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Title: Changing times : discovering how openly lesbian athletes navigate team sport
Author: Bullingham, Rachael
ISNI:       0000 0004 5971 2918
Awarding Body: University of Winchester
Current Institution: University of Winchester
Date of Award: 2016
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Research on lesbian athletes’ experiences is dated, with the majority being conducted in the 1980s and early 1990s. However, the 1980s represent a unique socio-cultural period, one Anderson (2009b) describes as homohysteric. Thus, as society has become more inclusive in previous generations, including within women’s sport (Fink et al 2012; Anderson & Bullingham 2013) and men’s sport (Anderson 2000, 2002, 2005a, 2005b, 2009b, 2011a; Adams & Anderson 2011) there is a need to reconsider the relationship between homophobia and sport. Semi-structured interviews from 31 lesbian athletes (from beginner to international standard players) were analysed using the coding procedures within Charmaz’ approach to grounded theory (Charmaz 2006). Results were subsequently applied to the adapted model of homohysteria (Anderson 2009b; Worthen 2014). Memos were used throughout the coding procedure to aid reflexivity and to ensure that results were grounded in data. Results show athletes competing in a positive environment, gaining support from teammates and coaches. Social situations were fully inclusive, including attending socials in LGBT friendly bars, demonstrating that fear surrounding the lesbian label has declined. Language has helped to develop this inclusive atmosphere; talking about sexuality has been shown to negate the environment of silence formerly experienced by lesbian athletes. This change in environment has changed how athletes ‘come out’. No longer do athletes need to prepare a statement; in fact coming out has become something of a non-event. Some athletes were even able to demonstrate an improvement in their professional lives, due to the diminished requirement to conceal their (homo)sexuality. However, some athletes still shunned the lesbian label, not through fear but by deeming it an unimportant facet of their individuality. Additionally, players’ athletic capital had no effect on their acceptance within the team, with the exception of international athletes. Participants faced very limited incidence of homophobia, but in those cases where homophobia was experienced, they would actively challenge the negative behaviour or language, as would their teammates. The supportive environment extended to providing advice and comfort to any athletes struggling with the process of coming out. In addition, participants in some cases became role models for their teammates. While the majority of the results were positive, there remained room for improvement in certain areas. There is still clear evidence that the environment has not changed for all athletes and there remain some areas to be addressed by sporting administrations. Old stereotypes of the predatory lesbian or the affective nature of sport on sexuality were raised by participants but tended to refer to historic events (over 10 years old).
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: C640 Sport studies