Safeguarding LGBTQ+ young people

Last updated: 31 Oct 2022
Safeguarding LGBTQ+ young people

LGBTQ+ children and young people face the same risks as all children and young people, but they are at greater risk of some types of abuse.

It’s essential that sport or activity providers create a supportive and welcoming culture for all children, safe from harm and a place where they can thrive.

Being LGBTQ+ isn’t a safeguarding risk, it’s how others in our society may behave towards a young person who categorises themselves as LGBTQ+ that may cause risk. Many young people may just want to discuss with you how they feel, so it's important that if they trust you to talk to, you respond in a positive supportive manner.

What does LGBTQ+ mean?

LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning and more. This term covers a broad range of people who have different lived experiences and may be at different stages in exploring their gender and sexuality and includes people who are asexual or have differences in sex development (sometimes known as intersex).

Awareness and understanding

Communication is key, you shouldn’t assume any young person would want to be separated or excluded from activities, have a conversation with them regarding their needs and if any changes or amendments are required. This is good practice for all young people, to make them feel heard and valued within your club or activity.

Many children and young people may have known or 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 or worried about others’ reactions to their identity or sexuality.

To help facilitate a young person’s own understanding and confidence, your sport club or activity should promote the Childline website and contact details as they can support a young person with advice about their feelings or sexual identity.

The window of time between first questioning their identity and starting to accept themselves (or coming-out) can lead to young people's emotional wellbeing and mental health being impacted. For example, they may experience:

  • low self-esteem or possibly depression
  • feeling a sense of isolation
  • minority stress
  • a need to prove themselves in other areas of their lives
  • imposter syndrome
  • fear of bullying

Your club or activity should strive to create a culture of acceptance, awareness and understanding of different types of sexuality and gender identities.

Key things to remember

  • treat everyone with respect and fully implement equal opportunities
  • let young people know that they can talk to you and that their privacy will be respected - confidentiality practice should reflect that of your safeguarding procedure
  • support young people to find the right information and specialist support services
  • reinforce an ethos of acceptance and difference
  • support all young people within your club or activity, so they feel valued, heard, able to express themselves and progress in their sport
  • challenge abusive or harmful behaviours (homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexism, and any other form of discrimination)
  • challenge gender stereotypes and celebrate difference
  • promote LGBTQ+ related events and campaigns to demonstrate openly that your club or activity has inclusive values
  • do not automatically assume a person’s sexual orientation or gender
  • promote LGBTQ+ specialist services to everyone in your sport or activity

If your club is part of a National Governing Body (NGB) or Active Partnership (AP), ensure you are following your organisations equality, diversity and inclusion or transgender policies and procedures.

Creating a supportive culture

The first step to supporting LGBTQ+ young people in your club or activity, is to create and promote an inclusive environment and culture for all children, parents, carers, staff and volunteers, not just LGBTQ+ individuals.

Everyone within your club, activity or organisations should be made aware of your sports culture of acceptance, where people’s individuality is welcomed, valued, listened to, and celebrated.

The benefits of inclusivity

Creating a safe and accepting space, allows children and young people to:

  • express themselves free from prejudice or judgement, which builds confidence and self-esteem
  • feel valued and reassured through positive re-enforcement
  • seek support and guidance if they should need it - support could also be extended to parents and peers

If you’re part of an NGB or Active Partnership, you may have an equality and diversity champion or lead who can support with advice and guidance to have a more inclusive club.

How to be inclusive for LGBTQ+ young people

Have a conversation with the young person

This should be led by the young person with the welfare officer or coach, a parent may also be present. This conversation gives the young person the opportunity to discuss what would work for them regarding changing rooms facilities, training, and competition, and allows them to discuss any worries or other thoughts.

Inclusion statement and equalities policy

It’s important to have inclusivity written into your organisations safeguarding policies and procedures. But this needs to be backed up by real support for relevant LGBTQ+ campaigns or events. For further information, take a look at our sample anti-bullying policy

Inclusive use of terminology, language and attitude

Your sport’s paperwork should be inclusive and use terminology that is appropriate for everyone. Language used within the club or activity is inclusive as well as externally on social media, within newsletters and all communication with young people, parents and the public. 

Training needs

Training and development of staff and volunteers is an essential part to keeping your club up-to-date and engaged, ensure that inclusivity is included in any training.

Inclusive anti-bullying policy

This should include all forms of discrimination to include the whole LGTBQ+ community and celebrate pride.

Challenge negative behaviour

Ensure you respond to any negative behaviour towards anyone taking part in your sport or activity, reinforcing that your organisation is inclusive and celebrates difference. Any non-inclusive behaviour should be challenged and made clear that this behaviour isn’t acceptable.

Terminology, language, and attitudes

Having an open discussion with the young people in your club or activity regarding their preferred name, pronouns, needs and concerns will help all members to feel valued and listened to.

It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the different types of sexuality and gender identity terminology. You’ll probably encounter some of this terminology when working with young people, who may be seeking your support or wanting to know more themselves.

More information on the correct use of pronouns can be found on the Pronouns.org website or Stonewall's International Pronouns Day webpage. You can also find a full glossary of LGBTQ+ terms on Stonewall’s website.

If you’re part of an NGB or Active Partnership you may have an equality and diversity champion or lead who can support, you with advice and guidance to have a more inclusive club.

Banter or bullying behaviour

Banter is often passed off as being acceptable within a sports setting. However, where is the line between banter and bullying behaviour? Banter may not include all the same elements as bullying, but it doesn’t mean it is acceptable.

All language that is upsetting, offensive, threatening, abusive or violent should be challenged and dealt with appropriately. Just because someone uses certain language to refer to themselves, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s acceptable for them to use this language towards others. If you think something is banter or a joke, it doesn’t mean others will feel the same.

It’s important to have open communication with everyone involved in your club or activity around acceptable use of language and behaviour, this will help ensure that everyone is aware what is acceptable and what isn’t. Information regarding use of inclusive language should be part of your club's or activity's codes of conduct and promoted across the organisation.

For further information, take a look at our guidance on homophobic and transphobic bullying in youth sport

Challenging sporting stereotypes

In the past, certain sports have been deemed as gender specific and although there have been vast developments in equality and diversity within sports, there is still a way to go. For example, language such as 'football is a man's sport' and 'ballet is an activity for girls'.

These stereotypes have generally been based on birth genders and stereotypical gender roles within our wider society and culture. As these roles have developed and changed alongside our everyday life, sport has developed too.

However, there are still pre-existing gender stereotypes that are hard to shake, such as females being the weaker gender or that males should be tough and not show emotions. These gender stereotypes should be challenged and level the playfield for everyone taking part within your sport or activity.

Sports organisations should also consider any specific requirements they have around sports kits to ensure inclusivity. Rather than having gender specific kits, young people should be free to wear the kit that they feel most comfortable in.

Please note that requirements around safety equipment should not be compromised when selecting kit.

Celebrating difference

Having positive roles models within sports can influence children and young people to first take part in their chosen sport. If a young person sees someone like themselves taking part in a particular sport or activity, they can identity more closely with the person and the sport and therefore may be inspired to take up this sport.

Resources

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

CPSU and NSPCC resources

Sports resources

Other useful resources and websites

Publications