LGBT group cuts ties with Martina Navratilova in row over transgender women in sport

Helena Horton
The Telegraph
A poll has found that 63 per cent of Brits agree with the former Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova that transgender women competing in women’s sport are "cheating" because the athletes would have “unfair physical advantages.”
A poll has found that 63 per cent of Brits agree with the former Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova that transgender women competing in women’s sport are "cheating" because the athletes would have “unfair physical advantages.”

An LGBT sporting group has cut its ties with tennis legend Martina Navratilova in a dispute over transgender sportswomen.

The nine-time Wimbledon champion and LGBT campaigner was accused of being transphobic after saying that it was "cheating" to allow transgender women to compete in women's sport, and claimed they had a physical advantage.

In an article for The Sunday Times, Navratilova wrote: "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."

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She added: "It's insane and it's cheating. 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."

The column caused a backlash among other LGBT campaigners and sportspeople, including Rachel McKinnon, the first transgender woman to win a world track cycling title, who called the comments "disturbing, upsetting and deeply transphobic".

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Navratilova’s friend and former coach is Renee Richards, who was born Richard Raskind and competed in the US Open as a man before having gender reassignment surgery and competing as a woman.

LGBT group Athlete Ally said Navratilova's comments were "transphobic, based on a false understanding of science and data, and perpetuate dangerous myths that lead to the ongoing targeting of trans people through discriminatory laws, hateful stereotypes and disproportionate violence".

The group added: "This is not the first time we have approached Martina on this topic. In late December, she made deeply troubling comments across her social media channels about the ability for trans athletes to compete in sport. We reached out directly offering to be a resource as she sought further education, and we never heard back."

A Stonewall spokesperson told The Telegraph: "Sport should be welcoming to everyone, including trans people. We need clubs and governing bodies, as the experts, to consider how their sports’ individual policies can work to be as inclusive as possible, and what advice and guidance they’re giving to ensure all people, including trans people, can take part in sport."

Richards suffered death threats and other players would walk off the court when she appeared, but others including Chris Evert and Virginia Wade did play against her. She now describes herself as a “reluctant pioneer”.

Navratilova ‘came out’ as a lesbian in 1981 and campaigns for LGBT rights. In 2017, she wrote an open letter criticising Margaret Court, the former world number one, for “demonising trans kids and trans adults” by claiming that gender dysphoria was the work of the devil.

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