LGBTQ Sports Referees and Umpires

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LGBTQ Sports Referees and Umpires

Whereas being an out LGBTQ sports player is challenging, being an out referee or umpire could be considered doubly difficult. Not only must the referee command the respect of the team players and their fans in the sport in all of the decisions they make, they must also maintain a sense of impartiality, avoid confrontation, and remain silent throughout. The latter can be very challenging when faced with a disappointing response to their call or the taunts and jeers of all concerned.

A recent 2015 NBC/USA poll shows that 25% of sports fans surveyed believed an openly-gay athlete on a team harms the team and the entire sport (see story link below). Though not surveyed, you can imagine this number would be greater if the question referred to the sexual orientation of the referee or umpire in the sport. In all, 90% of respondents believe professional sports, in general, is intolerant of LGBTQ inclusion and participation, regardless of the sport. Hence the inclination for all who participate in professional sports to remain in the closet.

Nevertheless, many LGBTQ professionals have achieved great recognition during their careers and there are several high-profile LGBTQ referees and umpires in professional sports today. Did you know that the first woman to be appointed as a fully-accredited referee in the National Basketball Association, Violet Palmer, is also a lesbian? As well, Major League Baseball's umpire Dale Scott has worked in three World Series games and three All Star games. In 2015, the U.S. Tennis Association appointed its first out gay Chief Umpire for the U.S. Tennis Open, Bruce Littrell. Major League Soccer's referee Matthew Nelson was a member of the 2016 MLS All Star officiating team. The notable transgender individuals on the list are volleyball referee Stephanie Shostak and the world's first transgender football referee Lucy Clark. Great Britain's Ryan Atkin is considered the first out gay referee in professional football/soccer.

No doubt, there are many LGBTQ referees and umpires acting in minor league and amateur sports also. The group of LGBTQ professionals identified below serve as role models for them and others considering officiating as a career path.

We have identified the following professional LGBTQ sports referees and umpires, hailing from the Netherlands, Canada, Great Britain, Spain, and the United States:


Great Britain



The Netherlands

United States

See Also

Further Reading/Research

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