In a new study, researchers found that lesbians are more likely to be passionate sports fans than gay men.
“Gender, Sexual and Sports Fan Identities” used data from the National Sports and Society Survey (NSASS), sponsored by Ohio State’s Sports and Society Initiative to consider the influence of gender and sexuality on sports fandom.
About 27% of those surveyed identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or a sexual identity other than heterosexual. About 3% of respondents identified as nonbinary.
Overall, heterosexual men tended to identify as “quite a bit” of a sports fan. In contrast, heterosexual women, lesbians and gay men were more likely to say they were “somewhat” of a sports fan on average. About 60% of heterosexual men reported identifying as passionate sports fans, compared to 40% of both heterosexual women and lesbians, while only 30% of gay men reported being passionate sports fans.
Thus although heterosexual men are more likely to be big sports fans than gay men, lesbians and heterosexual women have similar interest in sports, according to the results.
“Identifying as lesbian does not seem to discourage sports fandom like identifying as gay does for men,” Allison said.
Researchers say that previously good data did not exist correlating gender and sexual orientation to the sports fan community.
“One of the advantages of the survey data in this study is that it has a relatively large sample of individuals who identify as a sexual minority or as nonbinary in terms of their gender identity, which has not been the case in most previous studies,” said lead author Rachel Allison, an associate professor of sociology at Mississippi State University.
“It allowed us to show that while heterosexual men are particularly likely to identify as strong sports fans, there are substantial numbers of people across gender and sexual identities who are also passionate fans,” she said.
The researchers said sports organizations should do more to be inclusive to individuals with different gender and sexual identities.
“You aren’t born being a sports fan,” said study author Chris Knoester, an associate professor of sociology at Ohio State. “The differences in fandom we found here in this study are socially and culturally produced to a great extent, and they can be changed.”