There is a dichotomy between perceptions of dating as gay, bi, and queer in one of the major men’s sports and the reality of those who responded to the Outsports survey of the experiences of LGBTQ athletes in high school and college.
A common perception is that it is very difficult to be absent at any level of the Big Five Men’s Sports, and this perception is supported by the absence of public players in these sports this year.
But in reality, players are coming out in these sports, even if they don’t do so publicly through a media interview or on their social media.
In our survey of over 800 athletes, 92 experiences of athlete coming out were reported to high school or college teammates in football, men’s basketball, baseball, soccer or hockey, 71.7 % having at least one good experience.
Here’s the breakdown of how these athletes said hanging out with their teammates overall:
- Perfect or near perfect: 25%
- Very good: 28.2%
- Good: 18.5%
- Neutral: 20.7%
- Bad: 5.4%
- Very bad: 1.1%
- Worst possible: 1.1%
Nathan Hayes played as a receiver for the Lamar University football team (class of 2012) and shared how his team had a positive experience.
“I just remember the stress I put on and the weight I felt I had to carry,” Hayes told Outsports. “Surprisingly, once I got out and my teammates showed no indifference towards me, I noticed that my overall game on the court had improved. Not having to feel like an outsider who was accepted only for my athleticism but accepted for all that I was, took a lot of weight off me and I was able to unleash my full potential.
“It was like I wanted to give everything I had for my team because they finally gave me something that I wanted most of my life that was real brotherhood. Nothing else n ‘mattered.
Much of the reluctance to exit that we’ve heard over the past two decades is about the reaction from teammates. In total, 77% of Big 5 sports athletes in high school and college said their teammates’ initial reaction exceeded their expectations.
“It was less about my ‘bravery’ to go out, but I give them all credit for being as loving and tolerant as possible,” wrote one football player who called his coming out experience “perfect or almost perfect”.
“I didn’t have to teach or prepare them … they immediately liked and accepted me.”
The widespread acceptance was contrary to the expectations of many athletes in male team sports in the survey. Overall, they said their teammates’ reactions to their exit exceeded their expectations.
Our survey asked, “How was the initial reaction of your teammates when you are LGBTQ, compared to your expectations?” “
- Much better: 47.8%
- A little better: 29.3%
- Same: 20.7%
- A little worse: 1.1%
- Much worse: 1.1%
“It was a learning process for everyone on the team as anti-LGBTQ slurs were part of some of their vocabularies,” said one basketball player. “The team did a very good job of calling the use of these insults and over time those insults were non-existent in the team.”
Looking at the comments athletes made in these sports, there was a lot of nuance accompanying their assessment of their experiences. Several people who reported having had perfect or near-perfect experiences nonetheless reported problems feeling isolated at times from their teammates.
“The culture around anti-LGBTQ verbiage changed while I was there because I was a football captain, an all-conference player and an American player, but it was certainly still there with some players. “wrote a football player. “I noticed which players stopped talking to me, started avoiding me in the weight room and on the pitch, etc. Overall, my position group – the offensive line – has been there for me throughout the trip. They never let that change the way they looked at me or the way they treated me as a person.
Despite the high levels of support, not everyone had a positive experience. For example, a soccer player and a soccer player, who each rated their experience as bad, said they had gone out, a heavy experience since the person lost the choice to go out on their terms.
Others noted how harsh anti-gay language was to get rid of, even when players knew they had a gay teammate.
“Looks like there are a handful of guys who are homophobic, but they know it’s wrong so they won’t say anything directly. It’s more like they’re making comments about how they think I’m weak or not good enough when I’m not, ”wrote one football player who called his experience neutral.
The experiences of those athletes who responded to the survey show that being part of a team generally goes well, but it’s understandable that hearing about poor results can make people reluctant to take that step.
The fact that there are no players in public on the Division I major men’s varsity teams this season, for example, shows that moving from coming out to teammates to publicly discussing being gay is a step that few. people want to cross.
This is why I hope that Carl Nassib’s overwhelmingly positive reaction in the NFL with the Las Vegas Raiders could inspire other lower level athletes to do the same.
In a podcast last week, Nassib summed up the frustration he felt at having to announce he was gay and why he thought it was imperative.
“What other fucking gay dude has to take care of all his fucking business?” said Nassib. “I did it because I felt an obligation to the LGBTQ community.” The sense of obligation is one that we hope more and more LGBTQ athletes will feel, despite the stress of coming out. Our survey of top men’s sports reveals that there is a lot of acceptance out there.