New trans youth in sport research

5th April 2023

New trans youth in sport research

New Mermaids research released 

An important new piece of research from the charity Mermaids has been released, aiming at understanding the experiences of trans, non-binary and gender diverse young people in sport and physical exercise in the UK. Based upon a survey with 180 young people aged 11-16, they found that while trans young people said that participation in sport improved their mental and physical health, 79% felt their gender identity had been a barrier to them taking part.

Additionally, trans young people said that sport helped them to get fit, strengthen their bodies and relieve their gender dysphoria but importantly also for having fun, seeing friends and getting a sense of community through participation.

Amongst the other key findings, a very concerning third of respondents worried about taking part in sport because of negative media stories about trans people.

Barriers to being included in sport for trans youth include the gendered nature of sport and particularly sex-segragated teams, clothing and changing rooms; the way that young people experience these issues compounding their gender dysphoria is strongly reflected in the research. “Sometimes the dysphoria gets so bad I pretend my eating disorder is acting up so I can skip out”  []  “I really wanted to go into gymnastics before I transitioned as a boy but I couldn’t because the revealing clothing would give me way too much gender dysphoria”

The research also looks in some detail at specific experiences of non-binary people "I'm not out as non-binary to many people...this means I play for girls teams, so I haven't been stopped from playing, but I don't always feel entirely comfortable, which might have prevented me from trying new sports". 

The research makes the following recommendations:

  • Young people should never be excluded from participating in sports on the basis of their gender or trans identities.
  • Careful consideration should be given to whether a sport or activity needs to be sex separated. Where there are benefits to sex separation, trans youth should be allowed to choose the category they feel most comfortable with.
  • Appropriate options for gender neutral kit and facilities should be made available that respect the privacy and dignity of all participants.
  • Teachers, coaches and those working in sport should undertake training to improve understanding of the issues affecting trans youth in sport.
  • Sporting bodies, Government departments and the media must listen to and empower the voices of trans youth in sport, taking proactive steps to make them feel welcome and accepted.

Check out the full research report here

Written on 5th April 2023.