Very few LGBTIQ+ people are engaged in team sport, with just 6% of the community currently participating, according to research.
The new study, commissioned by Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras major sponsor Pantene, found that although most young LGBTIQ+ people begin playing a team sport, almost half of them quit before age 21.
Issues associated with dropping out of sports were identified as including lack of confidence and fear of judgement.
Matildas midfielder Katrina Gorry said she found the low rate of sport participation in the community “sad” and “shocking”.
“Sport has always been my safe haven,” she said.
Gorry, 28, said she and other girls involved in sports were bullied in school as “dykes”.
“School can be a pretty brutal place, and it can scare people away [from sport] if you’ve experienced things like that,” she said.
“When I went to training and crossed the white line, it all went away.”
She credited sport and the support of teammates with her self-confidence and comfort today as an openly gay woman.
Gorry acknowledged that queer women athletes seem more often accepted than their male counterparts, with few out gay or bisexual men in many team sports.
“It makes me sad – I have a gay brother who’s played sport all of his life,” she said.
“He’s found it difficult in some sporting teams to be out and who he is.
“He’s found that place now, but for him to go through that and trying to hide it for so many years is really heartbreaking.
“It does seem more comfortable for gay women, and I hope that we can change that, so that gay men can feel comfortable in their own skin and start to come out.”
Pantene’s new Rainbow Ribbon of Strength campaign aims to get more people enjoying the benefits of team sports.
Gorry said she is proud to be part of the campaign.
“I really hope that we can get a lot of the community to start raising awareness and bringing more [LGBTIQ+] people to sporting clubs,” she said.
The special limited-edition rainbow pride ribbons are available free by messaging Pantene on Instagram.
“The Pantene Ribbon of Strength was created in a bid to encourage participation in sports,” said Stephanie Doyle, Pantene Australia Brand Director.
“We hope the powerful stories of strength from experienced LGBTIQ+ players inspire the future generation of LGBTIQ+ sports stars to put on their boots and play with pride.”
Albert Kruger, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras CEO, said that connectivity and community are important.
“Joining a sports team can have great benefits for strengthening our feelings of belonging,” said Kruger.
“We’re very excited to be partnering with Pantene on the Ribbon of Strength and look forward to working with them to help drive more LGBTIQ+ participation in sports.”