What does LGBTI mean?

  • LGBTI: a commonly-used initialism, the component letters of which stand for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex”. Starting from 2015, also FRA (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights) has been using it. It may also feature more letters, such as “LGBTQI” or “Lgbttqia” or “Lgbti+” or other variations. “Q” stands for “queer”, “A” for “asexual”, the second “T” for “transsexual” and “+” for other non-normative sexual orientations and gender identities. Whatever form it takes, it is generally used to identify “those who are not exclusively heterosexual and / or cis-gender”;
  • Lesbian: a homosexual woman, i.e. woman who is sexually and emotionally attracted to other women;
  • Gay: a term meaning homosexual. A gay person is one, male or female, who is sexually and emotionally attracted to people of their same sex or gender. In many languages “gay” is often used specifically to describe a homosexual male, i.e. a man who is sexually and emotionally attracted to other men. On this site, we mainly use “gay” to refer to homosexual men;
  • Bisexual: a person who is sexually and emotionally attracted to both men and women;
  • Transgender (trans): a transgender person is one whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex. Transgender people may live dressing and behaving like people of the sex (or the gender) they identify with, or they may also feel distant from any particular definition of gender. Some transgender people have surgery to align their body and their gender.
  • Intersex: an intersex person is an individual who has biological and genetic attributes of both sexes.

All of these terms refer to sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. In psychology, the sum of these aspects is defined as sexual identity.

  • biological sex: the sum of the sexual characteristics a person is born with.
  • sexual orientation: the fact of being sexually and/or emotionally attracted to people of the same sex, of the other sex or both;
  • gender identity: the personal concept of one’s gender that can match with their birth sex (cis-gender), or can differ from it (transgender);
  • gender expression: the ways a person communicates their gender and sexual identity, typically through attitudes, dressing, gestures, etc.

Last but not least, it is important to distinguish between sexual orientation and sexual behavior: sexual orientation indicates sexual and emotional attraction, while sexual behavior indicates the people one has sex with. For example, a man who has had sexual intercourses with other men isn’t automatically gay.

In 1974 and 1990 respectively, the American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organization stopped considering homosexuality a psychiatric disorder but rather “a natural variation of human sexual orientation”.

In June 2018 gender dysphoria was completely removed from the list of mental illnesses and is now only considered a medical condition. Previously, transgenderism was defined by DSM V  as “gender dysphoria” only when gender identity was related to a condition of suffering.

Until recently, transgender people were usually only allowed to change the description of their sex on official IDs after surgical sex reassignment. However, several countries have recently granted trans people the right to change their ID without surgical sex reassignment.

Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia affect everybody! 
Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia do not only exist in violence against LGBTI people, but also in opinions that discriminate against them and perpetuate prejudice. Thinking and saying that homosexual and transgender people are “sick”, “against nature” or “perverse”, or claiming that their social rights should be diminished based on their sexual orientation, sexual identity or gender expression are all different examples of homophobia and transphobia.

Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are often linked with sexism (gender prejudice that connects people’s abilities and characteristics to some properties of their sex and not to their own and unique personality) and misogyny (hate for women). It can affect not only LGBTI people, but anybody who is considered or perceived to be outwith their gender roles and stereotypes (the behaviors that people expect from somebody because they are men or women, etc.) or even people having relationships with LGBTI people (i.e. friendship, parenthood, etc.).
Each and every person can be hurt by hateful slurs or attacks, based on prejudice, that are related to their gender expression or to their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity – for example, the use of such words as fag, queer and slut. People may also be attacked in this way because they are not able to do something that is expected of their assigned gender, or because their behavior differs in some way from what is expected of them because of their assigned gender role.

This means that homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are also closely related to sexism and the challenges facing gender equality in sport.


What about LGBTI people and sport?

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people typically have the same skills in sports as heterosexual, cisgender people. Sport, together with school and family, is one of the most important environments for personal growth and for learning to express ourselves. For that reason, everybody should have the opportunity to express themselves and to feel free to talk about their sexual or romantic life without the fear of being judged or mocked. This should be the case at school, work and in sports. Everyone should be able to be open with their teammates, coaches and colleagues without fear or risk.

Unfortunately, sport, like other social spaces, is often affected by sexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. That’s why, according to the FRA EU LGBT  Survey 2012 , (pag. 88-89) the 50% of a base of 90.000 in Europe avoid certain places or locations for fear of being assaulted, threatened or harassed because of being openly LGBT.  42% of them avoid in particular sports clubs.


Many LGBTI people do not feel safe, accepted or comfortable in sporting environments.

This results in a higher rate of abandonment of sport activities by LGBTI people, with short- and long-term consequences on their well-being.

Everyone is different: sexual orientation and gender identity.

Mobbing, bullying and other kinds of violence can affect everybody.

People are often asked to demonstrate abilities or characteristics that have nothing to do with sporting performance and that actually relate to gender stereotypes. Men have to act ‘macho’, and if they don’t they are mocked. Women who play sports are considered to lack femininity, leading to the often incorrect assumption that they are lesbians. This is another kind of stereotyping that we should take into consideration.

Exclusion of LGBTI people from sport is a problem for everyone.

Any environment that is homophobic, biphobic or transphobic, sexist or in anyway hostile to diversity and LGBTI people restricts freedom of expression and the possibility for everyone to give their real best on and off the field. Relations between teammates and / or coaches, staff, fans and families can be damaged and teams can lose opportunities.

Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia can affect everybody: homosexual and heterosexual people, the best players and the biggest champions; coaches, staff and families. They can have short- and long-term consequences, not just on the direct victims of discrimination but also on the whole team.

Even the best players or coaches can leave a team in which they don’t feel safe, accepted, respected and included.

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