Outsports Survey Shows Generally Positive Experience for LGBTQ Athletes

Outsports, a sports news outlet that covers LGBTQ issues and individuals in amateur and professional sports, has released the findings of a survey about LGBTQ athletes’ acceptance among their teammates. Outsports worked with Dr. Eric Anderson at the University of Winchester to develop the survey.

The survey was released ahead of National Coming Out Day on Monday, Oct. 11.

How the Study Was Conducted

For the Out In Sports study, Outsports worked with Dr. Eric Anderson at the Univ. of Winchester to develop the survey, and partnered with the Sports Equality Foundation to distribute the survey. The survey was ethically approved by the Univ. of Winchester.

The respondents to the study came from a vast array of sources.

Outsports posted information about taking the study and contacted athletes who had shared their stories. In addition, the Sports Equality Foundation widely shared information on the study to its social media presence. Individuals working in athletic departments across the United States and Canada shared information on the study, as did Lacrosse Magazine, SwimSwam, USA Water polo and others.

Various filters were implemented to weed out jokesters.

A total of 370 athletes who were out to high school teammates, and 630 athletes out to college teammates, responded.

Amid the survey that spanned a number of sports, 188 respondents were high school or college swimmers.

62.8% of high school swimmers and 83.8% of college swimmers reported a positive experience in being out about their LGBTQ status to teammates. In high school, about 30.2% reported a neutral experience, while in college that number was about 5.9%.

Only 3.9% of college athletes and 7% of high school athletes reported a negative overall experience in being out to their teammates.

These numbers are very similar to what survey results across other sports showed. Outsports’ Cyd Zeigler told SwimSwam that he expected that there would be big differences between sports, but was surprised that the survey results generally don’t show that.

The biggest difference is between high school and college athletics, which Zeigler and the Outsports team talk up to general maturity. Zeigler says that aligns with what he hears from gay and straight athletes across the country.

“I’ve heard over and over from gay and straight athletes that they also hear tons of homophobia in high school locker rooms, less in college, and in pro locker rooms for the most part that language is gone,” Zeigler said. “Just people maturing.”

Dr. Eric Anderson, who conducted the study, says that this large-scale survey reflects results that he has done on a smaller scale.

“This reflects years of research that I have conducted on smaller scales, all showing athletes are more comfortable with gay teammates than most anyone thought possible,” said Dr. Eric Anderson, Professor of Sport, Health and Social Sciences at the University of Winchester. “Athletes across sports and across genders love their gay teammates, and they support their gay teammates, and this goes beyond differences of sexual orientation.”

The survey also found that there was more acceptance from their teammates than from the school population in general. 9.8% of respondents said that the response from their teammates was worse than the general student body, while 31.7% said the response from teammates was better.

The study, which reached back through the decades, found that there was acceptance in the 1980s and 1990s as well, though it wasn’t as widespread.

About 97% of respondents said that their teammates’ support was the same as, or better than, expectations.


Swimming Specific Survey Results

Overall experience being out to teammates


  • Worst possible scenario 0%
  • 2 Very bad 2.3%
  • 4 Bad 4.7% 
  • 26 Neutral 30.2%
  • 21 Good 24.4%
  • 22 Very good 25.6%
  • 11 Perfect or near perfect 12.8%


  • Worst possible scenario 0%
  • Very bad 0%
  • 4 Bad 3.9% 
  • 6 Neutral 5.9%
  • 23 Good 22.5%
  • 40 Very good 32.9%
  • 29 Perfect or near perfect 28.4%

HS & COLLEGE (188)

  • Worst possible scenario 0%
  • 2 Very bad 1.1%
  • 8 Bad 4.3% 
  • 32 Neutral 17.0%
  • 44 Good 23.4%
  • 62 Very good 32.9%
  • 40 Perfect or near perfect 21.3%

Did your teammates’ level of acceptance change from the time they found out to the end of your time with the team (or today, if you’re still on the team)?

HS (86)

  • 39 It got better 45.3%
  • 43 It stayed the same 50.0%
  • 4 It got worse 4.7% 


  • 49 It got better 48.0%
  • 51 It stayed the same 50.5%
  • 2 It got worse 2.0%

HS & COLLEGE (188)

  • 88 It got better 46.8%
  • 94 It stayed the same 50.0%
  • 6 It got worse 3.2%

AFTER coming out, how did you feel about the support you received from teammates for being LGBTQ?

HS (86)

  • 27 I got all the support I needed 31.4%
  • 23 I got most of the support I needed 26.7%
  • 30 I got some of the support I needed 34.9%
  • 6 I got none of the support I needed 7.0%


  • 45 I got all the support I needed 44.1%
  • 38 I got most of the support I needed 37.3%
  • 17 I got some of the support I needed 16.6%
  • 2 I got none of the support I needed 2.0%

HS & COLLEGE (188)

  • 72 I got all the support I needed 38.3%
  • 61 I got most of the support I needed 32.4%
  • 47 I got some of the support I needed 25.0%
  • 8 I got none of the support I needed 4.3%

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Lil Swimmy
2 months ago

this is an erica sullivan stan account

Reply to  Lil Swimmy
2 months ago

I’m not denying it but also she’s not even mentioned in this article

Ledecky will go under 8 minutes in the 800
Reply to  Coleman Hodges
2 months ago

She’s the cover photo…

Lil Swimmy

they’re preying on our downfall 🙁

2 months ago

My heart breaks for the “worst case scenario” kids. coming from a queer college swimmer at the moment, it’s still very evident that we are no where near the culture we should be. although the positive data is uplifting and should be celebrated, we shouldn’t be complacent until all kids feel safe and welcomed.

Reply to  theyswimmer
2 months ago

There was 0 of those?

Reply to  Huh
2 months ago

Right? Trying to create a problem that’s not even there.

Ledecky will go under 8 minutes in the 800
Reply to  Rico23
2 months ago

They aren’t trying to ‘create a problem”, it was one of the options but nobody selected it


Thanks for helping my argument

Ledecky will go under 8 minutes in the 800
Reply to  Rico23
2 months ago

OP’s point is that although a lot of people in the OutSports survey thought swimming was LGBT inclusive, there was still that small percentage of people who felt that the swim community wasn’t supportive of them being out and even that small population Isn’t acceptable

Stats 101

Except that if you look at the actual results, the group the OP mentioned, “worst case scenario,” was literally zero in each category. I get that this is just a survey and somewhere out there you could probably find a worst case scenario, but this data strongly suggests that this is no longer a big problem.

Mike wazowski face
2 months ago


1 month ago

Unfortunately the acceptance train has not yet arrived.

Last edited 1 month ago by Stonewall
1 month ago

I’ll churp in with my big ol’ gay opinion:

I haven’t personally heard of bad experiences from anybody who has ‘come out’, and I know quite a few openly gay guys who play university sports in the UK atm. What I have heard a lot of is people who have avoided sport from a young age due to fear of all male environments that could be hostile – Effectively self-exclusion based on perception.

That’s why, in most sports, I thinking the perception of sporting culture is more damaging for inclusion than the actual culture itself. Challenging and changing perceptions is most of the battle imo.

Reply to  Dee
1 month ago

100% agree, Very well put

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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