MA Research Paper


Master of Arts




Dr. Sean Waite


ABSTRACT. Coming out refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals disclosure of their sexual orientation. Coming out literature has often focused on the implications of coming out to family. Although there has been some research conducted on being out in sport, much of the research conducted on LGBT athletes has either been conducted before the twenty-first century or has been conducted solely on gay men. As a result, very little is known about the coming out experiences of lesbian athletes today. Since sport is rooted in masculine ideals and heterosexuality, it would be likely that lesbian athletes face rejection from their teammates. However, the recent cultural shift that views LGBT individuals more positively, would posit that lesbian athletes have a much easier time coming out today than they did decades ago. To examine the coming out experiences of lesbian athletes, this paper uses a discourse analysis to study eleven online interviews of lesbian athletes. Interviews were coded by hand and common themes emerged across these women’s accounts. Key themes found were, (1) fear of being rejected by teammates; (2) lesbian appearance; (3) feelings of self-doubt and loneliness; (4) coming out to the team was hard, but rewarding; and (5) sport as a platform for LGBT rights. Discussion centers on the change in perception towards lesbian athletes as well the challenges these women still face.