Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version

Spring 4-27-2022

Thesis Advisor

Dr. Morgan Hoke, Dr. Katherine Moore


LGBTQ, identity formation, athletics, queer advocacy, ethnography


Historically, individuals identifying as LGBTQ have experienced higher levels of discrimination, stigmatization, and harassment compared to their non-LGBTQ peers. This holds especially true in the world of sports, where increased levels of competition, stress, and conformity often leave queer athletes feeling hopeless, isolated, and separate from their teammates, coaches, and training personnel. However, little scholarship regarding the intersection of LGBTQ identities and experiences in athletic spaces exists. The primary objective of this study is to explore the positive, negative, and neutral narratives of LGBTQ collegiate athletes in an attempt to decipher the true experience of performing at the highest level while supporting the socioemotional needs of an evolving queer identity. Forty-nine participants were recruited from 48 undergraduate and/or graduate academic institutions across the United States and represented more than 15 different sport types. Participants were allowed to report more than one affiliated institution and more than one sport type. Through the use of a qualitative survey and ethnographic interviews, this research adds to an increasingly growing understanding of LGBTQ individuals in sporting spaces and what it means to play with pride. Results from these methodologies identified several key elements that contribute to a culture of ostracization and exclusion for queer athletes, including homophobic language use and humor, the stigmatization of LGBTQ people in sports culture, and a lack of programming and structural support for members of this marginalized community on teams and in athletic departments. Furthermore, analysis of both the survey and interviews identified several factors crucial to LGBTQ athlete comfortability, safety, and security, including the presence of fellow queer teammates and coaches, team participation in conversations and educational opportunities related to visibility and representation of sexual minorities, and active allyship by non-LGBTQ peers and mentors. The implications of this research can have far-reaching influence on queer athlete programming, advocacy, and representation in collegiate athletic departments across the nation and better inform non-LGBTQ allies on how to support and serve their queer friends, family, and peers.

Included in

Anthropology Commons



Date Posted: 07 June 2022


To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.