Research projects

The impact of homophobic bullying during sport and physical education participation on same sex attracted and gender questioning young Australians' depression and anxiety levels

Principal researchers

Dr Caroline Symons
Dr Erika Borkoles
Prof Mark Andersen
Prof Remco Polman


Victoria University



Award type

Beyond Blue Victorian Centre of Excellence

Project completion year


Main messages

  • Same‐sex attracted and gender diverse (SSAGD) youth who may or may not be open about their sexuality or gender identity, have reported significantly higher mental health and wellbeing concerns than heterosexual youth.
  • Verbal homophobic abuse in these settings was strongly associated with poor mental health and wellbeing of SSAGD youth. Unconditional self‐acceptance was found to be a strong protective factor against such abuse. Interventions targeting self‐acceptance may strengthen resilience in this group. 
  • Despite many SSAGD youth thriving in sport and physical education (PE) settings, homophobia and transphobia communicates to them that ‘they are not welcome here, which can prevent them from enjoying the many physical, mental and social health benefits of participation and to maintain lifelong participation.
  • PE class was a particular concern for SSAGD youth, where verbal and physical abuse was reported more often than in other sport settings. Policy and curriculum writers, PE teachers and those who train PE teachers are well placed to provide a more inclusive educational environment for SSAGD youth. Casual homophobic language, such as ‘that’s so gay’ where the intention of the word ‘gay’ is not specifically a gay slur, was frequently reported in these settings, especially in PE. Many young SSAGD people found it distressing. Challenging such homophobic language is important for improving the sport and PE experiences of SSAGD youth and helps them to be accepted by their peers.
  • The gendered nature of sport and PE provides challenges for gender diverse young people, and more focus should be placed on understanding their needs and on ways to encourage safer and more welcoming participation for this group.

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