GLSEN Changing the Game

GLSEN Relaunches “Changing the Game” Initiative Supporting LGBTQ+ Students

August 30, 2021
Contact: Kara Watkins-Chow;

GLSEN Relaunches “Changing the Game” Initiative Supporting LGBTQ+ Students in Sports

The relaunch includes new recommendations to equip schools and families with best practices for inclusive physical education and sports amid hostile state landscape.


NEW YORK (August 30, 2021) -- Today, GLSEN, the nation’s leading organization on LGBTQ+ issues in K-12 education, relaunched Changing the Game: The GLSEN Sports Project with newly updated resources. For 10 years, GLSEN’s Changing the Game initiative has advanced acceptance for LGBTQ+ youth in athletics through the development and implementation of inclusive physical education curriculum and sports guidance supporting LGBTQ+ students. Now, as students return to school after a summer fraught with political attacks against transgender and LGBQ youth in athletics, GLSEN has expanded the program to include new information and participatory programs.

“LGBTQ+ students across our nation’s schools are being targeted by cruel efforts to exclude them from opportunities to exercise, play sports and access school facilities on equal terms with their peers,” said Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, GLSEN Interim Executive Director. “LGBTQ+ youth, like all youth, deserve to be safe and supported in school spaces, from locker rooms to soccer fields to overnight field trips, and these new resources are designed to give coaches, teachers and families the tools they need to ensure all students are able to fully participate.”

GLSEN’s most recent National School Climate Survey shows that 40.2% of LGBTQ students avoided physical education or gym classes because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable; 27.2% were prevented from using locker rooms aligned with their gender identity; and 10.2% were prevented or discouraged from participating in school sports because they were LGBTQ.

“I’ve been told by classmates and even politicians that I don’t belong on the team or in the locker room, just because of who I am, and I’m tired of it,” said Maria Cheng, a high school swimmer and member of GLSEN’s National Student Council. “But Changing the Game is going to help more people see that LGBTQ+ kids are just like everyone else. I want to swim with my friends, and I won’t give up fighting for the same opportunities other kids have.”

The relaunch of Changing the Game includes new data about the current needs of, and issues facing, LGBTQ+ students in athletics, professional development trainings for educators and coaches, and a new Ambassador program encouraging student leaders and allies to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights in their local school communities.

“LGBTQ+ youth who face discrimination or harassment in physical education aren’t just deprived of crucial opportunities to learn about health and teamwork, they are actually more likely to face punitive discipline and less likely to graduate high school,” said Anthony Nicodemo, a school coach in New York. “No student should have to choose between attending a P.E. class where they feel unsafe or being prevented from graduating.”

The broader movement around Changing the Game includes professional LGBTQ+ and ally athletes and sports associations dedicated to fairness and safety in sports.

“When I became the first out NBA player, I wanted to be a role model for LGBTQ+ kids and I’m proud to work with GLSEN to break down barriers and foster new opportunities for LGBTQ+ young people in sports and beyond,” said Jason Collins, former NBA player.

“LGBTQ+ young people deserve the chance to play sports free from any bullying or harassment,” said Kathy Behrens, President of Social Responsibility & Player Programs at the NBA & WNBA. “For many of us, sports is where we learned some of life’s most important lessons such as teamwork, sportsmanship, and treating others with dignity and respect. No child should be denied this opportunity for any reason.”

“Athletics are a crucial part of an enriching education, and we’re thrilled to support GLSEN in its mission to bring new resources to schools and support LGBTQ+ students as they exercise and play sports,” said Joe Preston, President and CEO for New Balance. Generous support from New Balance has allowed GLSEN to completely revitalize and expand the Changing the Game program. GLSEN was able to bring in additional expertise to inform the program, create brand new resources for student athletes, coaches, and teachers, and reach out to coalition partners to generate maximum impact for the program, ensuring its continued success.

Additional supporters include: Dick’s Sporting Goods, NBA & WNBA, Sweaty Betty, Robbie Rogers and Gus Kenworthy.


GLSEN works to create safe and inclusive schools for all. GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression. Each year, GLSEN programs and resources reach millions of students and educators in K-12 schools, via action at the national, state, and local level. Since 1990, GLSEN has improved conditions for LGBTQ+ students across the United States and helped launch an international movement to address LGBTQ+ issues in education.