Navratilova is Wrong about Transgender Women in Sport

Yes, there is huge unfairness in women’s sports, but transgender women aren’t the cause of it.

Navratilova at 2010 US Open — Robbie Mendelson/Wikimedia commons

ennis legend, Martina Navratilova, has kicked a hornets’ nest with her comments about transgender competitors in women’s sports. In her eyes, it is unfair for a transgender woman (i.e. someone whose birth gender was male, but who now identifies as a woman) to compete in women’s sports.

Martina is known as a long-standing and prominent campaigner for the fair treatment of LGBTQ+ sportspeople. Her recent comments, however, have been condemned by many people, including by Rachel McKinnon (a transgender cyclist), who described them as, ‘deeply transphobic.’ Martina has also been dropped as an ambassador by Athlete Ally, an LGBTQ campaign group.

Martina’s view is that if a highly ranked male tennis player decided to identify as a woman, she might well go on to win almost every Grand Slam tournament she enters, not because she is more talented or more skilled than her opponents, but because she would have a large physiological advantage, even if she were made to take hormone suppressing drugs. And that, Martina believes, would be unfair.

But I completely disagree with Navratilova on that point. I don’t think it would be unfair at all — unless you want to argue that it is unfair for some people to be born different from others.

It’s 2019 people! Professional sport shouldn’t be a platform for organisers to indulge their racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic prejudices.

As a long-time campaigner against prejudice, my simple view is that every sportsperson should be judged on their merits, without reference to their race or gender or sexual orientation.

I think it’s ridiculous that, in this day and age, we’ve still got people blatantly and unapologetically discriminating on the grounds of someone’s birth gender and basically saying, ‘Sorry, you can’t enter this tournament, because you’re not a real woman.’ So, how about we stop doing it? We really ought to stop pointlessly pigeon-holing people. From the top to the bottom, I think all sports events should reject gender-based discrimination.

The top level of every sport should be for those people who are the best at that sport. Their gender — including their birth gender — should have nothing to do with it.

When a professional player steps on the tennis court, I’m interested in how well they play tennis and how entertaining they are to watch. If they’ve got character, that’s important, because that helps determine whether or not I am going to root for them. But I am not interested in their gender.

No more saying you can’t enter this event because you’re transgender! No more saying you can’t enter this event because you’re a man!

Navratilova is right to think there is unfairness in women’s sport, but she’s wrong about the source of that unfairness. The unfairness stems from baring anyone from a sports event, based solely on their gender.

Someone who plays tennis entertainingly well is someone who plays tennis entertainingly well. People can argue about their gender all they like, but this won’t magically change the fact that they play tennis entertainingly well, so we should stop discriminating against them on such an irrelevant basis.

Rather than criticising transgender sportswomen, we should be thanking them for highlighting the prejudice and discrimination that is unfortunately still rampant in our societies.

Anyone interested in opposing discrimination in sport might also find it helpful to read this:

Tech Fan, Philosopher, Economist and Basic Income advocate. tiny.cc/RJMedStuff

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