Martina Navratilova calls transgender player ‘failed male athlete’

(Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images) /

Are transgender players being allowed to play age 55+ women’s national tournaments the right way to approach things? Your personal answer might differ from Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova’s. Heck, even King and Navratilova differ in how they think about the idea.

But this weekend when ICONS, which stands for Independent Council on Women’s Sports, tweeted a reaction to Alicia Rowley becoming the Women’s National Tennis Champion for the 55+ age group and tagged Navratilova in the tweet, the tennis icon didn’t hold back. And one reason is that USTA doesn’t keep trans athletes from participating in tournaments.

Per the USTA website, their Transgender Inclusion Policy began with this statement, “It is necessary to ensure, insofar as possible, that transgender athletes are not excluded from the opportunity to participate in sporting competitions.” I actually get the USTA’s point as inclusion and equality is a good thing.

Martina Navratilova has strong views about transgender players in women’s tennis

But I also see Navratilova’s point. She isn’t saying in her tweet that transgender people shouldn’t have rights. What she is saying is that allowing transgender people to play in women’s tennis might cause there to be a disadvantage for women who don’t see themselves as transgender. As Navratilova puts it, “…inclusion at the cost of exclusion is not inclusion.”

Meaning if transgender are competing in tennis, especially those aged 55 or older, those who were born female and still identify in that way would be competing against others who are different from them. I get that there is a huge gray area there, and King sees one side and Navratilova the other.

But Navratilova’s response to ICONS is crystal clear with her thoughts calling, and specifically relating to Rowley, transgenders who participate in women’s sports as “failed male athletes.” That is fairly harsh wording, but whether you agree or disagree with Navratilova at least there is no hem or haw to her opinion. In a homogenized world where many people are afraid to say what they think, it’s refreshing to find a player or former professional that doesn’t hold their tongue, even if at times their thoughts are abhorrent to some.

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