A pro-LGBT group that aims to “end the rampant homophobia and transphobia in sport” has severed all ties with tennis star Martina Navratilova after she suggested that trans females should not be allowed to compete against biological females. The group, Athlete Ally, issued a statement on its website yesterday, said that Navratilova’s comments were “transphobic,” and “based on a false understanding.”
In a column at the Sunday Times, the nine-time Wimbledon champion asserted that, upon further research, her belief that biological males should not be allowed to compete against women was clear-cut. “It’s insane and it’s cheating,” she wrote. “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.”
Navratilova, who was born in Czechoslovakia but is a US citizen, added that “a man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organization 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,” noting that this was wildly unfair.
In its statement, Athlete Ally argued that the tennis player’s comments “perpetuate dangerous myths that lead to the ongoing targeting of trans people through discriminatory laws, hateful stereotypes and disproportionate violence.”
The group then announced its removal of Navratilova from the organization’s advisory board:
“As an organization dedicated to addressing root causes of homophobia and transphobia in and through sport, we will only affiliate with those committed to the same goal, and not those who further misinformation or discrimination in any way. Given this, Navratilova has been removed from our Advisory Board and as an Athlete Ally Ambassador, effective immediately.”
Athlete Ally noted that Navratilova joined them as an ambassador and was presented with an Action Award at the group’s first annual gala in 2014.
Navratilova has taken a lot of criticism in response to her comments, including some scathing remarks from Professor Rachel McKinnon, a Canadian academic and cyclist who became the first trans athlete to win a track Cycling World Championship title. McKinnon lambasted Navratilova’s comments as “disturbing, upsetting, and deeply transphobic.”
In response, Martina, who is herself a lesbian, noted that “what seems to be a growing tendency among transgender activists to denounce anyone who argues against them.”
“McKinnon has vigorously defended her right to compete, pointing out that, when tested, her levels of testosterone, the male hormone, were well within the limits set by world cycling’s governing body,” the tennis icon wrote in her column. “Nevertheless, at 6ft tall and weighing more than 14 stone, she appeared to have a substantial advantage in muscle mass over her rivals.”
According to current rules laid out by the International Olympic Committee in 2016, trans men are allowed to compete without restriction. In contrast, however, trans women must demonstrate that their testosterone level has been below a certain threshold for at least 12 months prior to their first competition.