A prominent LGBTI sports group has removed tennis star Martina Navratilova from its advisory board after her controversial opinion on trans athletes. It also stripped her of her role as Ambassador over the comments.
In a opinion piece published in the Sunday Times, Navratilova said trans people had an ‘unfair advantage’. She wrongly argued that because sometimes trans women have larger bodies than cis gendered women means they are stronger. But medical experts have proven this does not necessarily give them an advantage in many sports. Experts have also said trans women who regularly take estrogen do not have an advantage.
The backlash to Navratilova’s comments was swift and now Athlete Ally has cut ties with the star.
Athlete Ally works to end homophobia and transphobia across all sports in the United States. It does this through education programs and lobbying for policy change.
‘Martina Navratilova’s recent comments on trans athletes are 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,’ it said in a statement.
It said it only wanted to 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 said.
Trans women are women
Athlete Ally did not pull any punches condemning Navratilova’s comments. Especially comments that described trans women as men who ‘decide to be female’ and allowing them to compete with women is ‘cheating and unfair’.
‘First of all, 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,’ it said.
‘There is no evidence at all that the average trans woman is any bigger, stronger, or faster than the average cisgender woman, but there is evidence that often when athletes lower testosterone through hormone replacement therapy, performance goes down.’
The organization said people like Navratilova have an incredible platform provided to them, ‘and when they speak, the world listens’.
‘Trans women athletes aren’t looking to take over women’s sport. They are women, and want to compete in the sport they love, just as any other athlete would,’ Athlete Ally said.
Athlete Ally launched its Ambassador program in 2011 and invited Martina to join. At that time it said it saw her as a trailblazer for LGBTQ people in sports.
‘We live in a world where 1 in 4 trans people are assaulted simply for being trans, and bills across the United States are seeking to dehumanize trans people and prevent them from accessing the rights they deserve,’ it said.
‘The trans community is under attack, and we firmly stand opposed to any and all people who perpetuate attacks against them—regardless of who they are or their accolades.
‘To spread misinformation is to create a ripple effect of bias and discrimination that restricts trans people from living their lives fully, and endangers their health, safety and livelihood.’
Navratilova has made anti-trans statements before
Athlete Ally admitted it had approached the tennis star in the past about her anti-trans comments.
‘In late December, she made deeply troubling comments across her social media channels about the ability for trans athletes to compete in sport,’ it said.
‘We believe that growth is possible, and we extend once again to Martina the invitation to learn from this experience, to study the data on trans athletes in sport, and to examine how statements like hers further stigma and discrimination.’