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June is LGBT Pride Month and National Safety Month

06/18/2016, 7:15am CDT
By Kim O'Shea, USA Fencing Safe Sport Coordinator

Yes, it’s a bit of a stretch to combine these two designations this month, but it does make sense when you think about it. The LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community is frequently under attack for being different, so that puts a part of our membership at risk. While National Safety Month is more aimed at risk management and preventing accidents (which is also very important), keeping all of our members in an environment that is positive, inclusive and safe is paramount.

Statistics from the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN):

  • More than 28% of LGBT student-athletes report being harassed or assaulted while playing on a team because of their sexual orientation or gender expression.
  • LGBT students commonly avoid athletic spaces at school because of feeling unsafe.
  • 74.9% of LGBT students said they felt uncomfortable talking to their PE teachers or coaches about LGBT issues.

According to the “Out in the Fields” Study:

  • 24% of gay men chose not to try out for team sports because of anti-gay experiences in PE.
  • 54% said they were “not accepted at all” or “accepted a little” in sports.
  • 84% of all U.S. participants in the study (9,500 people total in six countries, including the United States) had witnessed homophobia.
  • Of the 2,064 U.S. athletes surveyed, 78% believed that youth team sports are not safe for LGB people.
  • 83% of gay youth and 63% of lesbian youth said they were at least partially in the closet and hid from their teammates, fearing rejection and discrimination from other athletes and coaches.

From other studies:  when LGBT people come out and are in an environment described as “Extremely Accepting,” amazingly positive results can happen, and they are most likely to live a happy life. If the environment is only “a little accepting” or “not at all accepting,” the results can be devastating.  From Chris Downs, the Downs Group LLC, 2015:

Family Acceptance

Lifetime Suicide Attempts

Clinical Depression

Illegal Drug Use, last 6 months

STD Diagnosis, ever

Extremely Accepting





Very Accepting





A Little Accepting





Not at all Accepting







Family Acceptance

See a Happy Future as an Adult?

Extremely Accepting


Very Accepting


A Little Accepting


Not at all Accepting



USA Fencing members and clubs should take a look at their own environments:  is the club open, welcoming, and accepting? Are jokes, inappropriate language, and teasing addressed and resolved?  Does your club leadership model positive behavior?

The stronger each of our clubs becomes, the stronger our sport becomes. 


Hopefully, each of our clubs is working to create the most positive sport environment possible!

>USA Fencing Bylaws, Section 5. Membership is Open. Membership in the USFA may not be denied to any individual or organization on grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion or national origin, provided, however, that this provision shall not preclude the USFA from conducting competitions to which entries are limited on the basis of age, gender, skill level or disability or from establishing qualifying criteria for the entry into competitions. 


Chris Downs, Downs Consulting Group:

NCAA Inclusion of Transgender Student Athletes:

 Pride in Sport: Guidance for Sports Governing Bodies on LGBT Inclusion:

Trans*Athlete: a resource for students, athletes, coaches, and administrators to find information about transgender inclusion in athletics at various levels of play.

Tag(s): Blog