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by James Wellemeyer
Tennis great Martina Navratilova is taking heat for her recent comments on transgender athletes.
Navratilova, a lesbian and an 18-times Grand Slam winner, called it “cheating” for trans women to compete in women’s sports.
“It’s insane,” she wrote in an article in the Sunday Times, a British newspaper. “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.”
In the piece, she also implied trans people choose to be trans. “A man can decide to be female,” she said, “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.”
Athlete Ally, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending homophobia and transphobia in sports, quickly hit back at Navratilova’s comments, calling them “transphobic” and accusing her promoting “dangerous myths that lead to the ongoing targeting of trans people through discriminatory laws, hateful stereotypes and disproportionate violence.”
“Trans women are women, period. They did not decide their gender identity any more than someone decides to be gay, or to have blue eyes,” the organization wrote in its statement.
The LGBT sports group dropped Navratilova from its advisory board and removed her from its ambassadors program.
“There is no evidence at all that the average trans woman is any bigger, stronger, or faster than the average cisgender woman,” Athlete Ally added in a statement, while noting that trans athletes are underrepresented in professional sports.
Trans athletes themselves also criticized Navratilova’s article.
Rachel McKinnon, a trans woman who won a world track cycling championship in California last year, deemed Navratilova’s comments “disturbing, upsetting and deeply transphobic.”
Navratilova has long been a champion of gay rights and has spoken up for trans equality in recent years, too. In 2017, she voiced her opposition an anti-trans bathroom bill in Texas, saying it will “only make life more challenging for our transgender youth.”
Athlete Ally has said it would be happy to bring Navratilova back into its program if she changes her mind on trans athletes and will happily provide her with resources related to the topic.