Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities Among NCAA Athletes: A Pilot Study

Elizabeth M. Mullin – Springfield College
Anna Baeth – Athlete Ally
Kayla Vieira – Columbia University

Both research and the foci of various sport governing bodies highlight the importance of LGBTQ+ inclusion in collegiate sport. Still, the sexual orientation and gender identities (SOGI) of NCAA varsity athletes are not systematically tracked or known. The purpose of this study was to estimate the percentage of current NCAA athletes who identify as LGBTQ+ and to explore how those identities are represented across sport, institutional, and geographic variables. Athletes from randomly selected institutions completed an online questionnaire about their sexual orientation and gender identity. Of the 880 responses analyzed, 14.2% (n = 125; [14.17%-14.23%]) of the athletes identified as LGBQ+ and 1.6% (n = 14; [1.596%-1.604%]) identified as transgender and/or nonbinary. Significant differences in the representation of sexual orientation identity were found by NCAA division, sport type (men’s, women’s, mixed sport), and political climate of the institution at which athletes competed. Based on these findings, we provide recommendations for future research and allyship education which better address the identities and demographics of athletes’ competing at the college level.