LGBT teens half as likely to play sport

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An international sportsperson has said he is “surprised and disheartened” at the news that LGBT teenagers are half as likely to play sports as straight children.

Carlos Sayao, who competed in the Commonwealth Games and travelled with Canada to the 2016 Olympic Games, also told TV channel CBC that he wouldn’t have come out when he was swimming.

He heard too many homophobic slurs and jokes from his fellow athletes, and also described a “general flaunting of masculinity” which when taken altogether created an atmosphere of intolerance.

A recent University of British Columbia study found that over 15 years between 1998 and 2013, there was a significant decline in LGBT teens’ participation in sports.

The senior author of the report, Elizabeth Saewyc, said teenagers who already suffer discrimination might not be eager to “take risks in places where they don’t see overt signs of a welcoming, inclusive and safe place to be.”

Sayao, who passed the bar in 2015, said: “I was surprised because from my perspective as a lawyer who practices sports law and is involved in discrimination in sport issues, we are seeing a lot more athletes coming out in a very high profile way.

“Even though there may be more role models for LGB youth to look up to, we are not seeing that transfer down to the grassroots level.

“There are so many great benefits that sports provide, having been involved in sports. There are obvious health effects, but also self-confidence, personal fulfillment and social inclusion.

“I think those benefits are so important, particularly for marginalized groups, such as LGB youth. We really need to be striving to provide better access to that community.”

He called on officials to do more to make LGBT youth feel safe in sporting environments, so they feel able to come out as he never did – a choice he said he regrets.

“It takes a lot of courage to go out on a limb and do your own thing and feel comfortable enough doing that,” Sayao said.

“For me, I just wasn’t quite ready at that point. Looking back on it now, I do wish things had been different.”