Shining a light on the unseen athletes: exploring the experiences of professional gay male team sport athletes
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This study explores the experiences of gay team sport professional athletes. LGBTQ+ athletes are more commonplace than they used to be in mainstream sport, especially in Western countries. However, there is still a lack of representation of gay team sport professional athletes competing and in the literature. Previous literature includes mostly university/college American athletes, who recently came out. This is the first empirical study that focuses on gay team sport professional athletes, highlighting their experiences for the purpose of mapping for future research and to spark societal change. This study aims to make sport, with society to follow, a more welcoming and inclusive space for gay athletes by familiarizing the sport community with gay athletes. This research includes semi-structured, one-on-one interviews with 6 participants, chosen based on their sport, country of origin, country they compete(d) in, age and race. The interviews are transcribed through phenomenological analysis, with common themes across participants presented in paragraph form with direct quotations. The research questions include: What are the experiences of gay team sport professional athletes? What can be done to make sport more inclusive for gay team sport professional athletes? The common themes parallel those seen with amateur athletes, but new arenas exist in the professional realm that are not seen elsewhere. Participants note that straight athletes do not face society the same way that gay athletes do, with true inclusion still being decades away. Participants note having feelings of isolation, especially in the showers, and have suggestions to facilitate in making sport more inclusive ranging from language to education upgrades. Given the absence of previous research on this topic, this study urges and suggests dialogue amongst those at the highest level of sport.