

There are 3 major kinds of transition:

    • medical transition is changing one's sex characteristics through medical procedures (including surgery and hormone therapy)
    • social transition is changing how the person is viewed by others, by making their gender identity public (including changing names and asking others to use different pronouns)
    • legal transition is changing the person's legal gender (which may require proof that a medical and/or social transition has already taken place)

Transsexual or transexual - A term preferred by some people who have undergone (or want to undergo) medical transition. Many transgender people do not identify as transsexual and prefer the word 'transgender'. 'Trans' may be an abbreviation for either term, so should be avoided if not clear from the context.

Transphobia - A range of negative attitudes and feelings towards transgender or trans people. Transphobia is a source of discrimination against transgender people.


There's a wealth of resources for safeguarding LGBT young people in sport – we list some of the most useful ones here.

CPSU resources

Sports resources

Other useful resources and websites