The survey included more than 800 LGBTQ+ high school and college athletes located in the United States and Canada. These participants all came “out” to at least one teammate and answered questions about their experience doing so. As an important caveat, just 29 responses came from athletes who came out to their teammates as trans.
With that said, more than 95% of responses described their teammates’ reaction to their news as anywhere from “neutral” to “perfect,” with less than 5% saying it was “bad.” Specifically, just under one-quarter of respondents said the response from their teammate was “perfect or near perfect.” More than half said the reaction fell between “neutral” and “very good.” Three respondents categorized reactions as the “worst-case scenario.”
Interestingly, just under one-third of respondents said their teammates were more welcoming than the general student body. About one-third of survey participants said the response they got from teammates was about “the same” as they expected to get, but more than 60% said the response was better than expected. Less than 5% said it was worse than they anticipated.
One high school athlete in North Dakota told researchers that being outed as bisexual was a serious fear of hers. When she told a handful of teammates, though, “the support was amazing,” and several others on the team also came out as LGBTQ+.
Notably, more than 80% of college athletes rated their teammates’ reactions as “good,” whereas just over 70% of high schoolers said the same. Just 3% of college students said their teammates’ reactions were “bad,” while 7% of high schoolers said the same.
A college football player replied to the survey saying the “first time” they came out as gay to anyone, it was actually to all 130 members of their high school football team. “Many teammates were sharing very personal struggles that they’ve had in their life,” he explained. “And I felt like that was the time to come out. I never planned on coming out like that. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision. So glad I did it.”
Of course, there is always room to grow and improve. Anyone having a bad experience is still concerning, and frankly, even people who just get “tolerant” responses deserve far better. Which is part of why it’s so important to have adults—including elected officials—stand on the right side of history and promote respect, dignity, and equality for all people, including LGBTQ+ folks.