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A new study by Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne has highlighted the persistent issue of homophobia in sport, highlighting that over half of LGBTQ+ young people in Australia have observed discrimination in community sports.

The study also showed that 40% of LGBTQ+ young people have personally faced such discrimination – the majority of which being “verbal vilification”, which has been particularly relevant in light of the recent AFL bans imposed on Jeremy Finlayson and Wil Powell for using homophobic slurs on the pitch within a month of each other.

Additionally, more than 70% of young gay men reported witnessing homophobia, and over 60% experienced it directly.

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Despite some progress towards inclusivity in sports, “rates of experiencing and witnessing homophobia in sport for gay men have barely shifted in recent years,” said study author Dr. Ryan Storr.

“We still have a long way to go to make men’s sports environments safe and welcoming,” he added.

The study also found that participation in sports by LGBTQ+ young people (around 30%) is significantly lower than that of their non-LGBTQ+ counterparts (60%).

Led by Swinburne Research Fellows Dr Ryan Storr and Dr Carleigh Yeomans, the study gathered data from over 1,000 LGBTQ+ youth (aged 16-25) across Australia.

In a press release, Dr Storr stated: “The young people we spoke to for this study highlighted their desire to be able to play sport and ‘just exist’ or be themselves, without having their identities questioned, debated and interrogated.

“This research clearly indicates that discrimination stops LGBTQ+ young people from playing sport, and when they do play, they often have to endure ongoing discrimination.”

Dr. Storr concluded: “The benefits are clear when LGBTQ+ people feel safe and included in sport, it improves mental health outcomes and increases social capital and feelings of belonging and connection. We can, and must, do better.”

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