A recent study undermines one potential explanation for the paucity of gay men in sports, noting that closeted gay men are more likely to be competitive or overachieving than their like straight peers:
In a study recently published in the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology, researchers interviewed 195 male colleges students who identified as either heterosexual or a “sexual minority.” They found that the sexual minority men based their sense of self-worth on “academics,” “appearance” and “competition” more so than the straight guys. Interestingly, the amount of time the gay men had spent hiding their sexual identity positively predicted their investment in these areas. The researchers also developed a way to objectively measure the amount of stigma each participant faced in their particular environment by evaluating their home state’s general stance toward sexual minorities. That measure of stigma also positively “predicted the degree to which young sexual minority men sought self-worth through competition.”
But there’s also the issue of team sports versus individual sports. Openly gay male athletes are more common in, say, swimming and diving than in football or baseball. The culture of heterosexuality in all-male teams, especially teams united by a common goal of winning games, can be overwhelming – especially given the dynamics Joyner notes.