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Mallory Mann and Vikki Krane

While recent studies paint an optimistic picture of acceptance and inclusion of queer athletes, it would be naive to assume homonegativism no longer exists. In this study, we interviewed 13 queer female athletes to understand their college team sport climates and how heteronormativity is reinforced and confronted in women’s college sport. Using a feminist cultural studies approach, two types of team climates emerged from the data: inclusive climates and transitioning climates. On inclusive teams, queer and heterosexual members overtly communicated their norm of inclusion to new teammates, normalized diverse sexualities, and consistently engaged in inclusive behaviors. Transitioning teams were described as neither inclusive nor hostile initially, and, while they did not have a history of inclusion, they transitioned to becoming more outwardly accepting of diverse sexual identities. On transitioning teams, queer athletes surveyed the landscape before sharing their sexual orientation, after which the team evolved to become inclusive. All the athletes talked about awkward moments, occasional incidents of nonsupport, and the benefits of inclusion. These findings reveal emerging cracks in hegemonic heteronormativity in women’s sport, especially among athletes.