Impact of Giving

A Métis student looks at attitudes in university sports

Author: Development and Donor Relations

Posted on Jan 3, 2023

Category: Creating Opportunities for Students , News and Events

For Luke Gust, understanding the attitudes of university athletes towards sexual minorities is a research area that could open new doors for the LGBTQ+ community.

Gust, who is studying for his master of science in kinesiology at UNB, is the first member of his Métis family in Saskatchewan to attend university. He said that being awarded a TD Insurance Indigenous Bursary during his undergraduate studies at UNB helped him achieve academic success and propel him forward in his postgraduate studies.

“I’m the first person in my family to go to university,” Luke said. “I really had to work a lot to get the money I needed. I was pretty much working full-time hours and trying to balance school work. The bursary helped so much. I was able to put more time towards school and I didn’t have to constantly worry about having enough money. The bursary made a huge difference.”

Gust graduated last year with a bachelor of recreation and sports studies, honours, in kinesiology and exercise science. His honours project examined attitudes towards homosexuality and sexual minorities in university hockey and basketball athletes. He is continuing this area of study in an accelerated master’s program, looking at attitudes toward homosexuality in university sports in general, and also at group cohesion.

During his studies last year, an item on a questionnaire really stood out for Luke: “It would be very upsetting to me if a close teammate turned out to be gay.”

“The answers to that question were spread very differently with some saying they strongly agreed, some saying they strongly disagreed, and some saying they didn’t really know,” he said. “I wanted to understand the context behind those answers – is it because they don’t want their close teammates to be gay? It’s about looking at the different influences at different university-level sports.”

Gust is a part of the LGBTQ+ community and grew up playing sports in his small Saskatchewan hometown. He said he wanted to research a subject that he is personally passionate about. For him, attitudes toward sexual minorities in sports is an area that intersects with his own life as a queer Indigenous person.

He said there is more acceptance today of sexual minorities in sports. He believes attitudes are changing, but he is uncertain how deep the change goes when it comes to strongly held ideas about sexuality.

“I think there is a lot of performative activism that goes on, especially when you’re talking about a higher-up athlete who has an image to protect. I can recall, for example, a couple of professional athletes who were involved in the You Can Play project which includes sexual minorities in hockey. But on their social media, the athletes would like homophobic posts. So I think outwards, attitudes may be changing but I don’t think people’s personal beliefs sometimes are as easily changed. It is a little frustrating.”

The TD Insurance Indigenous Bursary is one of several financial awards aimed at helping Indigenous students succeed at UNB. The bursary is given annually to part-time or full-time, undergraduate or graduate Indigenous students, based on financial need. The recipient must demonstrate successful academic performance.

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