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British female athletes feel they can be more open about their sexuality than men, survey says

In a BBC survey of elite British sportswomen, 68 percent of respondents say they can be more open about their sexuality than men.

Manchester City v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League
More than two-thirds of British female athletes say they can be more open about their sexuality than male athletes, according to a new survey.
Photo by Visionhaus

Elite British female athletes say they can be more open about their sexuality than male athletes, and only a minimal number of them say their sexuality has negatively impacted them in their sport, according to a new BBC survey.

The BBC Elite British Sportswomen’s survey was sent to 1,068 female athletes across 39 different sports. The questionnaire received 537 responses. It is the third time such a survey has been conducted, with the last one coming in 2015.

More than two-thirds of respondents, 68 percent, say they feel women athletes can be more forthcoming about their sexuality than men. Encouragingly, just 6.5 percent of respondents said they think their sexuality has negatively impacted their athletic prospects.

The survey drew from a diverse collection of voices, with just under half of people questioned, 48.2 percent, saying they are full-time athletes.

While it is gratifying to see such a small percentage of British female athletes say they feel their sexuality is a factor in their sports, it is telling that so many of them think the environment for their male counterparts is less open. Infamously, only one British male soccer player in the top four divisions, Justin Fashanu, has ever come out. Fashanu committed suicide in 1998.

Earlier this summer, English soccer player Thomas Beattie came out as gay, though he never played professionally in Britain. British government officials are considering outlawing homophobic chants at soccer matches, which would require amending the Football Offences Act of 1991.

Despite the apparent progress on LGBTQ issues in British women sports, sexist attitudes still prevail. More than 60 percent of respondents say fans expect different behavior from female athletes, and 65 percent say they’ve experienced sexism in their sports. Only 10 perfect of women athletes polled say they felt comfortable enough to report said sexism.

When it comes to transgender rules in their sports, 15 percent say they think the rules are fair, whereas 15 percent say they were not. The vast majority of people, 57.9 percent, say they don’t know.