Martina Navratilova — Photo: Twitter
Former tennis player Martina Navratilova has been heavily criticized after she said it was “insane” to allow transgender women to compete in women’s sports.
Navratilova — who is lesbian and a gay rights advocate — made the comments in a column for the United Kingdom’s Sunday Times newspaper.
It came after transphobic tweets in December last year in which the former world No. 1 player said that it “can’t be right” that trans women are allowed to compete in women’s sports.
“You can’t just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women,” she said at the time, adding, “There must be some standards, and having a penis and competing as a woman would not fit that standard.”
Writing for the Times, Navratilova doubled down on her beliefs.
“I promised to keep quiet on the subject until I had properly researched it… 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.”
Navratilova added that she was “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.”
She also called it “another form of tyranny” when transgender activists denounce those who argue against transgender rights and the validity of gender identity.
Navratilova has been heavily criticized for her column on social media, with many labelling it transphobic.
Dr. Rachel McKinnon, the first transgender woman to win a world track cycling title, said Navratilova had “removed all doubt: she is absolutely transphobic.”
“This is, in her own words with the time of forethought and authorship, Martina Navratilova’s ‘core’ argument against trans women athletes,” McKinnon wrote in a follow-up tweet, citing Navratilova’s argument that someone could claim to be transgender just to compete as a woman and “earn a small fortune.” “It’s a wild fantasy worry that is an irrational fear of something that doesn’t happen. An irrational fear of trans people? Transphobia.”
Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of OutSports, tweeted that it was “sad to see [Navratilova] double down on her misguided attacks on trans women.”
“Calling trans women ‘men’ is shocking to see from someone like Martina,” he added. “Thinking she knows ‘fairness’ better than the IOC, NCAA and other governing bodies. Awful.”
Paris Lees, a transgender rights activist and columnist for British Vogue, pointed out that Navratilova had competed against a transgender woman before — Renée Richards, one of the first professional athletes to openly identify as transgender — and that Navratilova had won their matches.
“[Martina] says she wouldn’t compete with a trans woman because of the ‘unfair’ advantage they possess (according to her ‘instinctive reaction’),” Lees wrote. “Who needs facts when you have instinctive reactions? By the way, she played trans woman Renee Richards three times and won every match.”
Richards, who fought a landmark Supreme Court case to be allowed to play in the Women’s U.S. Open, also later coached Navratilova through two of her nine wins at Wimbledon.