LGBT Advocates Drop Lesbian Tennis Legend Martina Navratilova for Transphobia

Written by | Fitness, Lifestyle

Martina Navratilova

Athlete Ally, a group promoting LGBTQ inclusivity, has severed ties with lesbian legend and 18-time tennis Grand Slam winner Martina Navratilova.

According to the organization, the tennis great will no longer serve on the advisory board and will no longer be considered an “ambassador,” following Navratilova’s comments deemed transphobic by many in the LGBTQ community.

The controversy began with Navratilova’s op-ed in The Sunday Times stating that it was “insane” to allow athletes who “decide” to become female compete for honors “that were beyond their capabilities as men.” She also refers to trans players as “cheats.”

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That anyone would pay a fortune in surgical fees and and commit to a lifetime of hormone therapy to win trophies is contorted enough logic. But asserting that trans people “decide” to change their genders? Ask anyone who is actually trans, and they will tell you: the only “decision” they made was one to put their bodies in alignment with their identities rather than live an inauthentic life.

Over the Line

Dawn Ennis, who was appointed managing editor of the LGBTQ media outlet OutSports just last week, says she finds the entire incident sad.

“I don’t know Martina,” said the editor. “But when she responded to a tweet of mine a few months ago, I was gobsmacked, and I was a fangirl all over again. When she came out in 1981 as a lesbian, it was groundbreaking and heroic. But when that piece came out on Sunday, the thrill I got from all that faded very quickly. Clearly she sees me as a man who one day said I think I’ll be a woman, put on women’s clothes and start hormone therapy in order to take advantage of women.”

On the other hand, says Ennis, “I don’t know the organization, either. So it’s hard to tell if this is something politically motivated or just a publicity stunt for a group seeking attention.”

Navratilova used Sunday’s forum to opine that it “would not be fair” for her to compete against a transgender woman. Last December, the tennis star raised hackles when she tweeted that “you can’t just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women. There must be some standards, and having a penis and competing as a woman would not fit that standard.”


In their statement severing ties with Navratilova, an Athlete Ally statement read, “Martina Navratilova’s recent comments on trans athletes are transphobic, based on a false understanding of science and data, and perpetuate dangerous myths that lead to the ongoing targeting of trans people.”

Like many, Ennis is mystified. “I think what’s going to happen is that people will take sides,” she says. “And Martina must have calculated this. And she talks about research in the piece, but doesn’t mention any; she just repeats old fallacies and tropes. She mentions having trans friends and competing against Renée Richards (who has been out as trans since the early ’70s), and then deadnames her in the same article.”

Referring to a trans person by a birth name is called dead naming. The practice is considered every bit as demeaning as calling Muhammad Ali by his birth name of Cassius Clay.

“Martina seems to think this will end well,” Ennis concludes. “I think the better thing would have been for her to take a cue from Billie Jean King, who tweeted, ‘Let’s let science decide.'”

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Last modified: February 20, 2019