Credit: Courtesy
Lesbian Tennis Legend Martina Navratilova Won’t Apologize for Comments on Transgender Athletes

Lesbian Tennis Legend Martina Navratilova Won’t Apologize for Comments on Transgender Athletes

“That’s just another form of tyranny.”

Writing this week in an op-ed for The Sunday Times, women’s tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who faced backlash in 1981 when she revealed she was a lesbian, characterized the practice of allowing transgender athletes to compete against biological women as “insane.”

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In the piece, the nine-time Wimbledon champion condemned hatred and “nastiness” directed at transgender competitors. But she also criticized “a growing tendency among transgender activists to denounce anyone who argues against them and to label them all as ‘transphobes.'”

“That’s just another form of tyranny,” Navratilova declared.

The tennis icon, who is widely considered to be one of the best women to ever play the game, devoted considerable space in the op-ed to addressing an online conflict with world champion cyclist Rachel McKinnon, an activist and advocate for the rights of transgender athletes. McKinnon, who was born biologically male, competes against women.

In December, Navratilova – a figurehead for LGBT rights and outspoken liberal advocate – was asked to weigh in on a Twitter thread that discussed a nuanced BBC Sport article defending the right of trans athletes to compete in categories based on their gender identity, rather than their biological sex. Her opinion was unequivocal: Players should be sorted by their sex.

“You can’t just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women,” she wrote. “There must be some standards, and having a penis and competing as a woman would not fit that standard …”

McKinnon responded by accusing Navratilova of being “transphobic” and demanded she apologize and delete the offending tweet. “Since I have spent much of my life fighting injustice, on my own behalf and for others, I was pretty put out, especially when the bullying tweets from McKinnon continued, like incoming fire,” Navratilova wrote in The Sunday Times.

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After resolving to “keep quiet on the subject” until she’d properly researched it, Navratilova’s present day stance remains unchanged. “Well, I’ve now done that and, if anything, my views have strengthened,” she wrote. “To put the argument at its most basic: a man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organisation is concerned, win everything in sight and perhaps earn a small fortune, and then reverse his decision and go back to making babies if he so desires. It’s insane and it’s cheating. I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her. It would not be fair.”

And as for McKinnon, Navratilova ended her Sunday Times piece the same way she eventually concluded her Twitter spat with the transgender cycling champion: “Rachel, you may be an expert on all things trans, but you are one nasty human being. Attack, attack, attack. I will not take it from you. You did not engage; you bullied. Not blocking you [though I later did, because who wants all that negativity], but enough already. All I want is fairness.”

In recent months, tensions have sparked over whether transgender athletes should be permitted to compete under their self-identified gender. Earlier this month, USA Powerlifting, the premier weightlifting organization in the United States, announced it would be banning transgender athletes from competing.

Cover image: Martina Navratilova/Renée Richards. (Courtesy)

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