There are things that you can do to help make sure LGBTQ+ children and young people feel included and valued in sport and at your club or activity.
Although it’s important to remember being LGBTQ+ isn’t a safeguarding risk, young people may want to discuss with you how they feel. A young person might not always be able to articulate at first how they’re feeling. They might say things like “I feel like a boy (or girl)” or “I like boys (or girls)”.
Young people should be supported to find the right information they need to develop and be able to take part in and enjoy sport while feeling comfortable in themselves.
A young person’s privacy should be respected. Confidentiality practice should reflect that of your safeguarding procedures, in that if a young person or other young people aren’t at risk, information doesn’t need to be shared.
Creating a supportive environment
The first step towards supporting LGBTQ+ young people is by making your sport LGBTQ+ friendly – and promoting that. Make sure your club identifies and challenges homophobic and transphobic bullying and has the inclusivity of LGBTQ+ members written into its safeguarding policies and procedures.
Make sure all your members, staff and volunteers – not just LGBTQ+ individuals – are made aware that there is a culture of acceptance in your sport and people’s individuality is welcomed and valued.
It’s important to discuss a young person’s wants and needs with them and make reasonable adjustments to your sports setting so that they can enjoy and experience sport comfortably, alongside other young athletes.
Reasonable adjustments for LGBTQ+ athletes
This could mean:
- using a separate changing space to that of fellow athletes to ensure their privacy
- arriving early to or leaving later from practices and events to change in privacy and to avoid questions from other young people
- having mixed gender groups, so that male and female teams aren’t separated, and young people aren’t forced to choose which gendered team they belong to
- using the gender terms they’re comfortable with in reference to themselves (for example, a young person who you previously referred to as ‘he’ or ‘him’ may now wish to be referred to as a female and want you to use the terms ‘she’ or ‘her’ during sessions)
Sports shouldn’t assume any young person would want to be separated or excluded based on the awareness that they are LGBTQ+. In fact, some LGBTQ+ young people may not want you to make any changes – and that’s great. Communication is key.
However, for the benefit of that young person and of all young people in your sport, a culture of acceptance should still be reinforced by challenging transphobic attitudes and celebrating difference.
Signposting to specialised services
LGBTQ+ specific services aim to improve outcomes for LGBTQ+ young people by working to ensure they receive the same entitlements and quality of service as any other service user in a ‘safe’ environment.
Try to make information about specialist services and your sport’s culture of acceptance prominent to anyone taking part or wishing to do so.
Click the resources tab above (or below, on mobile devices) for links to specialist organisations that can provide support to young people.
Involving parents and carers
Children and young people who are LGBTQ+ are more likely to be happy and positive about their sexual orientation or identity if their parents or carers are supportive and understanding.
However, not every LGBTQ+ young person will want their parents to know about their sexual orientation or identity, and this will need to be managed carefully. It’s best practice not to disclose a young person’s sexual or gender identity to their parents without their prior consent.
When a young person begins to question their identity or comes out, it can sometimes be a difficult time for parents and other family members. It is important to try to offer them support and point them towards resources and guidance as well.
If a young person has disclosed their sexuality or gender identity to their parents, get them involved in the conversation from the start. Discuss their child’s experiences of sport and how they think things could be improved.
Let young people and parents know that your sport is working towards being inclusive of everyone and discuss any decisions with them to achieve an outcome that works for everyone.